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The voices of the future

Friday May 8 2015

CLOCKWISE: Silvia Njoki, Lilian Kaivilu, Jean

CLOCKWISE: Silvia Njoki, Lilian Kaivilu, Jean Grace Wanjiru Wandimi, Liz Lenjo and Jane Mukami have made all blogging a full time job. PHOTOS| COURTESY 

SIMON MBURU
By SIMON MBURU
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A few years ago, ‘blog’ was the trending word – as misunderstood as it was. Acres of research and debates were dedicated to grasping the ‘blogosphere’ and how it was evolving.

In fact, blogs were seen as a threat to traditional media. Today, the advent of microblogs such as Twitter have strengthened their position as an information portal and medium of the future, alongside more formal media such as newspapers, radio and television.

A few blogs are rising to the top thanks to their stellar content and regular updates, and many of these bloggers have been honoured at the Bloggers Association of Kenya (BAKE) Awards.

This week, Saturday Magazine speaks to a few of Kenya’s top women bloggers concerning their inspiring journey in the world of blogging. Here’s what we found out:

Silvia Njoki Kamau, fashion blogger at www.silvianjoki.com and 2015 BAKE Blogger of the Year

“For the past two years, I have been running the Style by Silvia, a fashion blog, which primarily focuses on my style and that of my two-year-old daughter, Nielsine. I have been giving notes on style with every look so that my readers can always have something to incorporate in their wardrobe.

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I am living on a 10-piece closet throughout the month of May, which is one of the things women with few pieces in their closet appreciate.

“On my blog, my target audience is younger women and mothers who are enthusiastic about fashion. I began the blog to share some of the outfits I made for my daughter shortly after she was born. It then gradually metamorphosed into a personal style blog that today has more personal stories.

That I was already a fashion stylist before I started blogging has worked very well in dove-tailing my profession and blogging.

“This has gone on to better my finances. My styling career today is able to rake in a steady income that is complemented by earnings from the blog.

I expected, though, that soon, my blog will be my main source of income seeing as its revenues have been growing steadily on a daily basis.

However, to take the blog where it is today, I was forced to take a three-month break to learn about my increasing audience and develop new ideas.

“Many of the current fashion bloggers are women and they have a firm grasp on fashion, (so) I have had to consistently deliver high-quality content. My readers will not stand quality that cuts corners.

This takes a lot of pressure to accomplish consistently. This has been my biggest challenge thus far.

“The fruits, though, have been ripe and rewarding. So far, I have achieved three major milestones. In less than a year, I have bagged three awards – the SOMA award for most promising blogger and the BAKE award for best fashion blog and Kenyan blog of the year. However, as a mother, I am happier about the young girls I have been able to reach and inspire.”

Lilian Kaivilu, current affairs blogger at www.liliankaivilu.com

“I started blogging in 2012 aged 24. As a journalism student at the Kenya Institute of Mass Communication, I discovered that there were so many stories that died in the newsroom and in publishing houses.

I felt I needed to change this by opening a platform where I could share the positive stories that would otherwise never see light of day. I believed that bad news is not always the news!

“Since then, my blog has been featuring business and development news, and features on what ordinary people are doing to address various issues in their communities.

“Owning a blog has gone a long way in enhancing my skills as a journalist with one of the media houses in the country.

I cannot opt out of employment to pursue full time blogging. If anything, I am taking a course in linguistics at Moi University to further sharpen my pen.

“In my experience, it is not easy to make money from blogging, especially due to corporates that are against advertising on blogs. Many of these view us as an ‘unserious’ or idle lot.

This is not the reality on the ground. Blogs are speedily positioning themselves as an effective alternative to traditional forms of advertising, especially with their growing audiences.

Currently, I am happy with what my blog is bringing in financially.

“However, to stay ahead, I have learned that I must remain relevant to my followers. This is not an easy task. Nonetheless, I am glad that unlike mainstream media where practicing is tougher for some women, blogging is easy and fair to all women bloggers. So far, I am yet to experience any regard that pertains to my gender as a blogger.

The beauty of it all is that a woman blogger can multi-task easily regardless of whether she’s a stay-at-home mom or on maternity leave, and still make money. Apart from the income I have been getting from my blog, I’m glad that I have made it twice as a nominee of the Kenya Blog Awards.”

Jean Grace Wanjiru Wandimi, food blogger at www.thewineandfoodreview.com

“My blog focuses on all aspects of food, wine, health, restaurants and beverages. I have been running it for two years. With a high chunk of my review on my blog dedicated to wine, my target audience has been adults between the ages of 18 and 35, who want to know more about wine and drinks in Kenya, events, offers and the coolest restaurants to savour.

