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Lydia Tett Olet: From Eating Out of Trash Cans, To Building A Business Empire In London

In summary

  • Lydia Tett Olet was fired from her UK job at a time when she was pregnant and she had to feed on bread and fruits discarded in trash cans.
  • She fits the definition of a pauper-to-a-princess; and for this matter, a princess who wears many crowns. She is a media personality, insurance advisor, actress, choreographer, and event organizer.
  • Lydia has a unique personality; she likes clubbing yet she is a teetotaller and she taught herself how to drive.

If Jackson Biko was to interview the vibrant Lydia Tett, the first question he would ask her was whether it is true that she has a penchant for flying first class.

And she would be like: “I always use first class and I am not scared to say it and I take pictures and say; guys here I am!”

For starters, Lydia Tett is a Kenyan entrepreneur based in the United Kingdom who has invested in diverse ventures. She is the proverbial pauper-to-princess who once ate from trash cans after she became unemployed while in the UK.

The mother of 3 who wears many hats. She is a choreographer, event organizer, media personality, and insurance advisor.

Here is the story as told by WoK.

Grew up in Nairobi

Lydia was born in Pumwani and raised in Eastleigh and is the third born in a family of seven. According to her, her father was abusive and by the time she was 16, she had to hawk boiled maize to make some money for herself and her mom.

Lydia did not score an ‘A’ in her final secondary school examination; neither did she score a ‘B’.

But she is proud of the fact she was destined for greatness despite scoring the least desired grades.

The bubbly entrepreneur had an undying love for art.

With this, she advises parents not pile pressure on their children to pursue STEM courses as it is possible to make it in life through other channels as well.

Lydia’s cultic enthusiasm for arts, informed her purpose into adulthood as she started engaging herself with dancing.

Due to her refined dancing skills, she was recruited as a dancer for Them Mushrooms, a band that is renowned for the song ‘Hakuna Matata.’ To become a professional traditional dancer, Lydia received training at the African Heritage Limited which was founded by the late Alan Donovan.

Through Them Mushrooms, she got a chance to sojourn the world and would perform in various countries.

Of all the countries that she performed, she found the UK to be outstanding as she received the warmest reception. Then she made a promise to herself that at one point she would have to settle in England.

The UK stood out for me and I vowed to go back to this country. I was like: I must come back to this country, I don’t know how, but I must,” she said in a past interview.

Eating from trash cans

Through the financial help of her aunt, she finally flew to the UK in the mid-’90s and her first job was to clean hotel rooms, spread beds and clean up the toilets. She gave her best and even received an award for her dedication.

I used to spread beds, wash toilets, and hotel rooms. Whatever I do, I always have to give it my all and in everything I’ve done, I’ve always received an award,” she said in a recent interview.

But life in the UK was not all roses and chocolates as she was living in a room that she shared with approximately 20 people. When she finally managed to bring in her boyfriend, things careened off the rails after she got fired. She was working at a restaurant and being pregnant at that time, she was not very effective at work.

“When I doing sandwiches, my boyfriend now came over and I got pregnant with my first baby and because I was just feeling sick, I couldn’t do that job so they fired me,” she recalls.

This was one of the most difficult moments of her life as her man didn’t have a job. They moved into a house owned by a lady known to them. She accommodated them for a while but she once left the house, never to return.

Now this was tricky; she was pregnant, unemployed, and broke.

Luckily, their neighbour worked in a bakery and the couple would wait for him to discard undesirable bread in the trash cans which they would pick and feed on.

She then got support and moved into a hostel where she stayed until her delivery day.

Breaking up with the husband

There is a time when Lydia went to a club and she joined the dancers on stage. She was so good with the moves that one person from the audience approached her afterward and gave her a referral to a dancing group. She was able to swiftly move in and also learned other skills like drumming.

But despite getting a new lease of life, Lydia’s husband had developed an insatiable appetite for other women. According to her, she confronted him over the fact that he had broken the seventh commandment with at least 23 women.

His response was the least she expected.

I told him: you’ve slept with 23 women that I know. I thought he would apologize but guess what his answer was?”

-“Those are the ones you know, what about the ones you don’t?” she told Lynn Ngugi.

The last straw that broke the camel’s back was when she found evidence that he had cheated on her with the wife of her friend.

Entrepreneurship

Lydia Tett is the founder of Kenyans and friends in the park [Photo: https://www.facebook.com/Lydiatettolet/photos]
Despite navigating a treacherous path, Lydia has patiently built her empire. She became the first ever Kenyan to be featured in a theatre play in Britain and Nigeria. In 2015, she became the founder of Kenyans and Friends in the Park, an annual event that brings in Kenyans and various institutions in the UK for a day of fun.

That’s not all; Lydia has invested in the media industry in the UK and owns Omega Live Radio which broadcasts from London and targets mainly Africans in the UK. Additionally, she is an insurance advisor, actress, choreographer, and event organizer.