[dropcap]E[/dropcap]very Sunday morning, hordes of people most of them mum due to the chilly weather, make their way to different places of worship.

But for Joseph Onyango, commonly known as ‘Jose’ by residents of Bahati Estate in Nairobi’s Eastland area, is busy cleaning up his ‘Glitters Salon and Barber Shop’, located at Bahati Shopping Centre to commence the days work.

At 26, the father of one has provided for his family, for the last six years. After thirty minutes of light cleaning, customers start streaming in, some from church, others from their homes in a rush to beat the long queues synonymous at his shop, especially during weekends.

One after the other they come and go, all with smiles upon their faces, a sign that they had good services. He freely interacts with the customers and his five employees, anyone new at his place would be forgiven to identify him as the junior staff.

His story is that of a young man who could not join college because he had not performed as per his single father’s expectation. Through his zeal to be independent, he vowed to use that unfortunate outcome as the foundation to shape his future life.

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Judging by his rental two-bedroom-house next to Uchumi Supermarket along Jogoo Road, which costs fifteen thousand shillings every month and a ‘Mitsubishi Lancer saloon car’, it is evident that he is living a comfortable life.

Down the memory lane, he narrates how it all started, donning a smile on his face.

“Immediately after sitting for my fourth form examination in 2004 at Jogoo Road Boys High School, I would pass time at a local barber shop in Bahati area. Frequent attempts by the owner to stop me from staying idle at the shop proved fruitless as he convinced me to be his errand boy, popularly known as ‘kijana wa mkono’, with the area youths,” narrates Jose.

“At times I would be left at the shop so as to retain any customer who came in when the owner was away for lunch or others minor chores,” he adds.

Curiosity killed the cat; he would give the customers, most of them kids, quick haircuts so as not to be caught by the owner who was only identified as ‘Onyi’. The result was frequent complaints of bad hair cuts from furious customers and this created bad blood between him and ‘Onyi’.

“I was banned from going anywhere near the shop which I obliged. I opted to stay at home and interact with my peers at a popular place known as ‘jobless corner’, where mostly unemployed youths frequently used to catch up, while waiting for my high school results,” says Jose.

The long wait was finally over and as soon as the results were announced, he had attained a mean grade of C Plus and his father, a single parent, was furious with him.

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Their mother had passed on in 2001, the father, a city council employee with a very meagre pay, was finding it hard to provide for their family of three, his elder brother who is now working at Industrial Area despite having a degree in Business Administration and his younger sister who is currently in Form Two.

He was advised to go back to high school which he never agreed to and bad blood between him and the father soared. He was sometimes denied meals whenever he went home late.

“After these and different other disheartening experiences, I approached ‘Onyi’ , begged for forgiveness and requested for training to be a barber, he agreed to train me at a cost of three thousand shillings per month. I had a deficit of two thousand shillings, I borrowed from my elder brother who was at that time a student at Kenyatta University, he gave me the cash from his HELB loan and I managed to pay for the month’s training. The training went on well and after two weeks I could offer quality services to the customers but I was never paid,” Joseph narrated.

Immediately he had cleared the month’s training, he was employed at the same barber shop where he was paid a meager ten shillings per person that he shaved. In a day he made at least fifty shillings.

Nevertheless, blood is thicker than water, he would eventually open his own barber shop through a funding of six thousand shillings from his father which he added to the little savings he had.


He started the business with only one shaving machine and when customers grew as a result of his good services and lower prices, he approached his uncle, who was considered well off in their entire family, and asked him for a fifteen thousand shillings loan.

“He was not convinced that I was going to put the money to good use, but after persistent advances and the intervention of now my supportive father, he gave me thirty thousand, double what I asked for,” said Joseph.

He used the money to expand the shop, add three more machines and employed two people to sustain the high number of customers. In mid 2008, he added a salon that specializes in dreadlock plaiting and hair dye application.

Attractive to ladies

The salon took time to get on its feet but he never lost hope, after proper assessment, he dedicated half of his daytime at the salon to help the other two employees and his presence worked miracles.

Just like the barber shop, customers were flocking in and it reached a point where others were to book appointments. What more could he ask from God other than a healthy life and more wisdom with no temptation from the devil?

As usual ladies would seek his attention but at the age of 25, he was living with his childhood friend, now his girlfriend and they had a one year old girl. At this point, the least he was making each day was five thousand shillings after every deduction.

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It is with no doubt that hard work, self discipline and focus translates to success. The youth should realize and embrace self employment as a means of sustaining their livelihood and forget the idea that working in white collar jobs is the only solution of having income to cater for their needs.

It is a common thing that most youths will claim to be searching or waiting for white collar jobs which they never get and if they do, they are not well paying. Self employment does not mean that you have millions of shillings as starting capital; you can start small and make it big depending on your vision.

The Government has also set up a youth fund kitty where youths can access loans after full registration of any youth group and presentation of a clearly defined proposal.



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