If any Hollywood or Riverwood executives are reading this, I have a movie idea for you. A biopic. Joyce Gachugi-Waweru as herself in the life and times of (working title), you guessed it, Joyce Gachugi-Waweru. Look at this narrative arc: she is not a fan of oceans growing up, meets her husband on the beach in October, marries said husband many Octobers later—in October no less—and in 2019 does her first scuba dive and she is sold, to the ocean that is. Now, life is a beach.
Currently the CEO of Packaging Producer Responsibility Organisation, Joyce is bubbly. She has learned to let things go but still swears by ‘I-work-well-under-pressure’ CV wisdom. At Nairobi Garage’s 9th floor, she dives deep into how her daughter has upended her life, her exact antithesis: like an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object.
She lists nyama choma with potatoes, rice and chapati as her go-to meal, and, not helping the stereotype, she’d prefer it if you threw in some watermelons too. Oh, this is not an act. In the performance of her life, the scriptwriters cannot say they did not try. Look, if any television executives are reading this, I am available for coffee.
What’s it like being you?
Wow. Profound! I would say a mixed bag of candy. You have some very sweet, some a little sour, and others a little tangy. But full of colour, very vibrant. I love to travel light and, on the go, like a butterfly. I describe my life as a canvas and I paint it with different colours.
What’s one vacation you’ve had that plays in your mind?
I love the ocean. Recently, my husband and I were in the Maldives. We are always told that the Maldives is a small country but it is actually quite large. We are always looking at a country in terms of land, not the ocean. What struck me was the beauty of it all—pristine, white sandy beaches and communities. It could be Diani.
You are a beach person?
Yes, and I love to scuba dive.
How did you pick it up?
When we were young, my parents took us to Mombasa. My dad did not like it. I was afraid of the ocean for quite some time, until about 2019 when I did my first scuba dive. My world opened up. I think what I thought the ocean was—a dark vast place—I got inside and I saw a whole new world. I was sold.
How do you remain spontaneous?
Honestly, it is so hard. My husband would love to be here and listen in, haha! My life has gotten busier now that I have a family. But I try to create time to do new with my family. And it’s not about cost but the experience. It could be mundane things.
Do you have a special family ritual?
My husband, daughter and I love to Netflix and chill, but with animations. My husband and I love movies, but our daughter is still at the cartoon level.
What’s your favourite childlike thing to do?
Playing tag with my daughter, jumping on a trampoline…anything that gets me feeling like a child.
What was your nickname growing up?
It’s always been ‘Ciru’ from Wanjiru. Or Shee. But some friends call me Boss Lady, Boss Babe.
Have you always wanted to be a boss babe?
Interesting question! No. I’ve always lived my life with purpose in mind, and being a CEO was not on my vision board largely because in my space I am passionate about sustainability and the environment.
For us, the apex is becoming the Chief Sustainability Officer, and then in some cases ascending to CEO. Becoming CEO was God being, “Haha, joke’s on you, I have a bigger plan.”
What remains unchanged about Ciru since childhood?
Bossiness. I have always been a strong-willed person since I was two years old. We would buy goodies and I’d tell other children, some who were older than me, that this is not for children.
How does boss babe let go and become a girl?
I have learned to have a clear demarcation of roles. When I go home, I am a wife and mother; thinking about my house and how to run it.
What do you remember about the first time you saw your husband?
Haha! It was 20 years ago. We met at the Coastal region. He had come from riding a bike on the beach. My girls (friends) and I were relaxing at the pool. He came and said hi, and the rest is history [chuckles]! It was Moi Day (now Huduma Day) on October 10. And also, my wedding anniversary is in October. Interesting, right?
Right. What do you love about him?
He cares, genuinely. He doesn’t fake it. He gives himself to his friends, and family until I have to reel him in. He is very caring and authentic about it.
What do you think he likes most about you?
He sees my heart.
What's joy to you?
