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Business Lessons Top Executives Got From Mums

Ciiru Waweru Waithaka
Ciiru Waweru Waithaka. PHOTO | COURTESY 

If there ever was a quote that’s apt for Mother’s Day that is a few days away, it would be: ‘God could not be everywhere so He made mothers.’

Talking of everywhere, we spoke to a few corporate women and asked them what lessons they learnt from their mothers that they find themselves employing now as mothers.

CIIRU WAWERU WAITHAKA

CEO, Funkidz

“We grew up in Limuru. It was always cold and grey and wet. My mother was a farmer, so we were not allowed to sleep in. We woke up at 4am to sweep, clean pigsties, milk cows, slaughter chicken, cook and wash before school. It was hard manual labour. I recall driving with her in her old Peugeot at 5am to look for a cow and pig feed. Now I make my children (seven and nine years old) rise at 5am to be in school at 6am for sports training. You rise early, you get more done, that’s what I have always known from mum.

“She was a hard worker, I learnt to fold my sleeves and use my hands. There was never TV in our house years, so it was books and work. I respect TV in my house now, limiting it to weekends. We travelled around Kenya a lot as a family when growing up, we were outdoor people and I’m doing that with our children now.

They love the outdoors, nature, walking in grass, smelling fresh air. In nature we keep rediscovering ourselves.

“My mother died 24 years ago, so she never saw me as a mother, but I think she would be proud.”

SHARON CHAKAVA-BANDA

Head of Operations, East African Educational Publishers

SHARON CHAKAVA

SHARON CHAKAVA Head of Operations, East African Educational Publishers. PHOTO | COURTESY

“If I said that we struggled as a family growing up I would be lying. I only realised later how very fortunate and blessed we were. This is because my mum raised us up with deep humility. Being a very prayerful mother, she always expressed the need for integrity, respect and humility. If for instance she heard me tell my friend, will you come over to my house? She would say, “Eh? Your house? I didn’t know you have a house!”

It was very clear that nothing there was ours. We had to make our own.

My mother quit her job as nurse to raise us but ironically she always encouraged us on in our chosen careers, to pursue our dreams bravely and I think we have all done pretty well.

“My relationship with God is founded from how she socialised us and even when I strayed in my years in the US and UK, I ended up going back because she had laid the strong Christian foundation. My daughter is only three years old now, and I want her to be grounded and to be humble and to stand for certain values like my mother taught me. It’s tough raising a child in this age and although she is still young, I pray that I raise her as well as my mother did. I pray that I have that strength of character and overflowing wisdom that my mother always exhibited.”

NJERI KENJI

Business Development, Proshade

Njeri Kenji

Njeri Kenji. PHOTO | COURTESY

“We were four growing up, now we are three. My parents divorced early. My mother was terror.

She would not take any nonsense, a strict disciplinarian. She beat us up. She beat us up so bad she would spit on us. You would come late from playing and she would be hiding behind the door and then she would be on you.

We feared her and we loved her. She was always fair. I beat my children too. I beat Malcolm (my son) until he was 14 years. (He is 22 years old now) and Wambui until she was 12 (now she is 16 years old). I don’t regret it. They are wonderful children because of that.

“Even though we were beaten, we were also loved with the same passion. There was so much love in our house. My mother taught me the value of unconditional love. She would say, “it doesn’t matter what kind of a child God gives you, children are not meant to be perfect but that’s His gift, love them unconditionally.” I love my children unconditionally, even when sometimes it’s hard to love them because of the things they do.

“Lastly, my mother was big on church and spirituality. I have taken this value into my childhood and instilled it in my own children.

Children must be given a foundation inn Christianity; that is where they get their grounding from.

“My mother recently graduated with a diploma in sign language. She is 72-years-old and retired. That inspires me and my children to see that age is never a barrier to achieving your dreams. I don’t know what she plans to do with that diploma now, but she’s mum, she is a miracle worker.”

RITA OKUTHE

Chief Enterprise Business Officer, Safaricom

Rita Okuthe

Rita Okuthe. PHOTO | COURTESY

“My mother was a housewife and a secretary. She was always so resilient and inspiring. My mum never knew how or when to give up. There was no obstacle she wouldn’t climb over and if she couldn’t climb over it, she would drill a wall through it. The one important lesson I learnt from her was that you can’t hide good work. Good work is like a neon bulb in darkness, nobody can hide it, it will be seen. “Don’t get distracted by people, run your race and stick with whatever you are doing and do it well. Make it your truth,” she would always say. Mum was always about excellence. She was never dictatorial. She let me find my own path and not a path she chose for me.

