Amanda Wanjiru, 20, grew up with an abusive mother. Last year, she left her home in Karatina, Nyeri County, in search of a better life in Nairobi.
At 19, I was all alone in this big city with no job, no money and no one to turn to. Barely three months after I sat my KCSE, I left Karatina for Nairobi. My grandmother brought me up, but she was a small-scale farmer who really struggled to put me through Ngirirambu Girls’ Secondary School.
Whenever my mother would visit, she would insult and beat me. When she threw a hot iron box at me, I knew I had to flee. Armed with Sh250, I travelled to Nairobi and moved in with a friend. I started looking for jobs — any job. Months later, I was still searching. All I had was the grade C I got in KCSE.
My friend was getting tired of hosting me and kept asking when I would get my own place. Eventually, I reached out to another friend and told her about my struggle to find something to do that would earn me enough money to move into my own house and feed myself.
She told me to consider self-employment. She suggested I try beadwork. I had experimented with making jewellery in high school, and my classmates seemed to like what I made.
The next hurdle was money. I had identified a market and a place to source beads from. My friend had some cash saved up, which she promised to loan me if I was serious about starting my own business. I was; I had no Plan B. She gave me Sh11,000, which I used to buy beads from Eastleigh Market.
But business did not pick up as expected. I had to bet a couple of times to try and boost my income on bad days. Things began to change when I started advertising my work on social media. Within two months, I had saved up enough to move into my own place.
It has been a year since I began my business. I am now at Kenyatta University studying French, and I am proud that I pay my own school fees. On good days, my jewellery brings in Sh8,000. On bad ones, I make as little as Sh1,000, on really bad days, I make nothing.
To put myself through school, I have to be careful with my earnings. I work from home, and only move around to make deliveries or buy supplies. My relationship with my mother is still rocky, but if nothing else, it pushed me into starting a business.