Having peace and awareness of yourself, of purpose. I am reliant on God.
How do people show you love?
Wow. I love gifts. I love flowers and jewellery. And it can be anything random, even a small trinket. That’s how people who know me show love.
Who knows you best?
My husband. Extremely.
What matters way less than you thought it would?
A tidy home, haha! Before my daughter, I loved my house in a certain way. Since she came, everything is everywhere. It doesn’t even faze me anymore. Before her, I would take life too seriously. Now I just roll with it.
What are you learning about life from your daughter?
How we are all such unique beings. She is a byproduct of my husband and I but she has her own unique identity. She is clear about what she thinks or wants, even if we have to correct her now and then. It is appreciating everyone as their own person.
What area of motherhood do you struggle with?
Because of my busy schedule, I feel I do not get enough time with my daughter. And I feel guilty so I have to manage how I engage with her when I am with her so I don’t spoil her too much. I think she’s gotten to study that and she is playing with me. The other day I wanted to spank her, and she found it so funny. She bent over and was like Mommy spank me! It is the evolution of understanding that it is going to be like this for some time.
What is something I wouldn’t believe about you?
That I have taken part in a political campaign. Actively.
Is it an ambition?
Yes, because I did enjoy it. I was campaigning for somebody else and it put me in the thick of things as a youth coordinator. It was such a heated campaign, and for the candidate to have won, it felt like I won.
What’s most meaningful to you now?
God, family, and friendships. Very small ecosystem.
How do you silence your mind?
If I can, haha! Nowadays I just shut it off. I tend to find myself in the duality of I am at home, I am working, doing this, and that. Now when I am in this space with you, I am in this space with you.
What’s a typical weekend for you?
It depends, if it is a busy work week, I’d just be in the house and spend time with my family. I do like to squeeze in a spa treatment or two. It could be indoors or outdoors, checking out what my house needs.
What’s your weekend guilty pleasure?
Golfing. I am fixing it intentionally since I had stopped due to my flurry of activities.
What’s your comfort meal?
A good nyama choma with some nice potatoes, rice, and chapati…and let me make it even better, with some watermelon.
Haha! No! In fact, no soup or water haha! I am a very good cook, and I got that from my mom.
What’s your go-to meal to apologise to your husband?
Nyama with sukuma wiki. Those two and it’s me who has cooked! My sins are washed away.
What’s the dumbest thing you’ve spent money on?
Shoes undoubtedly! This year I am practising the art of restraint better than last year. And honestly, this social media algorithm isn’t helping. They know me too well [chuckles].
What’s your superpower?
I work well under pressure. I can stretch myself and discover my capacity. My pressure, your pressure, for some strange reason just activates me. I thrive under pressure.
What’s one memory you would like to relive?
With my mother now that she is no longer in the world. When we were young, we would go to the movies a lot. I would do it over and over. She really was my best friend.
How are you like her?
Seeing what I want and going for it. I understand how situations need to be managed, and make things look good…with very little. The art of managing things, I got that from my mama.
What’s the soundtrack of your life?
Don’t stop moving. Don’t stop moving. Often, I find myself in unfamiliar waters, so I just keep moving.
What’s the longest line you’ve stood in and what were you waiting for?
When I was in school registering for my Year I at Kenyatta University. What a line, haha!
What’s an item you bought for less than Sh10,000 that you use daily?
My shoes [points to said shoes]. They are comfortable and versatile and you can dress them in a million ways. They are my best buy for 3k!
Who do you know that I should know?
Religious wise I would say Apostle Angie Murenga who has had such a huge impact in my life. Number two, my chair. He has the strength of a thousand people. He has built an empire, and unless you know him, you can’t tell. He has a way of just doing things, how he moves. Being the CEO and the chair, I study him a lot. He is passionate about Africa(ns) getting things right. His name is Richard Rugendo.
What's your Christmas plan?
Christmas is always with family. I will be in the country.