By Prudence Minayo
Eunice Waithera is one woman who found her footing in a male dominated shoe cleaning business. Growing up, her dream was to become an engineer. However, when her father passed away while she was 16, Eunice had to re-configure her dreams. At the time, she was a Form Two Student. Life changed as her mother was unable to provide her school fees and thus began her journey in the informal employment sector.
Here is her story as told by WoK.
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After leaving school, the Limuru native ended up becoming a house girl in Nairobi. She worked in this job for five years before finding greener pastures. She got a job in Nakuru as a waitress but it was fulfilling. Waithera quit and this is where her journey as a shoe cleaner began.
Waithera got a shoe cleaning job in Nakuru’s KANU street. Here, she worked for someone and developed a special skill in cleaning safari boots. Her clientele grew and she made a lot of money for her employer. Being in a field dominated by men did not make her uncomfortable as the most important thing was making her ends meet.
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Four months into the job, she decided to venture out on her own. With Sh5000 savings, she bought a seat worth Sh2000 and used the rest to purchase various shoe brushes and shoe polish.
Working for herself gave her the needed stability. Through cleaning and polishing shoes, she was able to meet all her needs, from school fees for her children to bills. In an interview with Nation, the entrepreneur said she made between Sh30,000 to Sh40,000 monthly.
“I have also made savings and implemented major projects as well as support my extended family,” she told Daily Nation Magdalene Wanja.
Just like any other businessperson, her goal is to stay one step ahead of her competitors. She develops the cleaning product for safari boots through mixing several products.
While she does a good job, she also faced stereotypes. Some men would question her ability to properly clean their shoes. Others would also give her their opinion on jobs for women and shoe cleaning wasn’t one of them. They would tell her to search for another job fit for women.
Her advice to women is that they shouldn’t be picky. At times, life requires self sacrifice and doing what most consider to be a dirty job. She even added that while some women seek her out for training, they give up along the way. This is because at times, shoes from clients who work in slaughterhouses and construction sites are very dirty. Such types of shoes require thorough cleaning which some may shy away from.
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