Grace Kamene Mutua : A jovial lady with great business acumen that we can learn from

Upclose: Grace Kamene Mutua:A Jovial Lady With Great Business Acumen That We Can Learn From
Upclose: Grace Kamene Mutua:A Jovial Lady With Great Business Acumen That We Can Learn From

Shelter is a basic need. Granted, it is very difficult for people to undertake their daily duties if they do not have a roof over their heads. In Kenya, millions of households in the rural areas do not have decent shelter mainly because they lack the resources and the knowledge on how to put up the same. The situation is no better in the urban areas where countless people migrate frequently, in pursuit of economic opportunities. Since such opportunities are limited, most of the migrants are forced to live in sprawling residential areas where the cost of housing is low.

On the other hand, those who are lucky to realize their dream of putting up modern houses often face a number of challenges. To start with, if one does not get highly skilled and competent labour, the overall cost of construction becomes very high because of wastage of time and material. This situation is often made worse if one does not know where to source for competitively priced and high quality building material.

Nyumba Smart Loan

It is against the background above that KWFT has developed an innovative product to facilitate its customers in the construction of decent houses. The loan product is branded ‘Nyumba Smart Loan.’ Before being financed , the customers are taken through a rigorous training programme by the staff (commonly referred to as Mwalimu) of the Microfinance Bank on how to overcome various hurdles associated with the construction of houses.

To that end, KWFT’s Research and Product Development team has provided a Housing Support Services Guide for the prospective customers. It contains elaborate tips on how to construct a decent house, selecting various materials, selecting and contracting a fundi and managing the construction process effectively.

The Nyumba Smart loan product provides KWFT clients with various home improvement opportunities that include constructing a new house at once, improving, renovating and expanding an existing house. The clients are financed for as low as Ksh. 5,000 with flexible repayment period of up to 5 years.

Meeting a life changing Partner

The product has benefited many households in the rural areas where KWFT has a strong presence. For instance, in Machakos County lies a village in Yatta Constituency that is hardly accessible due to its undefined rocky, dusty and hilly roads. A good number of houses in the area are traditional. Small and round in shape, they are roofed with thatch, while their walls are plastered with a mixture of mud, cow dung and ash. Yatta is also sparsely populated and most of the area is covered by a big and natural thicket with a breathtaking view.

In that far flung area resides Grace Kamene Mutua – a loyal customer of KWFT who was unable to proceed with high school in 2002 at form two due to lack of school fees. She therefore dropped out and got married to Boniface Mutua; a then employee of a Fruit Processing Company in Thika town. The young and newlywed lady joined her husband in the town where she fully depended on him for financial support since she was just a house wife. Life became difficult for the couple when they got their first born in 2005 as Mutua was earning a meagre salary and inevitably, his wife and baby relocated to the family’s rural homestead in Yatta.

After being blessed with their second child in 2008, the financial burden for Mutua (the sole bread winner of the family) became unbearable. He had to look for ways and means of arresting that situation. Armed with a seed capital of Kshs. 20,000, he established a small grocery kiosk for his wife at Makutano- the local shopping centre. In 2010, Kamene saw the need to have an additional source of income, and was therefore introduced to KWFT by her mother-in-law who was an existing member of the Mwamuzi women group which comprised twenty members. To start with, she saved Kshs. 3,000 with KWFT enabling her to borrow Kshs. 30,000. That was a

major turning point in her life. “My husband gave me Kshs. 40,000 which I added to the loan to purchase a brand new motorbike (bodaboda),” she recalls. She got a rider to operate the motorbike who agreed to be remitting to her a fixed Kshs.300 on a daily basis. The business earned her Kshs. 9,000 monthly, which she religiously saved with KWFT.

As luck would have it, she won a tender for supplying a local school (Father Makena Secondary School) with fruits and vegetables payable at the end of the month. Her earnings would be between Ksh. 8,000 to Ksh. 16,000 depending on the amounts supplied. The motorbike came in handy in transporting the said goods from the market to the school. By the end of her first year in business, Kamene had managed to repay her first loan. Consequently, she applied for another loan amounting to Kshs. 50, 000 which she used to purchase her second motorbike. Come 2012, she had reasonably horned her entrepreneurial skills and KWFT financed her yet again with a loan of Kshs.100, 000. She used the money to acquire two more motorbikes boosting her fleet to four.

Kamene strategically placed these motorbikes in the local markets which was a brilliant idea as the locals often needed reliable transport. Her good customer service and friendly riders won her business very many loyal customers. To assist in managing the booming and growing business, her husband realized that she was overwhelmed and making more money in self employment hence he quit his formal job and joined hands with her. He chose to be one of the riders such that he could mentor and supervise the other employed riders. Their principle in this business is to reduce motorbike maintenance costs which can be very high hence once the motorbike purchase cost is recovered and they have earned reasonable profit, they sell it off and buy a new one. To date, they have a fleet of seven well maintained motorbikes.

