Women and entrepreneurship have been the subject of many a book written, tests done and studies carried out in a bid to find what works and what doesn’t. The whys and how’s. However, content and context matter.
Until now, this has been a less traversed territory in publishing by Kenyan women entrepreneurs and for Kenyan women entrepreneurs. It is this that becomes the premise upon which Patricia Okelo and J.C. Niala wrote the book, ‘A Candid Handbook For Women Doing Business In Kenya.’ The book is dedicated “to the women behind every single business in Kenya who quietly get on with changing lives and contributing to our beautiful country.”
According to a 2007 World Bank report called ‘Gender and Economic Growth in Kenya: Unleashing The Power of Women’, half of small and micro enterprises in the country are ran by women. Although this is the case, hardly do the few studies carried out and reports penned get devolved to the small-scale woman entrepreneur. This handbook hopes to do just that.
The Candid Women’s Collective led by Okelo and Niala, spoke to women in business in the country, to gather their stories and gain their insights, it is these stories that dot the book’s twelve chapters. They set questions or exercises at the end of each chapter to help the reader reflect and analyse themselves, and their business.
Among the women interviewed are, fashion designer Akinyi Odongo, the founder of Akinyi Odongo Kenya, the only fashion designer at the 2015 Global Entrepreneurship Summit, attended by former US President Barack Obama, and whose clothes have been worn by First Lady Margaret Kenyatta, serial entrepreneur and FunKidz Limited CEO Ciiru Waweru-Waithaka, also recognised by former US First Lady Michelle Obama, Consumer Options Limited founder Jael Amara, Spielworks Media Limited’s Dorothy Ghettuba, to mention but a few.
The easy to read handbook is dotted with encouraging quotes on women and entrepreneurship such as “You can always tell who the strong women area, they are the ones who are building each other up instead of tearing each other down” who’s author is unknown, “Women who support other women are confident generous visionaries” by Mariela Dabbah as well as “The market is big enough for all of us”, stated by Aprelle Duany, founder of Aprelleduany, a luxury brand encouraging others to use their gifts and experiences to pursue their life’s dream.
The book champions various networks and groups emphasising inclusion of Women in business and their empowerment. It also lists how to start a business in Kenya, referring the curious reader to the ecitizen government portal for the updated steps.
A survey the collective conducted on women in business, had more men respondents, than women in the initial call-out for participants, and they took a shorter time in the turn around response time as opposed to women respondents who asked numerous questions seeking the point of the survey.
“95% of men surveyed said they had given business to women in the last month.” Of those respondents, “87.5% of the men surveyed were business owners” and as Okelo and Niala pointed out to the women entrepreneurs they are targeting, that option should matter to them given we exist in a very patriarchal society. 100% of respondents said “they would return to the same women-led businesses.”
The handbook is certainly candid as the title suggests and seeks to build a bridge the knowledge gap and foster growth of these women owned and led businesses in the country, removing the rose-coloured glasses and painting the truth of what it really means to be in business.
‘A Candid Handbook For Women Doing Business In Kenya’ picks narratives that speak to the everyday woman seeking to find herself and her trade in this world, besides the label of mom and wife. It also speaks to the men in their lives and the impact of businesses in families, the lowest level of society.
In a whole chapter, the book admits that “Starting is Scary” and later as though confessing states, “Women are Good at Business” from the Mama Mboga to the head of a corporate business, the book seeks to shatter the perceptions of women by women, listing learning points, like wells, the reader can draw the whole picture, and wisdom from.
‘A Candid Handbook For Women Doing Business In Kenya’, is one that can be read by students to senior citizens, serial entrepreneurs to government technocrats. It is easy on the eyes with it’s simple but effective design work, and has created the space for you to not down your thoughts for easy reference. It is a handbook for all of society.