In a previous post we mentioned that Mama Steven was keen to start her own business selling charcoal. As promised, we wanted to tell you a bit more about it.
We have known Steven and his mother for quite some time; so we were aware that they are a very vulnerable family with little in the way of support. We wanted to give Mama Steven the chance she needed to provide for herself and Steven independently in the long term.
The business involves buying a large sack of charcoal at wholesale prices from the forest, transporting it to Mtwapa and then dividing the charcoal into small bags which she sells in the community. Charcoal is widely used for cooking in Mtwapa and there is a lot of money to be made selling small convenient bags.
This is very similar to the business Mama Saidi successfully ran last year and she has been very keen to share her knowledge and experience with Mama Steven, so she has a mentor right next door!
Rieder (Milele sponsorship co-ordinator) has also been helping her, visiting each evening to see whether she has been able to make any sales, helping to record her takings and to calculate how much from each sale she needs to put aside to buy the next bag of charcoal.
So far she has begun to establish her reputation and has made some early sales, she is hoping to build a link with one of the local shops who will buy the small bags of charcoal from her as a regular customer. Hopefully with time, she will be able to make enough money to support herself and Steven, paying the rent and putting food on the table.
Last year I started writing a series of articles about businesses which were being setup in Mtwapa with help from Milele business grants. Having arrived back in Kenya a couple of weeks ago we went around to find out how things had been going.
The biggest success story has to be Fauzia (Mother to Ummy) who has been running her cookery business for the entire year and is still going really strong. She continues to cook three times a day and has been able to support her family with the profit she has been making. Fauzia is the perfect example of how a business grant can work, providing a small amount of money upfront enabled her to purchase the basics she needed to get started and then her skills and passion made it work!
Khadija (Mother to Saidi) got off to a great start and had been running a profitable charcoal business via a local shop for over a year. Unfortunately she started to pay into a ill-fated saving scheme which collapsed just before her pay out was due, this put her into a really difficult situation which meant she was unable to continue operating. We have spent some time talking to her about what happened, whilst we are here we will be working with her to improve her financial planning and try to find an alternative business for her to run in the near future.
The final story I have to tell is about Isaac’s Mother; we originally helped her to setup a cafe business which was going well until her landlord decided to redevelop the plot which she was using. This was a big set back and we were really disappointed to see all her hard work go to waste, but we needn’t have worried. Mama Isaac regrouped and adapted, she took the profits from her cafe and bought the ingredients needed to make soap and bleach which she now sells around Mtwapa. Building on this success, she has started to make pillows with recycled materials and foraged cotton pods which she plans to start selling (for a tidy profit) in the near future. Not content with 2 business plans, she also collects any small glass bottles she finds on her travels which she cleans (with her bleach) and sells. I have honestly not met a more dedicated business woman in Mtwapa and it just goes to show that if you have the will to succeed and a positive attitude there can be opportunities everywhere!
One of the biggest challenges facing families in Mtwapa (and the surrounding area) is being able to make enough money to support themselves with a regular income.
One of the largest industries in the coastal area is tourism, there are a number of hotels which have historically been big employers but in recent years the number of tourists has dropped and many hotels have scaled back and now employ significantly fewer members of staff. This all has a knock on effect on other industries which supply the hotels with food, drink and entertainment.
Outside of tourism, there are a few other large employers in the areas of education, manufacturing and agriculture. Jobs within education and manufacturing often require specific qualifications which makes them unattainable for many and whilst agriculture jobs do not generally require formal education, competition is high which means it is hard to secure a job and the pay can be quite low.
All in all, good employment is tough to come by and many people in Mtwapa choose to setup and run their own business. This can be a really good option as it gives a greater level of flexibility than traditional employment and if a person is willing to work hard the earning potential is huge.
When we talk to families we regularly find that they have lots of good ideas but often cannot find the money needed to get started. This is where the Milele Business Grants come in!
Milele works with families to find and develop a business idea, together we create a list of resources required to get up and running and then our coordinator Rieder provides the family with support to find the best prices and buy everything. A standard startup grant is usually around £40 but this is generally all that is needed to get a small business going. As the business starts to make money the family can invest the profits to buy more resources and expand.
To date we have helped 10 families and whilst not every business will succeed we have found that many have grown to become profitable business in a very short period of time and change the lives of the families involved.
Over the next few weeks we will be releasing a number of articles which take a look at a few of the businesses and the impact they have had on the families involved. We really enjoyed speaking to the families and hope that you enjoy the articles!