•Financial constraints barred her from pursuing further education.
•She and her husband ventured into the metal business after he lost his job.
After her husband unsuccessfully applied for the KCB Foundation 2Jiajiri programme three consecutive times, Phillis Anyango, a trained nurse tried out her luck in 2017. She has since never looked back.
Clad in a fading blue dust coat, a pair of jeans trousers, Anyango can easily pass for an ordinary crafts woman in the noisy Kamukunji Jua Kali garage in the down East of Kenya’s capital, Nairobi.
Behind her easy demeanor, lies a dense of entrepreneurial and technical prowess in a male-dominated metal craft industry that has seen her variously supply metal boxes, spades, and kitchen wares to local supermarkets, schools and a host of other institutions.
"My husband and I are currently supplying boxes to Naivas Supermarkets. I also oversee operations at Gear Box, a KCB/MasterCard technical skills center near Kamukunji. This does not prevent me from performing my motherly duties, "Anyango says as she takes us through different tools used at the workshop.
Born in Kisumu County where she attended both her elementary and secondary school education, Anyango enrolled for nursing at the Kenya Medical Training Collage KMTC) in the same region.
She graduated with a Certificate in Nursing in 2003. Financial constraints barred her from pursuing further education.
Around that time, she met her husband, Thomas Mboya Ogello and relocated to Nairobi.
Unfortunately, the husband who was working as a metallurgist in a local firm lost his job a year later, and the life crumbled on them.
"At first, we thought of opening a chemist but the little funds we had saved could not allow us. It is at this juncture that my husband ventured into the metal business. We converted our one-bedroom house in East Leigh into a spade workshop,’’ Anyango told the Star.
They could buy spades from Nairobi’s industrial area at a wholesale price and fit them with smoothened wooden handles and resell them in local markets.
"It was tough but fulfilling. After a few months, a family friend referred us to this place (Kamukunji) where we rented a workshop. By then, I had learned some basic craft skills. With additional space, we diversified into metal box making,’’ the mother of three said, bright smile wiping day’s dust on her face.
In 2015, his husband heard of KCB programme, applied but never received any feedback. He repeated twice the following year but all was in vain.
By then, the business was expanding. They had earned several supply deals, thanks to their aggressive production and marketing.
"I oversee production while my husband deals with the field marketing bit,’’ Anyango says, adding that digital marketing, financial and overall business management skills learned at the National Industrial Training Authority (NITA) courtesy of KCB have come in handy.
After the three months course, KCB bought her toolkits which she says has been key in the business’s day-to-day activities.
She is now a trainer, her latest assignment being an eight-month contract with KCB to train youths in plumbing and business development skills at Art skills in Ngong.
"I love sharing knowledge. Kenya got very innovative and hardworking youths who just need mentorship. The government and private sector should invest in technical institutions if they got any intention to power the country’s economy, "she said.
A staunch christian, Anyango who wakes up at 4am every day to prepare her family and opens the workshop by 6.30am , with a prayer, believes that ‘God blesses the work of hands and not brains’.
After preparing the workshop, she heads to Gearbox where her day starts with a prayer service at 8am.
She religiously returns to her Kamukunji workshop at 5.30PM to take stock of the day’s activities after almost eight hours of supervision and mentorship at the training institution.
She heads home at 8PM to prepare supper for the family. Initially, she was commuting but she now got a vehicle and so is her husband.
"God has been faithful. Through this job, we have taken children to prestigious schools, bought working space in Kamukunji, built a family house in Homabay County among other accolades, "Anyango says, adding that technical skills are unending wealth.
She hopes to open a big workshop in Homabay someday and share skills with local youths.
"I want to block the poverty cycle brought about by rural-urban migration. A workshop in the county will not only keep those young people busy, but it will also put money in their pocket and create more job opportunities for generations to come,’’ Anyango said.
She is also optimistic that the coronavirus wave which has taken a hit on the business will soon calm.