One drizzly evening a year and a half ago, Wanjiku sat with a friend in a coffee shop complaining about her job.
For three- and-a-half years, she had been working as a secretary at an events planning company. Her boss had a day job, which meant that Wanjiku was the one who ran the business. She had grown tired of spending her days making money for other people when she could make money for herself doing the same things.
“He listened quietly while I whined, and then offered to invest Sh100, 000 for me to run my own company,” she recalls. Wanjiku jumped at the chance.
The next day, she quit her job and then set about registering and finding office space for her company Senara Banquets and Events.
She had built a network of contacts during employment so that was not a problem. Having provided almost all of the business capital, Wanjiku’s partner felt and behaved like her employer.
The partnership crumbled after just three months and she decided to give it a go on her own.
“Apart from the office premises, the company had little else. This meant that I had to hire everything for my clients’ events including seats and tents. This left me with a small profit margin,” she says.
Also, hers being a small start-up company, she felt intimidated by the larger events companies and as a result made several bad investment decisions that left her in debt. For instance, she invested in expensive seat covers which she ended up selling when she realised that they were not a priority for her business.
Her biggest fear when she started out was that her age would work against her business but it has been an asset. While most of her clients are still surprised at her age when they first meet her, they trust that she will bring more creative and fresh ideas to their events.
Wanjiku spends most of her weekdays meeting caterers, florists and bakers whom she works alongside. Most weekends are spent at event venues making sure that everything goes smoothly. She is content with her life today but she shares that the dream she had growing up was very different.
Her father is a professional photographer. Growing up around his cameras got Wanjiku interested in a career in media. To prepare for this career, Wanjiku took up a course in information technology. As fate would have it, her parents couldn’t afford to pay her school fees beyond her first term and she dropped out. Her first job was waitressing, where she made a meagre Sh100 a day. Her second job was as an usher for an events company. At one of these events, she met her former boss.
A far cry from the Sh100 a day that Wanjiku was making just six years ago, during a good season, she now comfortably makes a profit of over Sh100, 000. Depending on the size of event, she manages a team of between seven and 20 people at any one time. Weddings, she says, are her favourite jobs.
“It is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of event. It can get hectic but seeing a bride smile at me in gratitude at the end of the day is more than enough payment,” she says.
It isn’t all smooth sailing though. There are days, especially in the rainy season, that the tents and arrangements just won’t be. Timing is everything and sometimes delivery vehicles will break down on the way, or those yellow roses she ordered will be late. To curb this, she always has alternative plans to ensure that events happen just the way her clients envisioned them.
“I am very happy with where I am right now,” she says of her journey to entrepreneurship.
HOW SHE DID IT:
- She believes that we were not built to carry the weight of the world on our shoulders. When things get really rough, she leans on her mother who she refers to as the wind beneath her wings.
- She made a few bad business decisions but instead of letting them weigh her down, she learnt from them.
- Her business is seasonal; she has learnt to spread her cash to keep the business going during the low seasons.