A leap of faith [Nation (Kenya)]
(Nation (Kenya) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) After finishing her undergraduate studies in information technology at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), 28-year-old Caroline Muthoni Kibe found a job as a web database administrator with a non-governmental organisation in Nairobi. But even while she enjoyed her tasks, something about the job always left her troubled.
"The NGO relied solely on donors for its existence. This meant that when donors delayed to release funds, normal operations at the organisation would be affected. Activities would stall, or they would be put on hold. "Worse, we employees would suffer as well because our salaries would be delayed for up to two months," she remembers.
And even though she enjoyed her job, working there was challenging. "I had bills to pay and it became increasingly difficult to sort them out in good time."
During such difficult times, Caroline would reach out to her parents for their financial support. But she knew she couldn't keep doing so forever. Something had to change. So she decided to leave the organisation for greener pastures.
However, after careful thought, she soon changed her mind.
"I reckoned that I would get into another organisation only to find that they too could be facing financial instability. The more I thought about it, the more my dread for this kind of situation grew.
After agonising about it for a while, I decided that I would create my own employment so that I would be the determinant of my financial security."
While mulling over starting her own business, Caroline decided to stay on at her NGO job. Meanwhile, she enrolled for a Master's degree at the University of Nairobi where she studied strategic management because she knew it would be an asset in her entrepreneurial endeavour.
Soon after graduating with her MBA, Caroline felt equipped to take the leap. But the decision was not a smooth one. "I felt scared. Besides, my parents, who I look up to, were against me leaving the security of employment for the tough business world.
My mother wondered why I would spend years attaining a good education only for me to get into business instead of using my degrees to climb the corporate ladder."
But Caroline remained firm in her decision.
In March 2013 after three years in employment, Caroline quit her job. With savings of Sh50, 000 shillings, she opened her business – Diwecs Business Solutions. Her company deals with web design, provision of domain names and hosting services, social media marketing, software development and ICT consultancy.
NOT SMOOTH SAILING
It was not a smooth sail at the beginning as she would go for weeks without business. But as soon as she got one job, she did it immaculately, and this led to referrals. "Most of my clients are from referrals," she says.
"Because of the good job I do for my clients, they in turn refer other people to me. Social media has also been of great help as that is where I do most of my marketing. I have met most of my clients through Facebook."
Initially, she would operate from her house but when her client base began expanding and she needed to meet people in a more 'formal' environment, she opened an office along Ngong' Road in Nairobi.
For the first three months, Caroline had to dig back into her pockets to run the business. In the fourth month, the business began paying for itself. Of her challenges, she says that when the workload gets too much, she subcontracts the jobs. However, this doesn't go down well with all clients.
"I have clients who insist on me doing their job. They don't have confidence in anyone else doing it. But I have to reassure them that they will still get a perfect job," she says.
Looking back to almost a year later, Caroline is glad she took the leap of faith and started her own business.
"I am happy because my financial security depends on me. I also know that I can soar to the highest levels possible. When employed, it is your supervisor who determines what you can and cannot do.
Even if you know you can perform a certain task well, many times you are discouraged from doing so. Being self-employed has made me realise that I can do all those things which would have taken me years in employment to do."
Caroline has also discovered new things about herself that she didn't know.
"I didn't know that I could talk! I'm a computer geek and prefer to keep myself busy behind the screen. But being an entrepreneur, I have realised that succeeding in business is not just about being good at your specialty, but being an all-rounder.
I have learnt how to make pitches and market myself and my business, as well as provide good customer care – all of which require confidence and good speaking skills."
Her advice to anyone stuck in a job that is not giving them satisfaction and is considering self-employment? "If you feel that it is the right time for you to venture out on your own, then take that leap of faith. While having job security is not bad, it sometimes reaches a point when one decides that they cannot do it anymore. When that time comes, go for it!"
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