Jikakamue is a Swahili word urging one not to give up, and to keep going. My name is Emmanuel Kiptum, a shoe shiner in Eldoret town. Despite facing the daily challenges of running my business, (such as extreme weather conditions and having to ‘hide’ from the county council because I am still working towards getting my license), I still wake up at the crack of dawn, and as my beautiful daughter and handsome little boy head to school, I board a matatu into town and set up my tools in my shoe-shining space.
Apart from shining shoes, I can also fix in-soles. I developed this skill when I was in primary school, at the age of nine. I still remember the proud look on my mother’s face when I fixed all her flip-flops! At school, when my schoolmates’ shoes were worn-out due to endless walking, I was always there to mend them. I did however, not think that I could actually make a job out of my skill, so I brushed it off after school and started attending to my family farm instead.
A few years later, I moved from one job to another trying to sustain my small family. I worked at a general store, but decided to quit because my needs were not being met. I then saw a gap in the market for a shoe shining business. This, coupled with my skills, and the ease in starting the business (low capital investment) gave me the confidence to set up my own space in town.
After a year into the business, I received a call from a representative from an organisation called Balloon Ventures. The person on the phone told me about this great opportunity to be trained with a set of business tools and the possibility of being supported financially too. The training bit really attracted me to sign up because back home,I am always training my daughters and my neighbours on business skills, therefore I have an idea about how powerful training others can be.
I successfully joined the programme and despite being very nervous about meeting my volunteers, their humility became evident over the weeks as we worked together. I have become very confident and I am improving in my English language! They have also taught me how to talk to my customers through maintaining a happy spirit when I am interacting with them. I have noticed that by doing so, I am now attracting an even larger pool of customers. I was very poor at managing my life especially in time keeping and financial management. They assisted me in knowing when to open and close my business.
“Cash-in, Cash-Out” has become a theme song, which has helped me keep track of my money. Before the Balloon training, I used to use my money ‘carelessly’ mixing it up and not knowing how to account for my profits. I now take my finances very seriously, and work in a very professional way. I know I have a small business, but it does not take a suit and a tie to behave professionally. The training is eye opening and I feel very privileged to have been one of the Balloon entrepreneurs. I actually felt very blessed during the networking event on 16th November 2015 when I met the other entrepreneurs. Everyone had a unique story to share and I was happy to tell them about my experience as well. I never thought that one day I would find myself at such an event.
Shoe-shining can sometimes be seen as a very ‘dirty’ business, but one thing life taught me is to never choose a job. I even tell this to the youth in my hometown. There is an opportunity in every job, no matter how small it may be. I have also learnt that you can be a motivation to others through your actions. You never know who is watching you, but one thing I know is that my hard work is infectious, so I will try and influence as many people as I can by doing
my best every day.
In the words of my late father, “Change a coin to be a coin”. Invest in opportunities that will grow, do not over-spend and use more money than you can get back. Work and live within your means.
My short-term plan is to increase my profits by 10% to 20%. Since I can now closely follow up on my finances, I know I can make this happen. I also want to get a license for my business. In addition, I shall get an umbrella to protect my customers and me from the harsh sun, and then brand the seats to make them more attractive.
In future, I want to expand my shoe-shining business and start selling soles and shoe laces. I know being in the Balloon programme has increased my chances of improving the situation in my local community because I shall pass on the knowledge that I have gained to the entrepreneurs that I meet. I am looking forward to pitching next week, but deep down I know that what I have learnt is priceless!
Thank you Balloon Ventures! I will forever be grateful for this initiative.
Emmanuel Kiptum works with ICS volunteers from Bidii Group – Eldoret Team 2015. (Bidii translates to ‘Hard work’ or ‘Hard Working’)