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Business is Booming in Nairobi

I wrote a few weeks ago about adapting to the challenges of starting small businesses in the slums of Nairobi. Slums are crowded spaces with temporary structures that people live in permanently. And they are also places brimming with shops, stalls, and roadside hawkers.

This week Wambui Nguyo, our local coordinator in Nairobi, sent an update after visiting the SIA businesses there. Their stories, though Wambui’s report, help to fill in the picture of both the challenges and the amazing ways that SIA grants are helping people improve their lives.

Businesses started in May 2014:

Felister Marina and Rhoda Njoki listen to their fellow Small Business Fund leaders at our meeting in Korogocho this summer.

Kale for Sale: Felister Wairimu of JIINUE GROUP is always smiling and in high spirits. Theirs is a family group with her two daughters who also have children. She is still going strong with her green groceries business by the roadside. In addition to what she sold before, she was able to add potatoes and ‘sukuma wiki’ (aka kale), which are very popular because almost every household eats this daily.

Besides the challenge of the rising prices on foodstuffs, she has a reason to smile more. Her children can go to school; she can buy shoes and feed them too. Her mother is unwell and she goes to clinics on weekly basis. Her business has helped her assist her to see the doctor.

Jamarose Onyango is the treasurer for the SIA merry-go-round savings group. She told us this summer that she used to just stay at home all day and now she is happy to have a business to tend to.

Women Entrepreneurs: UPENDO GROUP is still going strong as friends and business partners. Jamarose and her daughter Melvin, a single mother, sell used clothing. Jamarose was able to assist her daughter in her pre/post natal clinics. She also needs some medical attention on a condition she has and is able to afford this. When the business is down, Rhoda Njoki helps them make sales by hawking. Rhoda has a son who got a secondary school scholarship and now she can afford to give him pocket money and bus fare.

New businesses, started in August:

Much-needed jobs: JOY GROUP is led by Abraham with his wife, Rose Waswa, and sister-in-law, Josephine Amkoya (Rose’s sister). This is a new business of selling new T-shits and Lessos (sheet/sash). They will take them round the Korogocho slum area during the day and in the evenings stand in one central place like the bus stop to make their sales. Abraham lost his job and used all his savings on his ailing mother.  All were unemployed before starting this business. 

Large Family Sticks Together: PSG GROUP is made up of orphaned siblings who are Muslims from the Somali community. After Wako Bule, age 17, completed his 8th grade education at Josephine’s informal school in Korogocho, she helped him set up a Playstation business. With this grant, he and two siblings will open a new Playstation (video game) cafe near the predominantly Somali community.

There are fourteen children in the family and they live in one single room. Wako is the sole breadwinner. Seven siblings in Josephine’s school and the two older ones cannot get identity cards because of who they are (Somalis). They are often abused by the rest of the community and told to go back to where they came from. Sadly, they were all born in Gitathuru in Korogocho.


While there is much need, there is also much hope. It was Wambui who reminded me of the quote, “We can do no great things, only small things with great love.” And so Spirit in Action Small Business Fund grants are those small things, which ripple out to become great things, and it all comes from a place of great love.

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