Mary Waweru shows what it takes to succeed
The first woman to venture into a male-dominated business venture in Nyeri County, Mary Waweru has only one thing to say: “Hope is the secret to success.”
She notes: “Never let go of hope. One day you will see that it all has finally come together. What you have always wished for will come to pass. You will then look back and laugh.”
Waweru vividly recalls her frustrations, downfalls and mistakes that placed her where she is today.
A trained secretary, Waweru moved from one employer to another in search of the elusive green pasture.
In late 1980s, Waweru came to the realisation that secretarial work was not cut out for her and that she had trained for the wrong job. She decided to quit and try her hand in business.
She invested in clothes and shoe businesses but her zeal would not stop there. In 1990, she shifted to auto-mobile and building paints business.
“My dream was to start a paints manufacturing company but I had to shelve the idea due to emerging competitions,” explains Waweru. She adds: “I had no capital to start the investment and being a woman, getting a loan from financial institutions without collateral was impossible.”
Waweru needed KSh1.5 million for the investment but she only had a saved KSh200,000 from her previous employment and the small-scale businesses.
“I had spent some money to buy a godown from Kenya Industrial Estate (KIE) and what was left was not enough to start the paints company. The venture was also getting crowded as most of the manufacturers introduced low-quality paints and as a result, many customers could not trust locally manufactured products,” she recalls.
After deep soul searching, Waweru decided to use her savings to start the now flourishing tiles and ceramic company. Today she is the Managing Director of Central Ceramic and Tiles.
Even as she ventured into this field, Waweru had fears that the business could fail due to lack of customers, lack of reliable cash flow and other sources of income to stock new products in the market.
She made the first mistake that cost her fortunes from the word go when she decided to import the products from abroad.
“It was cumbersome to have the goods cleared at the Port of Mombasa, the goods were mishandled and there were a lot of breakages,” she says.
Out of the sale from the imported consignment, she only managed to raise enough funds to keep the business afloat but without any profit.
She almost gave up since getting trusted suppliers who would deliver quality goods was next to impossible mainly because she had not trained on entrepreneurial skills and had little knowledge of the products she was dealing with.
All the same, Waweru decided to give it a last try and purchased the products from suppliers in Nairobi after soliciting for advice from experts she could trust, but some were a disappointment.
“There are so many counterfeit goods in the market and it is difficult to detect genuine ones from the fake. You must know which country manufactures original products because most are counterfeited as soon as they enter the local market,” says Waweru. She adds: “That is how counterfeit products have flooded the market.”
Waweru notes: “I was afraid of stiff competition from counterfeit product dealers. I had a feeling that customers would go for cheap products unaware that they were fake,” explains Waweru.
However, with time she has learnt that most people would go for the best quality regardless of the price.
She attributes part of her success to Nyeri Biashara Sacco which gave her loan shortly after joining the cooperative society.
She used the loan to purchase more stock from suppliers in Mombasa and Nairobi. She also attributes her success to quality products, good services to customers and discipline of her employees.
Due to her good public relations and friendly relations with customers, she was appointed the sole agent of CON MIX which is the powder used in tiles and as filler and Special Cement C500 in Mount Kenya region and part of Rift Valley.
“I am motivated when a customer comes back to speak of the good quality of our products and services,” says Waweru. She notes: “I love dealing with male customers because men are more cooperative and easy customers for my products.”
She adds: “I have earned a name and wealth of experience in business, Nyeri Biashara Sacco, manufacturers and suppliers of products we deal in have also supported me by way of exposure and skills.”
The loan also enabled her to shift from a back street premises along Kanisa Road in Nyeri town to a more strategic and spacious premises along Gakere Road where she operates from.
Waweru converted the building she intended to use for the paints manufacturing plant to a store for her products.
Biashara Sacco chairman Joseph Njamuki describes Waweru as a role model and motivation in the business world.
“She is among the women achievers in the County. She is ambitious and determined and has a bright future in business,” says Njamuki. “She is among our best customers and is a motivation to many other women and investors.”
Njamuki says Biashara Sacco has come up with special products tailored to meet expectations of upcoming visionary investors like Waweru.
“We do not discriminate, our doors are open to all investors regardless of race, gender and social status,” says Njamuki.