In Kenya, the dire circumstance of unemployment is what many graduates are forced to grapple with after completion of undergraduate studies. It is a situation that has forced many youths to take various downtrodden paths in order to make a living.
And joblessness has even brought up the debate as to whether degrees are useless considering the sheer hard work that students put into their studies in order to graduate.
When 28 year old Mercy Mugao graduated with the degree in Agricultural Economics, life seemed to take he through the wringer as she grappled with joblessness. However, she decided to venture into basket weaving, a skill she had learnt from her mother.
In this article, WoK takes a look at how Mugao is weaving herself into fortunes.
Numerous application letters
After a short stint of internship at the Public Service Commission, Mugao was in pursuit of an ever elusive job. She sent dozens of job application to various companies but her move to secure a job hit a dead end.
“I kept on sending application letters to different companies but this didn’t help as most of them never replied. Frustrated, I decided to start my own business,” Mugao told a past publication.
Beginning With Zero Capital
Mugao moved to her home village of Karikoni in Kitui County where she decided to explore the idea of weaving baskets. She had acquired the skills from her mother and utilized her dad’s palm trees to make the first three baskets. This earned her Ksh 1800 but most importantly it kickstarted what would be a business that she currently depends on.
Employing women in the village
The bubbly entrepreneur soon had more demand for her baskets than she had expected. This necessitated her to employ women in the village who helped in making more baskets. However, she faced criticisms from some quarters who thought her business was not worth of a graduate. This did not slow her down but instead motivated her to further expand her business.
“At first I was criticised and some asked me if this is all that a graduate could do. The negativity pushed me to put more efforts in my business. I knew that if we came together, more women would directly and indirectly benefit from the venture,” she tells Nation.
Mugao has tapped into the immense opportunity offered by social media to advertise her merchandise. She runs a page by the name Ndara Basket Weavers which publicizes her craft. Due to this, she has been able to sell her products countrywide.
However, she decries that her business is based in a remote and inaccessible village which makes it difficult for some of her clients to visit her. Nevertheless, this challenge has only made her buckle down as she delivers her goods to as far as Nairobi. Some of the goods that she makes include gift baskets, table mats, table organisers among others.
Mugao says she is capable of making up to 1000 baskets monthly but this depends on among other factors the pattern requested. The businesswoman acquires some of her raw materials from a nearby river in order to meet the demand. Looking back, Mugao considers her unemployment situation as a blessing in disguise.
“I realised we don’t graduate in order to get jobs but to create them. We should open our minds and seize more opportunities,” she says.