Entrepreneurship as the creation or extraction of economic value from an activity has been the basis and source of living for people in the villages of Kenya for centuries. With this definition, entrepreneurship is viewed as change, generally entailing risk beyond what is normally encountered in starting a business, which may include values other than simply economic ones.
An entrepreneur is an individual who creates and/or invests in one or more businesses, bearing most of the risks and enjoying most of the rewards. Since the onset of the Women Climate Entrepreneurship Training & Mentorship, the Women in Water & Natural Resource Conservation (WWANC) team has trained close to 200 women entrepreneurs in five training locations in Kenya and, as a result, WWANC has helped many women take a leap from one entrepreneurship stage to another.
As an organization, we at WWANC have decided not to judge our days by what we harvest but by the seeds we plant at the end of the day. In our recent training at Kimalewa, in the Mt. Elgon area, we met what we define as an ideal entrepreneur who attended the training to catapult her enterprise to a higher level. There are 231 million women globally who are starting or already running their businesses and Ruth is among this group of gems as a motorcycle driver.
Ruth Nangila Munyole is a woman who knows her worth and is bursting with confidence to realize her potential. “Every day I wake up,” she said, “I ask myself, how far I can go. I answer this question by facing my fears and doing the most I can so as to realize how far I can go.” The goal to give her children a good life is what made her venture into a male-dominated business and take over as the only female motorcycle rider in the area. She is a woman who has decided not to follow and go where the path leads but rather to go where there is no path for women and leave a trail for a generation.
Not every woman can go to this extreme to discover the potential they hold. Yet Ruth has discovered that the future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams. And rather than sleep and continue dreaming, she wakes up every morning by 5 AM to chase that dream.
She did not just start her entrepreneurship dream from a motorcycle enterprise. Her story is one of struggle and commitment to earn the daily bread for her and the children she raises herself. She also supports her mother, which makes her load even heavier. One thing that has never crossed her mind, though, is giving up.
A study by the Global Entrepreneur Monitor shows that 38% of females used their own cash to start their businesses. Many women in Kenya wait for their spouses to give them money or to receive their inheritance from their family to start a business enterprise. However, being a girl from a poor family, Ruth had no inheritance nor a wealthy husband to help her start a business. With Kimalewa being in a cool and wet area, she started a business raring cattle for milk. She bought a calf and fed it until it was able to produce 12 cups of milk a day for use at home and for income generation. As her children grew up, the demands increased and so she sold the cow and the calf it had borne for 400 USD. This is where her business, A-WOMAN BODABODA, began.
Ruth went to the motorcycle loan creditors and was credited with a motorcycle at 200 USD. She then used the rest of the money for domestic uses and maintenance of the boda-boda (motocrcyle). She employed a rider who had agreed to provide 3 USD daily, but unfortunately, the rider ended up misusing her motorcycle and was inconsistent with payment. The situation worsened when she employed another rider, and carelessness prompted her to take away her bike from him. She sold the motorcycle at a throw-away price because of the bad condition that the riders had left it in. Failure to her was not the opposite of success, but just part of it. She added a few more dollars and got a new motorcycle to continue living her dream.
With experience being the best teacher, Ruth decided to ride the motorcycle herself to avoid people using her money for their own personal benefits. Here she could ride her motorcycle carefully and get her maximum profits at the same time. This is the essence of entrepreneurship: it was a challenge learning how to ride the motorcycle, but through her determination, she was able to learn within a few weeks and she hit the road running.
Ruth, however, recons that it has not been a walk in the park in this journey. She has faced a lot of challenges in this industry, especially because it is a male-dominated field. Her motorcycle has been chained several times and removed from her place of operations because the men do not want competition from a woman. She also faces a challenge where people are not ready to be carried by a woman on a motorbike because it is not the norm around that area. It is demoralizing for her as people bypass her and go to the men just beside her at the waiting area. This rejection and ridicule only inspired her more to pursue her dream. The increased prices of fuel in 2022 have made it hard to generate profits from her business on a regular basis. However, her children, one form 3 student and two who are supposed to join high school, cause her to persevere, as she will do anything to provide for them as a single mother.
Madam Ruth says that coming to the entrepreneurship training hosted by WEA and WWANC was a big milestone for her as she has been able to learn about record keeping and market analysis. She has operated on a loss mainly because she has no records of how she spends money and what she spends the money on. Market analysis has also helped her to understand which types of customers are the best and on which days are businesses thriving. This will help give her an edge over her male competitors in the field. Business language is also something that she vowed to improve on, as how you address the customers is a first impression of the whole business enterprise. She learned that if you want to convince someone, you must covertly implant the idea in their mind and make them think it was theirs. Then, using an emotional rationale, you gently sway them. Logic is akin to mental brute force–not elegant, but technically viable. This was the basic teaching on business language for an entrepreneur.
Our goal is to nurture grassroot women entrepreneurs to fight poverty and address climate change impacts through entrepreneurship trainings in Kenya. Ruth, among many others, is a beneficiary of the training who received knowledge, training, and social support from WEA, WWANC, and her community. Ruth’s determination, paired with the resources and support of WEA and WWANC, enable transformations in individuals and communities as women are empowered to be climate-smart entrepreneurs and build resilient, prosperous lives