“Since I started, blogging has been a form of entrepreneurship for me. I hold an economics and finance degree from Kenyatta University, but I always knew that I would steer towards entrepreneurship.

However, I did not want to start just any business; I wanted a business that would require out-of-the-box kind of thinking.

“Unlike my previous finance jobs that came with the comfort of a pay cheque at the end of the month, blogging has been a risky affair that solely relies on my efforts and networks.

For instance, one of the greatest challenges I encountered was with putting money into sourcing content. I have had to pay for my meals and pay photographers to review many of our middle and upper class restaurants.

These restaurants charge a minimum of Sh5, 000 for dinner and drinks. However, I recently managed to secure an investor who put money in the blog, though I am yet to start living off it fulltime, and sometimes I still have to do part-time jobs to keep going. I plan to plunge into full-time blogging once the income streams widen.

“Being a blogger, I have had to be the writer, editor, web developer, marketer, photographer and social media strategist.

These are the traits of a blogger looking to put out a valuable, money-making blog. Sadly, though, I have realised that local brands are somewhat tight-fisted when it comes to advertising on blogs and paying bloggers.

“This year, though, my efforts were rewarded with a nomination in the 2015 BAKE Awards best food blog category. Although I did not win, the nomination reassured me that I am on the right track. Success for my blog is somewhere around the corner.”

 Liz Lenjo, lawyer and intellectual property blogger at lizlenjo.com 

“It’s been now four years since my husband, Al Kags, introduced me to blogging. When I began, I was looking for an extraordinary project that would propel me to the next professional level and expand my career in law.

“Initially, though, I had begun my literary journey as a lifestyle writer with Media 24, which published Drum and True Love East Africa magazines. I was stationed in the digital department as an editorial assistant for www.campusvybe.com. Back then, I was still a university student.

“My ignition came after I won the Miss Catholic University beauty pageant. Bagging the beauty crown opened doors and shortly after the contest, I began to get jobs in the entertainment business.

However, I encountered numerous dishonest agents who tried to con me of my money.

This made me realise the lack of legal awareness, especially in regard to property rights within the entertainment industry.

With help from my husband, I opened my website under the domain name www.lizlenjo.elimisha.us. One post at a time, I began to share my experiences and the legal redress aggrieved persons could seek.

“Four years down the line, though, I am yet to start earning an income from blogging, mainly due to the nature of the content that I publish. I haven’t really envisioned how to commercialise the blog.

In the same vein, though the blog’s audience has been increasing, but I am yet to find a proper trick that will speedily multiply the hits I am currently getting.

“So far, juggling between motherhood, marriage and work has been a gigantic challenge. My son Harry is three years old and requires unwavering attention.

Trying to juggle these items sometimes gets very overwhelming and affects the frequency of my blogging.

Nonetheless, I am comforted by the objectives that the blog has attained so far in educating Kenyans on the fundamentals of intellectual property.

I take immense pride in being a pioneer female blogger on legal issues in Kenya, since I am convinced that intellectual property is the foundation of most, if not all businesses.”

Jane Mukami, fitness blogger at www.janemukami.com and 2015 BAKE Health Blogger of the Year

“I have been running my healthy lifestyle blog for the past one year. However, I have been a blogger since 2012. Previously, I blogged under the Fit Kenyan Girl platform, which I revamped into my current domain. 

“Although my blog mainly targets Kenyan women, it has a readership spread in over 159 countries. Interestingly, my journey to blogging began as a struggle to reduce weight and stay healthy and fit in 2011. I would post my before and after photos on my Facebook wall to show my transformation and lifestyle. This gave me a sense of accountability.

I was inundated with messages from people asking for my advice on what they should eat and how they should work out in order to lose weight. Responding to tens of messages became a hard task. But in these messages, I saw an opportunity; I could start a blog on healthy living and healthy diets.

“Setting the blog up was not easy. There were times I wondered how my content would be received.

Would people give positive feedback or would I be grilled alive on social media? Would I be able to handle negative feedback? I was very intimidated because I didn’t know what blogging rules were, what I ought to publish and where I needed to draw the line.

I was in the US at the time and I decided to sign up for a blogging seminar. This was the fuel I needed to hit the road. I realised that what I needed to do was start writing authentic content, be myself and stop procrastinating.

“Two years down the line, I am glad that I have strongly positioned the Jane Mukami Fitness Brand in the market. Similarly, I am proud to have scooped the best health blog for 2015 award at the BAKE Awards. This was special to me since I have just relocated back to the country.

“Blogging, though, has not been my only professional career. Currently, I am an IT project manager specialised in managing software development projects.

This is a financially rewarding job. Yet, having built my blog as a brand, I have been able to generate some income from blogging.”

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