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In the baby business:I stumbled into my nursing career by chance

Baby

CEO of Bancas Ltd. Carolyne Ndolo.

“I stumbled into my nursing career by chance.

I enrolled for a nursing course at the Cicely MacDonald school of nursing at Nairobi Hospital after I bumped into a lady I looked up to and she told me about it.

I initially enrolled because I valued her opinion and I imagined that, therefore, it was a good thing, but by the time I graduated in 2003, it had grown on me.

“I was lucky to get a job at the Nairobi Hospital soon after.

If you are in it for the right reason, which is to care for other people, nursing can be very fulfilling.

For the next four years I was content.

This changed when I conceived in 2007.

Baby blues

The emotional ups and downs were too much and I was feeling sick all the time.

Instead of staying on and becoming bitter about the job, I decided that it was time to go.

“Earlier in the year, I had enrolled at USIU to pursue a degree in psychology and in between going for classes and nursing my pregnancy, I found a vacant position at the university clinic.

It was a downgrade from my hospital job but the hours were easier.

When I had recovered from delivery a year later, the energy came back and I began feeling restless.

I wanted to do something more demanding but I was sure I did not want to go back to a hospital setting.

I wanted to do something different.

“In 2008, I left the clinic and took up a job with a pharmaceutical company.

I was tasked with introducing new products into the local market on a tight budget.

I still had my contacts from my hospital job and by the end of the first month I realised that I could actually sell.

It was a different experience altogether; as a nurse I could ride with the team but in sales, success was measurable and accountability was personal.

Two years later I moved onto another job, which was training and distributing injection devices across East Africa.

While on this job, I was constantly on the road while my husband Benjamin ran our home.

Coming back home

“At the beginning of this year, Benjamin got a really good job offer that would require that he also travels extensively and we felt that it was my turn to return the favour.

At around the same time, I was scheduled to make a presentation to a team of medics in Uganda.

I was pleasantly surprised that they all seemed aware of these injection devices that I had been struggling to introduce for months.

I took this as a cue that I had accomplished my mission.

I was also worried that my son, who was a year old then, had a better relationship with his nanny than with me.

“I walked out of employment to take charge of the home in March.

When you have as much energy as I do, you can drive those around you crazy if you do not have something to do because one tends to look for mistakes in everything.

…or not

Barely a month later, I was looking for something to do.

I began seeking out and talking to women in business to get their stories.

“When I had my son in 2012, I tried to use the diapers that I had used with my daughter four years earlier but they disappointed.

I had thus resorted to buying diapers for him in bulk while I was on my business trips.

At that time, I had just been a mother looking out for her child but now, I remembered friends wishing they could be able to do the same.

I saw it as a business opportunity.

“After some research I got contacts for a diapers manufacturer in Turkey and I wrote to them giving an indication that I needed to sample their products.

They sent me some samples to use on my son.

Once I had confidence in the products, there was no stopping me.

Diaper savvy

I used these samples to win my first big tender in May.

Cash was tight at this point but I knew my day had come to make the first big order.

The banks were reluctant to lend to a starting business and my reprieve came from a friend who topped up my savings unconditionally.

She had faith in me and we agreed that I would pay her back whenever I would make my sales.

“In June, Bancas Ltd went into business distributing Zero Wet baby diapers.

My biggest challenge has been getting onto shelves.

While employed, I was used to having my employer take care of me.

Now I found myself with no car to use.

I called my father to borrow one of his cars, which he drove all the way from Kirinyaga.

Creating client relationships

“Business for me goes beyond making a sale.

I value the relationships that I am creating with mothers.

While I no longer practice, I am still a nurse and when I make deliveries to homes, I am concerned with other issues pertaining to the mother and child.

I remember a client of mine who delivered not very long ago in Nyeri and she was a first-time mother with a lot of difficulty breastfeeding.

When she called me, I looked for a lactation consultant, drove all the way and sorted her out.

I have gotten many referrals from her.

“Being a woman in business in Kenya is tough and when I started off, I had days when I felt like giving up, but a call to make an order usually jolted me out of it.

I still haven’t put myself on a salary yet but I have employed three permanent employees and this, for me, is progress.

Social media has also been a godsend as I get to have conversations with mothers.

Recently, I partnered with Multiples to Multiples Society to support mothers giving birth to multiple children at once by giving them discounts.

“Even with the challenges, the job I am doing today has enabled my relationship with my children to improve remarkably.

I can drop and pick my daughter from school and attend school functions, things I couldn’t do last year.

The best part is that it turned out that my husband’s new job is not as involving as we had imagined it would be and he also gets to spend a lot of time with family.

It is a reunion of sorts.”

 -Nation

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