Mary Nyambura’s financial fortunes changed dramatically in 2010 when she quit her job as a cook at a public hospital to start her own small business.
Until then, Ms Nyambura lived in a rented house in Majengo slum, one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Nyeri town.
A constant stream of friends dropped at her house, not to pass time with her but to demand money that she owed them, she recalled.
Ms Nyambura always borrowed because her salary was not enough to meet her needs. Not any more.
With proceeds from her two-year old cooking business, whose main offering is chapati, Ms Nyambura has bought a four-and-a-half acre piece land in Kieni where she has built a four-roomed house that she and her two daughters, Lucy Wanjiku and Ann Wangui, intend to move into soon.
Ms Nyambura, 45, attributed her success to her courage to take risks.
Her venture started with borrowing some money from her relatives to build a small kiosk at the middle of several garages in Majengo.
“I knew that the location of my business would attract customers, mostly mechanics,” she said of her decision to go into the business of selling food, mainly chapati.
Within months, the single mother’s venture started attracting not just mechanics but office workers from as far as a kilometre away.
Although many people liked her chapatis, she said, Ms Nyambura never received any formal training on how to cook them. She learned the skill from her mother as a young girl, she said.
“Although at first I didn’t get much from the sale of my food, at least I earned enough to keep me away from debts,” she said.
Ms Nyambura started off with making 70 chapatis daily, from four kilogrammes of flour, which she sold at Sh15 a piece. Her chapatis would be sold out before sunset, leaving her with Sh1,050 in revenue.
She saved Sh500 daily with the neighbourhood Biashara Sacco. Ms Nyambura said that her ambition then was to own a house and a small farm where she would grow some crops.
The drive to become a home owner gave her the motivation to save. The business, she said, was hard and tiresome since she woke up at 4.30am to prepare the chapatis and tea and by 6.30am when the first customers would start arriving.
“In the process I managed to make a lot of contacts and many of them requested for my services at their homes,” she said.
She eventually started offering her services at clients’ homes at a fee. She charged Sh200 for chapatis made from a two-kilogramme packet of wheat flour.
After saving enough money to enable her take a loan, Ms Nyambura borrowed some money from Biashara Sacco, bought land and started building a home which she said would be completed in two months’ time.
“We always felt ashamed when people came to our house demanding to be paid their debts, it was terrible,” said her daughter Wanjiku.
Ms Nyambura has taught her two daughters how to cook delicious meals, including chapatis, and the three have expanded their business.
“We normally charge our clients according to the number of visitors they expect. This also helps us to know the quantity of food to prepare to avoid wastage,” said Ms Nyambura.
Ms Esther Koomu, one of Ms Nyambura’s clients, said that she invites her on Saturdays to make chapatis for her family. “Her chapatis are soft and tasty. I think she is the best cook I have ever met,” said Ms Koomu.
Ms Nyambura plans to expand the business by opening another hotel in Nyeri town.
She has since increased the number of wheat flour she uses daily from four kilogrammes to eight.
Ms Nyambura said that she recently introduced brown chapatis to meet rising demand for the food.
“This business has been a blessing to my family. I am not ready to abandon it since I still need money,” she said.