When not working on her class assignments, Ziporah Kigotho, a student at Mathenge Technical Institute in Othaya, Nyeri County is in the fields collecting used plastic water bottles.
She will then recycle them to earn her school fees, pocket money and upkeep for her child.
At her parents’ home at Kiganjo village, Ol Kalou, Nyandarua County, a heap of the used bottles is carefully arranged in one corner of the expansive table room, while Ms Kigotho is in a second room surrounded by more bottles, threads, a sticker glue on the table and a pair of scissors at hand.
Those are the only raw materials she requires to earn a decent living and occasionally buy some gifts for her parents.
The second-year hospitality management student says her life revolves around her child, the bottles and her classwork.
“At college, I have no time for outing or merrymaking; I spend my free time after classwork and doing assignments to design the flowers. I love beauty and cooking, that is why I am taking the course and perfecting my art in interior décor,” says Ms Kigotho.
She says that the two jobs; hospitality and beauty, complement each other and her plan is to design the beautiful flowers in her free time when done with college and is employed.
“My ultimate goal is to own a beauty shop where I will design own products, but I will have to get a job first to raise capital for my dream shop. I will then train and employ other young people,” said Ms Kigotho.
The entire business starts with collecting the empty bottles; she then buys threads of different colours, before designing the type of flower she wants to make.
The decision on the type of flower to prepare depends on the customer’s tastes and specification, or her own initiative and creativity when not working for a specific customer.
“One must be very creative to sustain and attract more customers. You will find that more often than not, customers get more attracted to a newly developed design of a flower than what they had ordered. In this case, it means the customer will carry the order and purchase the new design,” she said.
The desire to make interior décors started when Ms Kigotho was still a young girl at Kiganjo Primary School when she collected pieces of paper or threads to make small flowers.
But she had no spare time for the arts after joining Salient Secondary School at Captain Market in Ol Kalou until she joined college.
The interest in art resurrected during a research lesson when she volunteered to do one on interior décor.
During the research period, she came across many flower designs on the internet and immediately thought of how she can develop the same, using available resources.
She started by designing two flowers in a day, but she has since gained experience and speed, and can now make up to 10 sets in a day when with no other commitments.
Her main customers are shops selling furniture, individuals and institutions in need of beautifying their offices in a unique way.
The cost of production per flower is Sh100 which she sells at between Sh400 and Sh450 depending on design and customer ability.
“I use one thread bought at Sh100 to design two flowers, the main cost is on the threads and labour since I use very little glue. Besides being creative, one must also understand colour matching before buying the threads from the shops,” she said.
Traders selling furniture especially these made using glass are her main customers and have helped popularise and market her products.
“The traders use my flower to beautify their furniture to attract more customers, in turn, the customers request to know the source of the flowers, they are given my contacts, we meet, and they place their orders,” Ms Kigotho explained.
On a good day, she sells all the 10 flowers designed in a day, earning her between Sh4,000 and Sh4,500.
She says the biggest challenge in the business is to collect the bottles since she must get them clean and in good shape.
To overcome the challenge, she has to monitor places where big events like weddings, funerals and open public forums are taking place where she collects enough clean and undamaged bottles.
The other challenge is customers who place orders, but later complain that the colours do not match as requested, a challenge she is overcoming by having the customers write down the colours and designs of their choice in own handwriting.
She also attributes her success to the timely delivery of flowers to the customers as agreed at the time of placing their orders.
“Nothing makes a customer happier than delivering quality work at the agreed time. Such customers are very critical in business growth, they will praise and market you and your products to more customers,” she explained.
Since she ventured in the flower design making business, she says she has never bothered her parents with her school fees, pocket money and she has some good savings for a rainy day.
“My parents are very supportive and appreciate what I do; they allow me to manage my time without giving me additional house chores unless when very necessary,” she said.