Being the sole-bread-winner of a family without a stable income can be an uphill challenge, but Janet Chepkoech – an informal trader in Kericho town, risen above insurmountable odds and earned her stripes through thick and thin and now the mother of two teenagers, is making a kill in business space through hawking porridge.
While narrating her story to KNA amid her busy schedule, the ever-smiling Chepkoech reveals that despite the struggles of life, she has managed to eke a living in porridge selling business earning her at least Sh. 4000 daily.
Janet who mainly distributes porridge to local traders and to officers at government offices within Kericho Town has been in the trade for the last five years and proudly says that she aims to educate her two children to attain the highest level of education possible.
“My children who are both in high school have chosen great careers. The firstborn wants to be a doctor and the last born wants to be a lawyer. I am determined to give them the best with the little I earn and to ensure they fulfill their dreams. That is why I wake up at 4 am every day to prepare porridge and chapatis to sell in town,” explains Chepkoech.
She points out that raising two teenagers as a single parent is not a walk in the park however, she notes that it is a good challenge that motivates and keeps her going and this should be the goal of all single parents since children are a blessing.
“I challenge all women, not just single mothers but all women should work hard and smart to earn their income instead of being dependents. There is joy in having your own money,” stresses Chepkoech
The Covid-19 pandemic has also had an adverse effect on her business due to containment measures such as partial lockdowns that had been in effect for quite some time but explain that now her business is back on track.
“That’s the spirit. In business, one must have thick skin. I just had to bounce back; I had no other option. During the lockdown, my daily expenses skyrocketed and my income was very low as most of my customers worked from home,” says Chepkoech.
At the same time, she says that it was during the lockdown periods when she had time to meditate and rethink strategies of making her business more relevant with the changing times.
“It was a difficult time but I also had the opportunity to change tact and introduce new ways of reaching out to my customers who really love and appreciate my sour porridge. So, for me, the pandemic was a blessing in disguise,” Chepkoech points out.
The 40-year-old mother of two now plans to expand her business through getting registered formally courtesy of the Micro and Small Enterprises Authority to receive legal recognition and take her business to the next level.
According to Chepkoech, a visionary business person should be disciplined especially in the area of finances noting that she has been saving as an individual and as a member of a table banking group where she is able to borrow loans and repay.
“On a good day, I sell 10 liters of porridge that is 5 liters of fermented and 5 liters of unfermented porridge with a cup costing Sh20 and over 100 Chapatis by mid-morning and that is how I make Sh. 4000 a day. With that kind of money, I am able to save and participate in table banking groups as well as fend for my family,” Chepkoech adds.
Chepkoech also explained that understanding some of the basic personal branding skills plays a key role in attracting and maintaining targeted customers which she says is one of the secrets of succeeding in business.
“Maintaining good hygiene and creating a friendly relationship with the customers has worked magic for me. I also ensure that I meet the standards of my customers. So, I treat them with the dignity they deserve,” Chepkoech says.
She further explains that maintaining healthy relationships with customers involves the ability to receive compliments and corrections with grace and a positive attitude.
“The customer is always right. I am teachable and when sometimes customers correct me, I change to ensure I satisfy their needs. I am still learning to do business but from my little experience, I have come to believe that customers are my most important assets in this business,” adds Chepkoech.
Chepkoech believes that the basic fundamental principles she is currently learning in business will be relevant in the future when she starts operating a big restaurant which is a dream that she hopes against hope that will come true someday.
By Kibe Mburu and Shannys Chebet