Josephat Juma of The African Executive talks to Lydia Ominde (21), during the Bukura Youth Business Training. Lydia, a first born in a family of five hails from Shikumu village in Kakamega South district of Kenya’s Western Province.She sells maize.
AE: Please provide a brief background of yourself
Lydia: After completing my studies at Lutaso primary school (Bunyala), I joined Global Vision Secondary School in Nairobi city in 2003. Due to inadequate funds to pay my fees, I was transferred to Shikunga Secondary School in my rural village. I was forced to repeat Form II due to late reporting. I finished my secondary education in 2007.
AE: What did you do immediately after school?
Lydia: I longed to pursue studies in journalism but my dream was cut short since my parents could not afford college fees.
AE: Did you just sit and wallow in a morass of self pity?
Lydia: No. With the only money I had: KShs 60 as my starting capital, I tried my hand on selling buns. I used KShs 30 to purchase the buns and got a profit of KShs 10. I ploughed this back into the business and alas! I had ventured into the world of business. Seeing my initiative, my mother loaned me Kshs 680 in March 2008.
AE: What did you do with the money?
Lydia: I decided to delve into the maize business.
AE: Why venture into the maize business?
Lydia: To begin with, it was a planting season and people either wanted maize seed or maize for food. There was only one seller who was offering this servive in my village and I could see he was not satiating the demand. This gave me an opportunity to serve the community while making profit. In addition, I ventured into this business as the profit I got from maize sales was higher than that from the sell of buns. Another factor that made me to start selling maize was lack of basic needs in my family such as food, lighting, medicine and school fees for my younger brothers and sisters. Seeing how my parents were struggling to meet these, I thought it wise to supplement their effort.
AE: Briefly explain how you begun
Lydia: From the KShs 680, I bought twenty tins (40Kg) of maize seed. I sold this and ploughed back the profit into the business. This is what I still do. I also use part of the profit to supplement family income.
AE: Who are your customers?
Lydia: Mostly my immediate village members.
AE: How do maintain them?
Lydia: I socialize with them and show them that I care. I sometimes sell them the maize on credit, especially the regular customers. I make sure that my maize is clean.Whenever I interact with them, I always make mention of what I do. The entire village is thus aware that I sell maize.
AE: Do you face any challenges?
Lydia: I find it a bit difficult to balance family needs and business needs. Family needs are sometimes too demanding. Secondly, the people who supply the maize to us in 90kg sacks don’t give us time to weigh the contents. Consequently, I sometimes experience a shortage of two or four Kgs which is a great loss to me. In addition, as most of the people I deal with are relatives and friends, they use this advantage not to repay debts.
AE: How do you deal with these challenges?
Lydia: That is precisely one of the reasons why I attended the Bukura Youth Business and Leadership Training. I wanted to get business skills, advice and leadership training to enable me steer the family to progress.
AE: Were your needs met?
Lydia: I learnt that I should always do waht works, brings profit and should not put all my eggs in one basket. I learnt that I should not be rigid but seek to turn the problems I see in my community into business opportunities. Furthermore, I learnt the need to travel and see how other people are carrying out similar businesses as well as add value to what I do.I was exposed to factors such as the need for correct pricing and separating business from philanthropy.
AE: What challenged you most in the training?
Lydia: When one of the presentors, James Shikwati, asked participants to write their Will and what they would like to be remembered for when they die.
AE: How did this challenge you?
Lydia: First, I had never thought about the need for having a vision and mission for my life and whatever I engage in! Second, it it alsmost sacrilege to talk about one's death in my community. We don't dwell much on the hereafter!
AE: ....Your journalism ambition?
Lydia: I sought an opportunity to teach in Shikumu, a nearby primary school. I am six months old at the center. The Kshs 1000 I earn per month-though not regular- is partly used to supplement family needs, and partly injected in the business with hope that as the business grows, I will cater for my college fees.
AE: Where do you see yourself five years from now?
Lydia: I would like to own my own store of maize, have a truck to enable me sell my maize far and wide, and have an ever increasing stock.
AE: Any advice to the youth?
Lydia: Youths should wake up from their slumber. The little capital they have, well utilized, can make a great difference in life. They ought to work hard and be focused, knowing that one cannot score a goal while sitting on the bench.