Jennifer Karanja is a Nairobi-based businesswoman who works as a uber driver and also owns a taxi company which operates within Nairobi. She is popularly known as Jenny Kairetu on TikTok.
Jenny who owns Habibi Taxis Limited has been through her fair share of challenges before making it to where she is today. Two years ago, one would not have envisioned that she would be a successful businesswoman.
In 2020, Jenny’s world came crushing down on her, first by losing her 8-year marriage. More mystery piled on her after she was laid off from her job as a call centre agent as companies struggled to mitigate the Covid-19 pandemic. From her concluded marriage and job loss, she was only left with her children and clothes.
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She struggled to provide food for her children and often relied on her friends for shelter, among other provisions.
In a desperate attempt to make money and care for her family, Jenny fell victim to an online scam dubbed Amazon Web Worker. She thought to herself that it might be a scame but wanted to invest and withdraw her earnings before it collapsed.
“I knew it was a pyramid scheme and would eventually collapse, but I had planned to invest and get out before it did. A day before my withdrawal, it collapsed and I lost everything,” she said.
In just under six months, this was the third obstacle she had faced and nearly fell into depression. She started having anxiety attacks and needed a distraction.
Jenny went on Tinder and found a match. During their date night, he left her amazed with his digital marketing skills. He also offered her an opportunity at a job since his company was hiring a digital marketer.
“I showed up for the interview. I had no skills but did my research and somehow qualified. That’s how I got my next job,” she recounted.
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After a shortwhile, Jenny was somewhat financially stable and moved on from her friend’s house for a fresh start.
To supplement her earnings and provide for her two daughters, Jenny explored means of being her own boss and venturing into self-employment. Despite having a fulfilling digital marketing job, she wanted more.
Since she loved cars and road trips, she bought a car (Suzuki Swift) and ventured into the taxi business. She noted that since she enjoyed car rides, the trips won’t seem like work to her.
“I closed my eyes and sold a piece of land I owned, then I used the cash to buy a small car that I used to get into the taxi business,” Jenny narrated.
With the digital job and the taxi business, she was making enough money to provide for her family. After balancing both well, the digital marketing gig fell apart after the company scaled up and hired professionals from a bigger firm.
“That is how I lost the tender so it allowed me to focus fully on the online cab business,” she recalled.
Jenny noted that though she loved her driving job, the new regulations by Bolt and Uber had discouraged many drivers since earnings had dropped.
In a recent TikTok video, she explained that drivers make less than they work for. She noted that online cab companies charge a commission of up to 31 per cent adding to the high fuel prices, drivers barely make enough.
Considering these factors, Jenny decided to make a bigger move before it was too late. That is when she decided to start her own transport business. So she bought another bigger car.
“I didn’t know if I would manage to do it on my own, but my dreams were greater than my fears. That is how I registered Habibi Taxis Limited,” she said.
On the choice of name for her company, Jenny notes that ‘Habibi’ is an Arabic word for beloved and can be used in reference to both men and women.
She notes that she is intent on creating a taxi company that focuses on airport and hotel transfers as well as offer executive services for corporates and individuals. Depending on the new clientele she lands, she is looking to acquire new cars and recruit more drivers.
“I want a transportation company that equally takes care of its drivers and clients where both parties will feel safe with a conducive working environment,” she said.
She looks to utilise her skills, experience and knowledge as a driver to ensure that clients are treated with the utmost respect, care and quality services.