A year ago, Damaris Kariuki and her husband George Karanja were an ordinary couple raising their children in Uthiru, outside Nairobi.
But their fortunes changed one chilly Friday morning on June 21, 2013, when Damaris received a text message from Safaricom informing her that she had won Sh10 million in the “Tetemesha Na Safaricom” promotion.
She ignored the message and went on with her morning chores. In fact Damaris left the phone in the house while doing her family’s laundry and it is her husband, who was also preparing to leave for the day, who informed that her she had a call.
“I answered the phone and it was a lady from Safaricom telling me that I had won Sh10 million,” she said. “I did not believe her either and told her I would only believe it if I went to Safaricom house to verify if what she was telling me was true.”
She then phoned her two daughters, Priscilla Wanjiku and Mary Wanjiku, and asked them to accompany her to Safaricom House.
“When we got there, we were asked to wait and we could see curious staff members craning their necks to see the winner of the Sh10 million,” recalled Damaris.
That is when it dawned on her that it was indeed true –she was now a millionaire. She went back home and told her husband of the new developments in their life.
“Before that call, we were struggling, I was a hairdresser and my husband was a hawker,” said the mother of two.
According to Damaris, it is after they finally got the cheque that it really dawned on her that her status had changed. She was a millionaire, something, she had never imagined in her wildest dreams.
Today, the couple is a proud rental houses. Damaris has since closed down her one-room business and Mr Karanja does not need hawk clothes to earn a living.
“From the onset, my husband and I decided we were not going to be hasty, we would take our time on deciding how to use the money,” she recalls. They even decided that they would not relocate from the Shauri Yako slums in Uthiru.
“We have lived here for many years and I did not see the need to move because it would lead to unnecessary expenditure,” she said.
The couple decided real estate was the best way to invest their new-found riches.
Look for land
But there was hitch: they did not own land and they immediately started looking one.
After a long and involving search, they found what they say was an ideal parcel of land just near her home for Sh4.5 million.
And two months after her unexpected fortune, she began construction of bedsitters on the 100×100 land she had bought and by December, she had rented the first one out.
Today, she is a proud landlady of 18 units, all of them occupied. She has christened the houses, constructed at a cost of Sh4 million “Tetemesha Ventures”.
“My life and that of my family, my husband, children and three grandchildren has improved drastically. Now we have a steady monthly income and I am already in the process of building my dream home.”
She hopes to use income to ensure her daughters and three grandchildren are well taken off by diversifying her investments. Besides construction, she is also paying school fees for members of her extended family.
Her husband is supervising the construction of their home. She, on the other hand, now has all the time to indulge in her number one passion, singing in her church choir.
Her advice to any Kenyan who wins money is to avoid making hasty decisions, ensure that whatever they spend their money on brings in more money and most importantly they should avoid celebrating for too long after the win.
“No amount of money is too much, you can even spend Sh50 million in a week if you want to, you just have to decide what your priorities in life are,” said Damaris.