Anyiti Nanyama can hardly believe how fast her fortunes have changed. The 26-year-old is the founder of Crystal Africa Cleaning Services Limited, a start-up that offers cleaning and garbage collection services.
Started three short years ago, her company now provides cleaning services to clients in residential areas, banks and malls in Machakos, Nairobi and Kiambu counties. The business is now highly profitable, and has employed 100 young people.
But it didn’t start so simply. Anyiti first dipped her toes in entrepreneurship waters as a student at Strathmore University where she was taking a Bachelor of Commerce degree.
She started off by selling sweets, clothes and jewellery to her fellow students, and all these ventures failed shortly after she started them, leaving her knee deep in financial loss but with valuable lessons to take home.
She then tried her hand in horticulture, before quickly turning to chicken rearing. None of these enterprises was successful either. At this stage, giving up was the simplest thing to do, but she chose to soldier on.
The losses emboldened her and motivated her to keep going. She was determined to find a business idea that would give her the much needed return on investment.
In 2015, armed with Sh18,000, Anyiti joined hands with three friends and together they got into the cleaning business. ‘At least this time I won’t have to bear the losses alone’, she thought.
‘‘We set up Crystal Africa Cleaning Services Limited that year after overcoming a number of setbacks and resolving to stay focused,’’ she narrates.
As if she hadn’t suffered enough, Anyiti’s new business soon ran into headwinds, as only a handful of clients came on board. Within no time, her patience and that of her partners started waning.
‘‘After several months of perpetual losses, my partners gave up and abandoned the business,’’ she recalls.
Anyiti was on her own once again, struggling to steer back on track a business whose collapse appeared imminent.
Thankfully, the business attained some semblance of stability after a few months.
‘‘Slowly, new clients started coming in and signing long-term contracts,’’ she recounts reflectively.
With 20 contracts, more than 100 employees, a fully functional office, the necessary equipment and a fulltime job herself, Anyiti is eternally grateful that she didn’t jump ship.
‘‘I am where I am today because I had the patience and determination to save the investment in spite of the turbulence,’’ she says.
So, how has Crystal Africa Cleaning Services Limited survived in a crowded market?
‘‘Companies that provide cleaning services have been around for many years, so I had to be creative. I realised that cleaning residential estates was not as popular. Members of each household had to take care of their garbage. I decided to make that my niche,’’ she says.
Today, Anyiti’s company is in charge of hygiene at Greenspan Apartments, Komarock Heights, Mlolongo and Great Wall estates in Nairobi and Machakos counties. Some of these estates have as many as 500 housing units.
She says that she considers herself an employee like everyone else, with a regular salary and other benefits.
‘‘I’m entitled to a salary of Sh140,000 every month. When I need a break from work, I have to apply for leave, I don’t consider myself special in any way,’’ she says.
‘‘Being disciplined in terms of how I view my work, and in my expenditure has enabled me to establish a culture of ethics within the company,’’ she adds.
Last year, Anyiti enrolled for a Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology at United States International University (USIU-Africa), but she does not intend to look for a job after completing this course. She is not interested in getting employed.
‘‘I am passionate about what I’m doing, and I have learnt a lot,’’ she explains.
On the current unpredictable state of the economy, Anyiti believes that Kenyans have the power to turn things around.
‘‘The peace that we enjoy in Kenya is our biggest asset. Things may not be going well for everyone right now, but with peace in the country, it is possible to improve and grow,’’ she says.
Her biggest joy beside money is being able to take care of herself, and to empower others, especially women.
‘‘The business pays for my Masters degree,” she says.
In her free time, Anyiti loves to ride bikes and to read psychology, self-development and motivational books. Her current read is Black Ass by Igoni Barrett.
‘‘The book highlights different people’s perception of race. It demonstrates how skin colour influences our identity yet we have no power to choose our race,’’ she says.
Anyiti says that integrity is key for any person looking to excel in business.
‘‘When you bribe someone to get a contract, chances are that your services will be compromised. It is better to stand by your values,’’
Entrepreneurship, she notes, is not for everyone.
‘‘It’s not practical to have all young people running businesses. Starting out is tough. I was lucky I had supportive parents who provided for me as I started my business,’’ she explains.
‘‘I am proud of my former colleagues at Strathmore who pursued employment and are excelling in the corporate arena. Ultimately, everyone beats their own unique path,’’ Anyiti says.
Is she planning to expand her business?
‘‘Definitely,’’ she says enthusiastically. ‘‘I am planning to put up a recycling plant for glass, metal and plastic waste. This way, we can maximise our revenue while creating jobs for more people.’’