How to Secure your Future

Kathy grew up in a rural area. Her family was not wealthy by any standards but they never lacked. Her father was a head teacher in a local school and was a disciplinarian even at home. She and her siblings grew up afraid of him. Her mother was a small scale farmer and very hard working. Kathy – the last born of six siblings – had the added disadvantage of being bullied by her elder siblings, from a young age. She grew up shy and with self esteem issues.

School life was alright and Kathy was above average in performance. She completed high school successfully and joined a college in the city of Nairobi for a diploma in hair dressing and beauty. Barely 6 months in college and she was already in a serious relationship. Her lover Eddy was around 10 years older than her, had a stable job with an international organization and was living in an upmarket suburb in the city. Probably she was naive or her self-esteem issues worked against her because she got pregnant months into the relationship. By that time she had not even met any member of Eddy’s family. The two had not discussed anything about marriage. She was terrified of her father and could not imagine going home to explain that she was pregnant.

Early Marriage

Eddy welcomed her to move in with him which she gladly did. She continued attending college but avoided going home because of fear of her father. Her parents realized what had happened when she was in the last trimester of pregnancy. They did not complain that she was already married. Probably being a single mother would have rubbed her parents the wrong way but now that she had already settled down with the father to her unborn baby, her parents had no quarrels with her.

Kathy settled down to life as a married woman without much formality. She and Eddy never discussed anything about their future neither did they set goals. He paid bills and all was well. She stopped attending college the month before her due date. She was due to sit her final exams in 6 months’ time but she had to defer her studies because of the pregnancy. A few weeks later they were blessed with a bouncing baby girl, who brought a lot of joy to their home.

Stay at Home Mom

Mother and baby were in good health and Kathy felt strong enough to resume her studies when the little one was 3 months old. Eddy however would hear none of it. He said that the baby was still young and could not be left under the care of a nanny at that stage. She held her peace and continued to take care of herself and the little one. She brought up the issue again when their daughter was 7 months old but Eddy totally refused to allow her to go back to college. She was completely dependent on him so she needed him to pay the college fees. He refused. She settled down to life as a stay at home mom against her will.

Eddy continued paying the bills and the family did not lack. Two years later the couple was blessed with a son. He brought a lot of joy to the couple. Kathy had resigned herself to life as a stay at home mom and no longer brought up the issue of resuming her studies.

Domestic Violence

Things started changing after the birth of the second baby. Eddy would regularly come home late, sometimes past midnight. She initially would stay up waiting for him but as it became the normal way of life, she decided to let him be. He became harsh with her especially whenever she asked about money. But the worst was yet to come. She was shaken to the core when he hit her for the first time after an argument over money. He apologized and told her that he was tired and had been going through a lot and that was why he lost his temper. But the beatings happened again and again. She had never completed her studies so she lacked the credentials to enable her get a job. She was dependent on him. By that time she was a mother of 3 and jobless.

Life without a source of income was difficult now that her husband was physically abusive. She could not go back to her parents with 3 children. How would she take her children through school if she left her husband? Could she expect her parents to educate her children?

A New Lease of Life

Help came in the most unexpected way. She was tossing and turning in bed one night and could not sleep. Her husband sometimes slept out and this was one of those nights. She got out of bed and went to the living room. She sat down at the computer. She had never done much with the computer besides going to Facebook and following discussions in different groups, most which were little more than just gossip. For some reason, this time she noticed an update from a group that she had not noticed before. She had no idea how she ended up as a member of the group but she was thankful that she did.

Finance Matters

The Facebook group focused on matters to do with finances. There were different posts by people who were struggling with diverse financial challenges. There were many good ideas discussed in the group that she had to get a notebook and a pen and take notes. She hardly slept that night as she researched different ideas that she learned from the discussions. That night was the turning point in her life.

