Financial lessons for women

Saturday May 18 2019

Sophia Matura

Sophia Matura. She quit her well-paying job with an NGO and set up shop where she trains women on proper record keeping. PHOTO | COURTESY 

SELEON KOIN
By SELEON KOIN
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“My name is Sophia Matura. I was born in the 70s in Kajiado County, a few kilometres down the famous Ngong hills.

At the time, formal education was generally not a welcome idea in our community. Luckily, our father, a businessman, was open-minded. It was through him that I gained a lot of interest in business to the extent that I pursued a business-related course in college.

ADVENTURES

“Growing up, I always dreamt of becoming an influential business-person. My early years were full of adventure as I grew up and schooled in the village. I did well in the national exams and managed to secure an admission at Moi Girls High School in Isinya.

Here, I developed an interest in business studies. I chose the subject and continuously performed well.

“When I completed high school, my brother, who was studying and working in Central India, invited me to pursue my studies in Jabalpur. I moved to India and pursued an undergraduate degree in financial management.

During my stay there, I learnt a lot about cultural diversity and business relations.

DREAM

“After completing my studies at the age of 25, I decided to come back home and actualise my dream. After applying for a job for several months, I finally landed one at a reputable NGO in Ngong town. The organisation mainly dealt with community policing, girl child education, women empowerment and climate change. It is there that I began my career as a junior accountant.

“I loved my job but the salary was only enough to cater for my day to day maintenance. You see, my younger siblings partly depended on me. By this time, my father was starting to grow old and weary and so was his business.

I would squeeze the Sh15,000 that I earned every month to pay my rent, buy food, cater for transport, and daily upkeep, and still I had to send something home.

“While still working at the NGO, I scouted for financial options to boost my income. A friend recommended watermelon farming as she had been successfully running the same business. The fruits had a huge demand especially in the surrounding urban centres.

PIPED WATER

“Our neighbours had piped water from the village’s borehole so I talked them into allowing me to pipe water to where I was intending to set up the farm. They were kind enough and soon my five-acre farm in the outskirts of Ngong was all set. I ran the business successfully for about three years.

“However, trouble began after my farm caretaker also became interested in the same business and set up a farm on his parents’ land not far from mine. With time, our farms started competing for resources. I would buy pesticides and fuel to pump water but they would not be enough for both farms so my farm would suffer in my absence.

Juggling farming and a career proved a challenge especially because of the distance between my workplace and the farm. After pondering for a while, I decided to close down the business as it had been running on losses for about a year.

NEW SALARY

“With time, I rose through the ranks to become a senior financial manager in the same organisation. My new salary made it possible for me to not only cater for my responsibilities but to also save enough. However, my passion for running a business kept burning.

As much as I had a stable job, I thought of ways of increasing my streams of income. I saved enough and came up with a business idea.

I settled for a salon as my neighbourhood had quite a number of women who had to travel to Nairobi city centre just to get their hair done.

The salon operated for about two years until things started going south. My employees would register fewer clients than those who actually received services at the salon. Eventually, the salon was unable to sustain its operational cost.

“In 2004, my partner proposed to me and soon enough, we were raising a young family. Eventually, I resigned from my eight-year employment to focus on my family and rekindle my passion for entrepreneurship.

TENDERS

I learnt about a government policy that directs 30 per cent of tenders be allocated to women, the youth and disabled persons.

“In 2011, I registered a general supplies company, which has been successful to date. When the business was stable enough to run on its own without my constant supervision, I continued to chase my dreams. I wanted to advance my knowledge and become a certified financial consultant so I went back to school to pursue a master’s programme in Global Business and Entrepreneurship.

“While in the post graduate school, I learnt about social entrepreneurship — the concept of using a business to solve problems.

“This triggered me to think about the situation at my rural home. I wanted to help the women in my village to convert their resources such as milk and beads into monetary value. So I set up shop at the most interior part of Ewaso ward, where I started training women on often overlooked skills such as proper record keeping, branding, and financial management at a subsidised fee.

THRIVING BUSINESS

To date, I still train the women, and I am proud to see them thriving in their businesses.

“I also offer financial consultancy services to women organisations and churches at a fee.

“In 2016, my goal of becoming a financial consultant was finally accomplished when I joined a firm based in Nairobi as an associate business consultant.

“I am still working on becoming a renowned entrepreneur.

“The truth is that the inspiration behind every business is profit, but we cannot stop there. We can make an impact while at it by transforming our communities.”

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