At this time when the country is experiencing a contraction in economic activity, resulting in loss of thousands of jobs, an innovative Standard Eight dropout in Mombasa is making the most of his pottery and painting skills to get by.
Bidii Kwicha, driven by what he describes as perpetual hunger, started making concrete flower pots in Kilifi town, a job he does alongside painting houses in the greater Coastal area.
When I recently interviewed him at his work place near Kilifi Bridge, I discovered that the 36-year-old, father- of- four did not go past Class Eight. But his artistic skills were a clear indication that even with limited education, the quest for success cannot be stopped.
“I mix sand, cement and some metal wires. Sometimes I make these products according to colour and shapes preferred by the customer, especially when I am working on orders,” he said during the interview.
True to his words, his working yard was littered with pots of different colours and shapes, some which he said were yet to be collected by buyers who had placed orders. Big pots go for Sh5,000 and smaller ones sell at Sh500.
“Sometimes I can go for weeks without making a single sale then one customer comes and buys products worth more than Sh20,000 in a single transaction,” he said. Apart from the flower pots, which he said are mostly bought by tourists and high-end hotels, he has also perfected the art of modelling clay water pots, a traditional household reservoir of water mostly used in Swahili houses.
Mr Bidii started the business in 2015 while working for an Asian family in Tudor, Mombasa. One day, he recollects, the house owner wanted to buy flower pots to beautify his garden and lounge.
“I accompanied him to Nyali to help source for the pots, but when he enquired about the price, he was discouraged by the steep charges. He then asked me if I could get someone to make him the items at a more affordable cost,” said Mr Bidii.
The following day, he brought a potter to his boss’ home to model the desired items.
“The man hired me as his casual assistant. He stayed in the compound for one month as he worked on the pots, giving me an opportunity to learn the craft,” he says.
Bidii continued to consult the potter, who has now become his mentor, helping him to sharpen his pottery skills. Last year, he won a tidy contract to supply several pots to Titanic Hotel in Kilifi.
Recently, after just two years in the trade, Bidii has purchased a motorcycle using proceeds from his handiwork. He intends to buy a second one in a few weeks.
“We mostly make good sales in October, November and December because that is the peak of the season when many clients tend to furnish their houses and hotels,” Bidii said.