Few would like to be associated with death, let alone make a career out of it. Not many women dream of a career in the funeral industry.
But for Rosemary Omollo things are quite different. This mother-of-three has done away with the misperceptions associated with the dead, and instead, she is minting a living and carving a career out of making and selling coffins.
She took over the Nairobi based business five-years-ago after her brother passed on, and she has seen to it that it continues to grow year after year.
Today, the name Mwajuma pops up every time clients in her neighbourhood are in need of caskets.
Her story in her own words.
"I am the owner and proprietor of Glorious Touch Funeral Services, a company located in Jericho estate in Nairobi and which specialises in making and selling coffins.
I started off as a tailor in my brother's business, where I specialised in sewing satin interiors including quilted coverlets and pillows, but when he passed on, I had to take over.
I took over, in part to make an income, but mainly because I didn't want my brother's dream to vanish. I also felt the need to keep customers happy. Already grieving people are sad and tormented, and I would help relive their pain a little if I give them the best services.
It was hard to take up at first. I was coming from dealing with the softer side of things, and now I had to learn the hard-core carpentry and craftsmanship involved in coffin making.
It took time to get myself acquainted. I had to accept to get my hands dirty and hard. With time, the hard labour bore fruit, and I was able to entrust others with the manual work as I supervised and ensure my customers are happy.
Still, I don't just sit and wait for the woodworkers and craftsmen to produce the caskets. No, I go out there and put in the work. I understand the whole process. This includes cutting the parts, applying veneer tape, joining, attaching the bottom, and applying a protective finish.
This has upped my supervisory role and I am able to assign fundi’s duties and allocate adequate material while avoiding wastage.
The coffins are categorised into four groups; plain, semi executive, executive, and VIP, with the difference between them being the level of craftsmanship, quality of materials used and design among other things.
They range from Sh10, 000 which is the price of the simplest coffin, with the most advanced going up to Sh70, 000. In a month I sell up to ten of them.
Though I've been able to see my business expand and make many customers happy, the hardest task was to change the perception associated with coffin sellers. One is associated with death. You can't even complain about how low the business is without people giving you funny looks. As a woman, you may come across as heartless.
You have to be prepared to be stigmatised and lose friends. Not many women would want to be linked to people like us. I've had friends who wouldn't visit me at my workplace because they are afraid of the "site" of death.
I don't blame them. It wasn't also easy for me at first. I was scared of being near a coffin, but with time and having lost a number of relatives, I was able to understand that this is just like any other business. So you could find me at the workshop at night seated next to coffins as I complete paperwork.
This has been a very rewarding business which has allowed me to be financially independent. I am able to meet the financial needs of my family.
My family has been very supportive. My firstborn son, though having no issue with what I do, rarely visits me at work. My husband, who is also my business partner is very reassuring.
For me, making coffins doesn't have to be grim, it can reflect the life of the late, providing happy memories at a time when sorrow is dominant.
Death is a reality and we have to embrace it without fear. Making coffins is one way of coming to terms with it."