After studying graphic design at Kenya Polytechnic University College, Goodie Odhiambo dove into the job-seeking pool.
She put together a crude CV and as green as they come, hit the tarmac. Every employer wanted someone with experience.
At her last stop, she refused to leave the office and offered her services for free. The gig lasted a year before she moved on.
She got a new laptop and while setting up Microsoft, when prompted for a name, Goodie or Odhiambo were replaced by ‘Plan B.’
She was on her way out of employment forever. Today, she says, “You have to be crazy, brave and stupid! Whatever your mind is working towards is very aligned with what comes in front of you.”
While sitting with a friend for coffee having quit her job, another friend walked in.
She was also at her wit’s end but where her frustration ended is where the rest of Ms Odhiambo’s career as her own boss began.
“I’m selling my business and you would be right for it,” the friend said.
The only problem was that despite being more than interested, Ms Odhiambo did not have the money.
They worked out a payment plan which was paid in full less than a year later.
And that’s how Goodie’s African Interiors and Gifts came to be. For almost a month, Ms Odhiambo only had Plan B (her new laptop) and her regrets about the company.
She thought herself stupid and 'What have I gotten myself into?’ played daily on her mind.
Her landlord made concessions. She had to clean out her bank account and when a few sales did come, all that cash went to rent.
The business did pick up. Goodie’s got their first big order.
The figure on the local purchase order (LPO) brought a smile to Ms Odhiambo’s face. But there was a problem. She could not afford to pay for the order.
“I offered a 50-50 split but the craftsman declined,” Ms Odhiambo says.
That was then. Goodie’s African Interiors and Gifts has grown. Today, from their Nairobi’s Muthangari Road premises, they work with artisans from all over Kenya.
One of Ms Odhiambo’s most enjoyable parts of her job is walking the markets of Kenya for products. “I can always identify an artist straight away,” she says.
She is after all one of them. Sometimes she comes up with a design and sends it to her favourite artisan to create.
She consciously chose not to craft anything herself with the pool of artisans as big as it is.
She enjoys the fact that she is putting food on the table for someone else and is more than glad to act as a conduit between the creator and the consumer.
On top of buying from artisans, Ms Odhiambo also travels the breadth of the country to train them.
“I mostly work with Women’s groups,” she says and further reveals that most artisans in Kenya are women.
Ms Odhiambo proudly reveals that she has travelled all 47 counties and encourages other Kenyans to do the same before venturing outside.
On top of being an artist, she is a traveller, a back-packer she calls herself. She will sleep under the stars anywhere, comfort and luxury being her last consideration.
She has been to over 14 countries internationally and if and when she can afford it, she would like to check off more territories from that list.
As with most other businesses, the Covid-19 pandemic which Ms Odhiambo initially thought would pass in weeks hit her business hard.
“I came very close to shutting it down,” she says of the difficult times. Only her passion kept her from closing the doors on her life’s work.
Consumer habits have changed since the pandemic. "People are very particular about what they want. Now, they’ll ask, ‘Do I want it or need it?’” Ms Odhiambo confirms.
December was her busiest season previously. She would have her hands full putting together gift hampers for her corporate customers but even that has changed.
Those of lesser will have called it quits and moved into other areas. Ms Odhiambo gives the example of one of her most skilled weavers.
On a call, the latter revealed that the weaving business was not cutting it anymore and she has moved on to selling land and property.
Ms Odhiambo has turned down a take-over offer where she would have to bring in her artisans into a factory setting for mass production.
Her potential partner was surprised when she declined but she says an artist cannot be put into a box.
She also did not want to go back to where she came from– employment.
In five years, Ms Odhiambo would like to have relinquished her business to someone else who would in her words take it to the next level.
She has a free spirit and will not stay somewhere too long. What would she do? Travel, she says. “You shouldn’t think you’re the beginning and the end of your business,” Ms Odhiambo says.
She likes it at the deep end and offers the words of a book she is currently reading as advice for someone looking to start, Susan Jeffers ‘Feel the fear and Do it Anyway.’