Nineteen year old Jackline Muthoni lives in Eastern Nairobi. After completing her Form 4 examination in 2005, she has engaged herself in a variety of activities. She has done computer packages and got a certificate of competence; gone to Driving School and emerged a competent driver of class, B.C.E vehicles and completed a course on community based counseling on H.I.V/AIDS, Drug Abuse, Home Based Care and V.C.T counseling. Currently, she is studying Entrepreneurship at the Kenya Institute of Entrepreneurship Development, before she joins Moi University this September, to study Law. The African Executive caught up with her at her exhibition stand during the National Youth Market Day at Kenyatta International Conference Centre exhibiting her postcards, bookmarks and wall hangings.
AE. What attracted you to this kind of art?
Jackline. I love reading and writing useful quotes. A friend once challenged me to turn my huge collection of quotes into business and I thought it made good sense. I tried this in the market and wow! The tremendous response I received really motivated me. I feel fulfilled when I share inspirational, motivational and encouraging ideas on all walks of life with the world, at a cost of course!
AE. What are some of your tools of trade?
Jackline. I must have the ideas that I’ve put down for a beginning, a computer, printer, embossed paper, stick paper and laminating services.
AE.Where do you get them?
Jackline. I create the quotes, collect some from my daily interaction with people and use others from the books I read. I buy the embossed paper and stick papers at wholesale price from SealHoney, a stationery shop. I am lucky because my parents own a computer and printer.
AE. How long does it take you to complete your work?
Jackline. I have been writing quotes ever since I was in high school so I have a bundle of them. I produce my work in bulk of about 100 different copies and do the next production after my stock is completely sold out. It takes me about three days to do my work. I work from my bedroom.
AE. Who are your customers?
Jackline. Anyone interested in motivational, inspirational and encouraging messages with artistic touch. Some of my friends also buy.
AE. How do you maintain your customers?
Jackline. I ensure that my work has high finishing to their satisfaction. I also produce customized work for them as per their specifications.
AE. How do you market your services?
Jackline. Good work markets itself hence people always buy my work. On the other hand I always carry my work with me and show it to potential clients. I have an artist friend of mine with a shed who also helps me sell at a commission.
AE. What challenges do you encounter?
Jackline. I’ve been attending a number of classes thus balancing the two has been challenging. At times I make no sales but I don’t lose heart. The other challenge has been to price my work in a manner that each customer is accommodated.
AE. How do you solve the challenges?
Jackline. I am disciplined and strict on my timetable on when to work and study. To get a large profit margin, I do my work in bulk. Doing my work in bulk also ensures I have time to study.
AE. What is your average profit per week?
Jackline. It is not fixed. It depends on seasons. During school holidays, most youth are out of school hence I get their market. People also buy them on special holidays such as Christmas and Easter. To answer your question, it ranges from Kshs.1,000 to Kshs 200. End month is the best time to sell as most people earn during that time.
AE. What do you do with the profit?
Jackline. I use some of it for my personal expenses (luxury), inject some in the art business and use the rest to buy shares. At times I support my poultry business.
AE. Poultry business? You are a jack of all trades!
Jackline. In life, one should not shy away from anything that earns him honest living. You should not put all your eggs in one basket. Some friends shy away from me upon learning that I rear chicken. “Why do you stoop that low?” They ask. As long as I know what I am getting, I have no trouble. They may laugh at me but I have the last laugh. I don’t see why a youngster should depend on the parents for such small things as Vaseline, busfare and perfume. I asked my mother not to take her car to the car wash. I asked to do the washing at a fee! If I washed the outside, she agreed to give me Kshs 50. If I did the outside and inside, she would give me Kshs 100. Imagine how much money I made at the end of the week. I have worked for my aunt as a seller of second hand clothes. I hate being idle!
AE. I saw a good number of your postcards with religious quotes. Are you religious yourself?
Jackline. Yes, but this does not limit my work. However, I don’t work on Sundays. It’s a day I’ve set aside to interact with friends in church. Although I have a church activity on Wednesdays as from Five O’clock, my work is not interfered with. There is time for everything!
AE. Who among the local artists do you admire?
Jackline. I love writers, mainly motivational writers on life’s issues like the late Wahome Mutahi. I do enjoy Bernard Kirembu’s writings. He is a senior lecturer at Kenya Polytechnic and author of the book: 'Understanding Character.'
AE. Who is your role model?
Jackline. I have several role models from whom I admire different things. My mother for her love, patience, self-control in times of crisis and the way she manages conflict in a calm and civilized way; my father for being positive minded; the current Assistant Minister of Mass Communication and Information, Koigi Wamwere, for his courage and Patrick Lumumba, an Advocate and Lecturer of Law at Nairobi University, for his oratory and ideas among others.
AE. Which group do you associate with?
Jackline. Kiiru Creations. This is a group of three artists who work in partnership, I being one of them. The group makes necklaces, hairclips, lampstands from perfume bottles, shells, and designs on glass among other things. I am also a member of the Kenya Red Cross (Nairobi branch youth group).
AE. Describe the happiest moment in your life
Jackline. When I was in high school during a Music Festival, I was asked to compete with students in senior classes to recite a solo verse in French. I never imagined I could make it. I cried when I emerged the best. Since then, I believe I can do anything if I believe in myself, no matter how experienced my competitor is. The solution lies within me. I never learnt art, but with a computer at my disposal, I asked myself, “What can I do with it to make money?”
AE. What are your future plans?
Jackline. I want to explore all my potential. I plan to obtain a First Class Honors degree, proceed for Masters and thereafter work as judge or professor. I would really like to lecture. Disseminating knowledge thrills my heart. As for my current part time job, I plan to have a card making factory. I don’t rule out venturing into politics. I would like to make a better place for the current and next generation. To clean the country would be one of my greatest achievements.
AE. Do you think Youth Market Day was relevant?
Jackline. Yes. The country got to see that the youth are energetic, creative and straining for better living. Most business got to be known, ideas were shared, contacts exchanged and the youth who were there got more customers.
AE. How did it benefit you?
Jackline. I got encouraged by the hard work being done my fellow youth, sold my work; got new customers and of course discovered The African Executive.
AE. Do you think the Kenya government is helping the youth?
Jackline. Yes. It seems to have realized of late that the youth exist. It was great allowing youth to showcase their talent.
AE. What would you do for youth if you were the minister for youth affairs?
Jackline. I would first urge the youth to identify business ventures, form youth networks that will make them visible to business communities, make them interact with entrepreneurs who will impart commercial skills to them, urge finance institutions to collaborate with them and generally discourage the dependency attitude.
AE. Give some words of advice to young entrepreneurs.
Jackline. To be big you have to start small. To do big things, you have to be able to do small things in a great way. Have a possible attitude in life.
By Josephat Juma
Mr. Juma is an African Executive Writer
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