Eric Ndereba once sold cattle to pay his university fees.
But even after completing his undergraduate studies, he failed to get a job.
So he turned to carpentry. And today, he is one of the most successful carpenters in Meru County.
Mr Ndereba, 27, uses social media, especially Facebook, to market his furniture, which he makes under his Brooks Furniture label.
His road to success has not been easy. After graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree in Information Technology at South Eastern Kenya University in 2016, he had few options since there was no white-collar job for him.
And yet he had to assist his family, who had great hopes in him.
Even while at university, Ndereba was always ingenious, finding ways to support himself. Besides selling cows, he had used his savings to start a cyber café at Githongo in Imenti Central constituency.
But the business collapsed after failing to attract enough customers.
“The idea was to generate money for my university fees and my other needs. But it did not work. Not many customers were coming to me. I could not even get the Sh4,000 I needed for rent.”
He had to depend on the livestock business. But eventually it also did not prove very successful.
He needed Sh50,000 to start the business.
“My relatives were struggling to pay my fees. That is when I started buying and selling cattle. But at some point, one died from disease. The remaining three were attacked and killed by hyenas that roamed a nearby forest. So that venture also died,” Ndereba said.
All this time he was sending out job applications, but he did not get any positive results.
That is when the idea to start a carpentry shop struck him.
“I got frustrated that I could not secure an IT job in the Government. It was not a good feeling since my family had invested in my education, yet the returns were not forthcoming,” said Ndereba.
“So I opted for carpentry because I had the skills to cut, shape and join pieces of wood, although I had no formal training.”
Ndereba was determined to be successful at the craft. With Sh7,000, he began by buying wood and clothe and started making his first sofa.
He realised that he needed quality materials if he was to be ahead of the competition.
The sofa came out well and his grandmother bought it for Sh10,000.
Ndereba said from that time, he was determined to make stylish furniture. And that is the reason he has created a pool of customers and other admirers in Meru.
“I set out to develop sofa sets and other products in stylish designs that people are not used to in this area. I did a lot of research and consulted widely. Several people advised me and I am very grateful to them. The venture has paid off,” Ndereba said.
“I get a lot of phone calls and messages in my inbox from potential clients who are happy with my stuff.”
He explained that he settled for carpentry because he realised that people would always buy furniture or replace it.
The price of Ndereba’s sofa sets range between Sh40,000 and Sh60,000.
“I love my job and want to open another branch in Meru town,” he said.
He adds that posting his products on Facebook, OLX and other business platforms has attracted many customers.
“People see the products and share the information on other social media sites. I get calls from people who want to come and check them out. With my earnings, I have been able to buy a vehicle to transport the furniture to neighbouring counties,” Ndereba said
His advice: “Self-employment is the way to go.”