They have aptly named their business ‘Wa Sweetie’ (Sweetie is their first born girl). “I appreciate my wife as the founder of our businesses and therefore support her not only in the bodaboda business but also in operating the grocery Kiosk whole heartedly.” Mutua shares

Best practices

Stella and Joseph have ensured they rear their pigs in magnificent conditions that improve their quality and add more money into their pockets. They have built different sty for the pigs. They have specific areas for fattening, feeding, and maternity for respective pigs in various stages of growth. In the piglets sty, a metallic chain hangs from the roof. It helps piglets reduce stress.”When the piglets are struggling with stress, which is common, they can bite the hanging chains and relieve stress,” explains Stella. To ensure the pigs get the best nutrition, they have employed a nutritionist who gives the formulae of feeds that will guarantee fast growth and maturity.

Dream house

In 2014, Mutua was planning to buy a station wagon (Probox model to be precise) as a way of growing the transport business. “Although the idea was good, in my opinion, I thought it was more prudent to purchase our own piece of land where we could construct a house and settle as a family instead of continuing to inhabit at the inlaw land,” reveals Kamene. “I shared my idea with him and fortunately, he did not object. The couple bought a one and a half acre piece of land near Makutano shopping
centre.

No sooner had they acquired the land than Kamene learnt about the ‘Nyumba Smart Loan’ product from their KWFT Mwalimu. All the members of her group were trained on this new and exciting product. This session boosted Kamene’s confidence of acquiring her dream house and she made up her mind to apply for the loan to put up their new house. She immediately informed her husband of the good news and they agreed to take up the loan. “Without wasting time, I topped up my savings with KWFT to enable me to qualify for a good amount of loan that could facilitate construction of our house,” she shares. Even before the loan was fully processed, the enterprising Wa Sweetie started constructing the three bed room bungalow using their personal savings. Once the loan was approved, the Mutua’s built and completed their now magnificent house which stands out from those in the neighbourhood because of its modern design and finishing.

The house has been installed with a solar lighting system, courtesy of KWFT. Previously the Mutua’s used kerosene which was expensive and the lamp had dim light. Long exposure to kerosene would irritate their eyes and inhaling the smoke emitted caused respiratory problems. “Us of Kerosene was simply a hazard to our family’s health and to the environment,” Kamene affirms. The family is now very happy as they don’t have to spend any money on their home lighting solution as there are no costs to run the system. The lighting system provided the family with clean energy and is many times brighter than a kerosene lamp.

“Given my experience in managing the tough and delicate process of building a house, I will be a brand ambassador of KWFT’s Nyumba Smart Loan product so that many women in our areas can have decent shelter,” Kamene says.

Other benefits from KWFT

“Besides facilitating me to set up a thriving business and to put up a permanent house, KWFT has inculcated a saving culture in me, so I am able to plan for our earnings. Furthermore, we have been able to enroll our daughter in a primary boarding school where the quality of education is high.” the young entrepreneur observes. “Our daughter Sweetie, who is currently in
Standard five, wants to pursue medicine as a career once she joins university. My husband and I are looking forward to this as we are confident that KWFT will help us with the Elimu Loan to see her through her education” Shares Kamene (smiling).

Kamene’s vision is to also invest in a fleet of station wagons so as to offer better means of transport to her ever growing clientele in five years time. In addition, she is planning to buy a plot at Makutano shopping centre, in which she will construct a commercial building which will house her growing chain of businesses as well as let out other shops to the locals to generate more income. “Once I do so, I will stop paying rent and I will therefore be able to save more money with KWFT regularly.”

Playing safe

Despite registering a lot of success as a young entrepreneur within a relatively short period of time, Kamene has faced a number of challenges. In 2013 for instance, she was appointed the
local distributor of locally baked bread, since she had a fleet of motorbikes and a shop. The business was earning her good commissions on a daily basis since she was very aggressive in getting customers. Unfortunately, the commissions’ margin was lowered after one year, making the business less lucrative. She therefore opted to stop the bread distribution and concentrate on her other businesses.

Occasionally, she has also been let down by some customers who have failed to pay for goods supplied to them on credit. “This has taught me to be very careful while
extending credit to my customers to avoid burning my fingers,” she says. “ It is better
to play safe than to be sorry because of making the wrong business decisions.”

Full of energy and enthusiasm, Kamene is on track to becoming a renowned entrepreneur in Yatta and its environs. Time
is on her side.

 

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