When Jackline Watahi left her marriage, she had nothing to her name. She did not even have work experience yet she needed to provide for her two children. This is how she got started on making chapatis in her kitchen, a business that turned out to be her lifeline.
Here is her story as told by WoK.
The entrepreneur idea was to start a chapati kiosk but this could not work because of her limited finances. She only had Sh430 which she used to buy the ingredients needed to prepare chapati. Jackline made 34 chapatis in her home kitchen.
Jackline Watahi took a picture of the finished product and posted it on Twitter. Afterwards, she went to hawk the chapatis at Kayole corner market, close to where she lived. She sold each chapati at Sh15.
“I sold them to about four people and my container was empty. From the reception of those who bought and tasted the chapatis in my presence, I realized that people loved them. And there I had my answer. I was going to make this my livelihood,”she told Nation in a 24th April 2021 interview.
This reception made her realize it was a good business idea but it was nothing compared to the response she got from Twitter. On arrival home, she bought bundles and was shocked to have received so many likes and inquiries from the social media platform.
She even got inboxes from people in Kinoo, Westlands and Kasarani asking whether she could deliver to them. She made more, did the deliveries, took pictures and posted them on Twitter.
The businesswoman continued to get an overwhelming response from her Twitter followers and her major updates consisted of chapatis. Most of her clients were from social media and she changed her name to Chapati Mistress.
“Twitter has been very pivotal as far as the customer base is concerned. These are all fans of my chapatis. There’s nothing else I post on my timeline. I’m not popular. It’s God knowing that I came into it holding nothing and I had no other option.
The thing that nagged my mind most about separating with my husband was how I’d bring my kids up with no job,” she told DN.
According to the businesswoman, her profits are not less than Sh30,000 in profit monthly.
The Growth of her Business
Apart from plain chapatis, Jackline Watahi also makes others with carrots, butter nut, dhania and brown chapatis. When clients request samosa or mandazi, she also makes them.
Her other customer base come from returning Kenyan expatriates who want frozen chapatis to take with them to their home countries.
The business grew beyond her imagination and her loyal clients always wanted chapatis from her. During the Covid-19 lockdown, when she was stuck in the village. Her customers wanted her chapatis to the extent that she had to prepare at her Murang’a home and have them delivered to Nairobi.
At times, she would make 200 or more chapatis. While this has its own challenges like any other business, what keeps her going is thinking how far the business has brought her.
She also does everything with pride since she values her customers. The chapati mistress can customize the chapatis depending on what the customer wants. She can make them with meat, onions or whatever the order dictates.
Leaving her Marriage
The business has enabled her and her children to live comfortably at a time when she did not have anything to do. She was married at a very young age and became a housewife.
Her marriage was filled with mental and physical abuse and in 2019 she had had enough. She took her children, put all her things in a mkokoteni and left her marital home unsure of what the future held.
By this time, she had faced a lot of rejection and had no college education since she came from a humble background. Apart from working as a house help earlier in her life, she had no work experience.
During her marriage, her husband did not allow her to work meaning they had to depend on him for everything.
He had also told her that without him, she would not be able to survive. For years, she believed this and when she moved out, she had never done anything, and did not know how she would provide for her children.
Out of the need to do something, she started making chapatis and the overwhelming response made her realize that she had something worthwhile to give.