Women entrepreneurs are scaling business heights. Kenyan women-led businesses are breaking the entrepreneurial glass ceiling and establishing themselves against many odds. www.businesstoday.co.ke
Women entrepreneurs are scaling business heights. Kenyan women-led businesses are breaking the entrepreneurial glass ceiling and establishing themselves against many odds. [Photo/Min of Trade]

Kenyan women entrepreneurs are among those making waves on the African continent and beyond as their businesses bring significant changes to the hitherto male-dominated investment field.

Despite the sheer number of women engaged in small businesses, only a small fraction make it into the limelight.

The Kenyan economy would grind to a halt if the women running small businesses ranging from farming to market trading would cease doing it.

Tea comes first

Among the most prominent women with companies on the international stage is Flora Mutahi, the founder Melvin Marsh International.

Popularly known as Melvins Teas, the company produces flavoured teas after introducing the concept in Kenya.

The Kenyan-based family business first begun with the production of Melvins Flow Salt in 1995 before venturing into the production of flavoured teas.

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It has now expanded to producing fruit infusions and herbal teas and targets becoming a world-class company.

The story goes that Mutahi dedicated her life to the world of tea in the 1990s when she realised the country’s tea market was flat.

“She also wanted to change the narrative of people going on coffee dates by popularising tea dates through the provision of tea in a variety of forms, since tea is a beverage found in many African homes,” states the company.

Since its inception in 1995, the company has launched several flavoured teas including Melvins Tangawizi (ginger) tea, Masala tea, Cinnamon tea, Vanilla teas, Melvins Berry Blast, Melvins Hibiscus, Melvins Chamomile, Melvins Green Tea and Mint, Melvins Green Tea and Lemon Grass and Chai Afya.

The techies

As e-commerce thrives, Catherine Mahugu saw the opportunity and founded Soko which leverages on technology to sell handcrafted jewellery directly to consumers.

Mahugu’s e-commerce fashion platform allows artisans to sell their wares globally. It also offers delivery services to more than 450 retailers worldwide.

The software engineer also has in her business acumen Wazidata, which boasts of having Safaricom and UNHCR as some of the clients.

Wazidata uses design thinking to advance human experiences by creating innovative offerings.

Mahugu has been A Leader of Tomorrow at the St.Gallen’s 44th Symposium in Switzerland 2014, featured in the Forbes 30 Under 30 2016 and the BBC 100 Women among others.

For companies that need to understand data and learn from it, then Linet Kwamboka is the go-to person.

The founder and CEO of Data Science Ltd, Kwamboka helps companies gain insights from data which helps with better strategic planning and resource allocation.

Kwamboka has been recognized as a top 3 global open data champion by the ODI Bloomberg Awards.

And did you know that a woman was the Founding Manager and Director of iHub Research?

Jessica ColaÇo is also the co-founder at Brave Ventures which links people with the right job opportunities. The company also helps companies build better teams.

She is a TED Global Fellow and was part of the co-founding team at iHub where she served as Director of Partnerships and Community, the in 2013.

ColaÇo is also the co-founder of WMIAfrica, AkiraChix and ISOC-Kenya chapter.

If you have been wondering what Ma3route does, then she is the best person to talk to.

Social welfare

Investing in the community’s education needs is also one of the ways women are changing the world of business as we know it.

One such investor is Food For Education founder, Wawira Njiru.

Njiru’s not-for-profit organisation provides lunch for vulnerable children in public schools. This is meant to help improve their school performance.

Food For Education also offers tuition and mentorship to pupils with the aim of getting them into good high schools in Kenya.

In addition to the many accolades Njiru has, she became the first-ever recipient of Global Citizen Prize for Youth Leadership in 2018.

The award is supported by Cisco and Global Citizen.

Fit for business

Many small businesses in Kenya are disadvantaged when it comes to accessing credit.

But Hilda Moraa is not afraid of lending to these businesses. Through Pezesha, Moraa connects lenders with low-income borrowers with prospects that are hindered by lack of financing.

Moraa also co-founded supply chain, distribution and financial mobile solution startup, Weza Tele.

She was featured as Forbes 30 Most Promising Young African Entrepreneurs in 2016.

MAMA Ventures was founded by Kitawa Wemo to help businesses actualise ideas to become sustainably profitable.

Wemo also works with aspiring and upcoming entrepreneurs in Kenya monthly through her platform, Mingle.

And when it comes to waste, it is money for Chebet Lesan.

The founder and CEO of Bright Green Renewable Energy, the company designs and produces heating briquettes using recycled organic waste.

In 2017, Queen Elizabeth II recognises Lesan for her work awarding her the Queen’s Young Leaders Award.

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