My daughter is now an adult, a grown woman. She’s a very calm, silent and confident lady, which reminds me so much of my mother. I grew up seeking approval when I was much younger, and so my daughter’s self assuredness makes me so proud that whatever I did — intentionally or unintentionally — has borne fruit. I’m very happy and proud of her and this credit of course goes back to my mother.”

NANCY MUTHONI

Executive Producer/ Host, The Property Show

Nancy Muthoni

Nancy Muthoni. PHOTO | COURTESY

“I’m a single mother of two adult daughters. I have raised two strong and intelligent adult daughters. All my lessons of entrepreneurship I learnt from professional life and reading books from great business leaders but all my lessons of raising children I learnt from my mother. The biggest lesson for me from my mother is putting your children in the hands of the Lord. She would say, “when you bring up children in the ways of the Lord they shall not depart.” My mother was and still is very religious.

“I grew up in Kiambaa, Muchatha, a village girl. My mum was a nurse. She was hard working, we worked in the farm. I was raised by the village by aunts and uncles by neighbours and by the church.

“As a single mother I also allowed other people to be part of my children’s lives, to influence and shape them. So there were always uncles, aunts, friends, brothers, sisters and the church involved. I intentionally built a structure of a community to be part of their lives like my mother did with me.

“My mother allowed me to make decisions on my own, even bad ones, and learn from them. I have always let my girls make their own decisions, I have trusted them to do this because I already put them in the good hands of the Lord. I think I turned out pretty OK. But I think my girls have turned out even better.”

WANJA GIKONYO

Director, Mobitalk

Wanja Gikonyo

Wanja Gikonyo. PHOTO | COURTESY

“My mother, who worked for Shelter Afrique as an administrator, always did things with a sense of purpose. She got up and got on with her day. There was a sense of obligation about her that was more to self that to others. So staying at home because she felt a little unwell or “didn’t feel” like doing something was never an option. I continue to emulate that today in my work and obligations. I don’t make excuses, I keep strict schedule and I run a tight ship like her. I see it in my daughter Victoria who even when unwell will insist on going to school. If she gets worse I will go and pick her up. I’m so proud of her and the grit and determination she has.

“Mum was a studios dresser. It doesn’t matter where she was going, she was always very well put together, her behaviour always prim and proper. A ladies lady. She would reproach me if I was sloppy in my appearance or behaviour if she felt it didn’t represent the lady she wanted me to be. Many years later, if I leave the house feeling a little less than presentable I still hear her disapproving voice in my head. I have instilled the same in my daughter. She always asks me to buy her a handbag to match her shoes. I can tell that she loves being a lady, in mannerism and in appearance. She is a lovely child, my mother’s child.”

LOICE WAFULA

Assistant Director, Strategy, CBK

Loice Wafula

Loice Wafula. PHOTO | COURTESY

“We were seven children growing up, me being the last-born. My mum was a single parent, a teacher in Bungoma. She made us wake up at 3.30am everyday to cook mandazis that she would sell in the school to make ends meet. We woke up whether it rained or if you were sick. You never complained because she never allowed excuses or whining. Mum was very resilient, an extremely hard worker. When she retired in 1989 I was only in class 7, but she still worked; cutting trees for charcoal and farming. I learnt from her that challenges make you better. She would always say that they prepare you for something bigger.

I have two sons — 14 and 10. They are lucky children, attending good schools. But I never let them take the easy path. They’re always complaining that I’m too hard on them but I never allow them to fall off the wagon. You work through it, I always tell them, ‘because in this family we don’t give up, not on our missions and not on our relationships. We stick together, we raise each other and we don’t do things because it’s easy, we do things because they have to be done.’ When they complain that how come they never go abroad to celebrate their birthdays like their schoolmates I tell them that they haven’t earned it. Nobody owes you anything. You walk the plank, like my mum did, like I did. And you don’t whine.”

CAROLINE NDUNG’U

Director, Barclays Bank



CAROLINE NDUNG'U. PHOTO | COURTESY

CAROLINE NDUNG'U. PHOTO | COURTESY

“At a very early stage my mother made me understand that I was to be the shining example for the rest of my siblings. She constantly told me that I was the first born with three brothers following me. It did not matter that I was a girl. Gender was never a thing for her and so I grew up being oblivious of gender.

“I grew up as a human being. I was affirmed and when you are affirmed you automatically find yourself affirming your children. I have three children, two girls and one boy aged 24, 12 and 10.

“I think I’m raising them to believe that they are all equal and capable; that there is no head of the table they sit in. They are all seated at the table because they are all worthy of that table.

“The other day my children told me that I always tell them that “money doesn’t grow on trees.” Which is exactly the same thing my mother used to sing to us. I hadn’t even noticed. I guess we all turn into our mothers.”

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