Kathy discovered that even though she was unable to complete her course in hair dressing and beauty, she could perfect the skills by learning from online resources. She would spend all her free time online practicing different hair styles. She practiced braiding, weaving and styling. She started by practicing everything on herself. She took photos of everything she tried out even if it did not turn out as well as she anticipated. She saved every coin that she could spare in order to buy products for her practice.

Hair Salons

She visited the hair salons in her neighborhood and introduced herself. She would show them the photos of what she was capable of and leave her contacts. Short term jobs started trickling in. Sometimes it would be for just a day to stand in for an employee who was absent due to an emergency. Other times it was as an extra hand when too many clients turned up at the same time. Her skills improved tremendously when she got the opportunity to practice on clients.

It is now almost one year since Kathy stumbled on the Facebook group. She has learned how to market her services online and gets clients regularly. She makes sure to take photos of all her creations, to use in her marketing efforts. The situation in her marriage has not improved but she is no longer desperate. Her income is growing consistently and if the worst comes to the worst and she finds herself out in the cold, she has somewhere to begin.

Her plan is to gradually buy the equipment to enable her run a fully fledged mobile hairdressing service. That way she will not need to rely on employers but will be able to be fully self-employed. It is going to take time to get there because the equipment is not very cheap, but she has a very clear plan and is determined to get there.

Secure Your Future in 4 Simple Steps

The economy is not doing too well but you do not have to go down with it. Become the master of your own destiny. Do you love experimenting with different dishes? Do you enjoy drawing in your free time? Baking? Writing? Styling hair? Applying make-up? This might be a hobby or something you trained in but are now out of job. Anything that can fill a gap in society can be transformed into an income generating venture.

1. Do your research

Don’t rely on the knowledge you have. Research widely. Invest in good books. Consult online resources. Invest in a refresher course if you can. Look for someone who has succeeded in what you are endeavoring to do and learn from that person. Getting a mentor will shorten your learning curve. If you can volunteer so that you acquire the necessary experience, that will make your progress even faster. You will not only get an opportunity to learn but will grow your networks by meeting potential clients and business partners, increasing your chances of success.

2. Plan methodically

For most people, a hobby is something they do for enjoyment purposes. They don’t give much thought to it. They want to experiment with a recipe; they just get some ingredients together and try it out. If you purpose to turn a hobby into a business, ask yourself critical questions such as whether you will still enjoy doing it when pressure to meet deadlines and to satisfy clients comes into the picture. Try out with a few clients, on voluntary basis if you can. Spread the word among people in your circles and try out your services with them. You can give them free service in return for their honest feedback. Remember that experimenting with something is different from fulfilling clients’ orders. Don’t plunge into the deep end without testing the waters first.

3. Wear your brand, be your brand

Publicity is critical for the survival of any brand so put your brand in front of people at all times. Wear a t-shirt or some other outfit promoting your brand. Carry a branded diary. Get your favorite mug branded. Ensure that your brand stands out in all your social media profiles. Wear the colors of your brand. Brand yourself on social media. Volunteer in the community when there are events such as clean ups, walks, marathons or other events that can give your brand free publicity. Ensure to always be well branded during such events. Don’t give people the opportunity to forget your brand as that will give the competition space to overtake you.

4. Identify partners and build a support network

Business is about people. Successful people build networks. A lone ranger is a broke stranger so keep your eyes open for opportunities to connect with people who can help push your brand. Are there businesses that can stock your product, can refer you to potential customers? Are there opportunities to support each other with other upcoming business people? Bartering is a viable way for upcoming businesses to grow so explore possibilities of collaborating with other upcoming businesses.

Last but not least, be persistent. Put in the hard work and avoid short cuts. Building a profitable business is tough and comes with challenges so do ensure to have fun doing it or you will not keep it going long enough. Reward yourself for every achievement no matter how minor it is.

This article is written by Susan Catherine Keter, life coach, mentor, motivational speaker, freelancer and blogger.

Financial Independence Africa

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