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Breakthrough: After years of struggle, woman opens factory in Mombasa

Roak Swahili Wear's Rosaly Akinyi inspecting some of her stock of shoes at her newly opened Roak Swahili Wear in Mombasa County on Thursday 7th March 2024. [Kelvin Karani, Standard]

When her mother succumbed to cancer in May 2021, Rosaly Akinyi was left with the huge burden of fending for her four siblings.

With no job, Akinyi who graduated with a Bachelor of Business Administration, Finance option, from Maseno University in 2018, ventured into sewing footwear.

Using the little money she had saved from selling women's sandals while on campus, Akinyi opened the Roak Swahili Wear shoe factory. She said the factory was in honour of her late mother, Dinah Awuor.

“I started the business in 2021 after unsuccessfully looking for a job for four years. This was after my mother died. I had struggled to raise funds for her chemotherapy,” said Akinyi.

Akinyi opened the footwear factory in Likoni, Mombasa County, where she has built a five-roomed facility. She said the business has enabled her to pay school fees for her siblings, through secondary school and university.

Her production has increased from 60 to 200 pairs a day. She has employed 25 people, who include 15 women.

“I am glad I have built a spacious factory. People judge me for venturing into this business seen as male-dominated. Others say I have a white sponsor. However, it is all about planning, passion, and ethics,” said Akinyi.

She uses vehicle tyres to make sandals and shoes thereby saving the environment from tyre waste. One tyre produces three pairs of sandals.

She also sells school shoes and traditional baskets decorated with African prints.

Make sandals

"We collect tyres, including those dumped in the ocean and landfill, which are repurposed to make sandals. I usually use tyres, with one tyre producing three pairs of sandals,” said Akinyi adding that she is also hoping to tap into the international market.

Akinyi is pursuing an African Continental Free Trade Area course in marketing as she seeks to venture into international markets. She said her sandals target eco-friendly customers keen on conserving the environment.

“I target all customers but more so the eco-friendly ones who know the value of preserving the environment and understand the durability of the sandals,” said Akinyi.

Her advice to young people is that they should pursue whatever they dream of having and work tirelessly towards achieving it.

“I had dreamt of owning a big shop. I wanted to sell doll shoes and sandals. I started with the little money I had saved while on campus where I was selling sandals from Uganda. I also have had support from the Bestseller Foundation, SOMO Africa. I went through their training and reached the acceleration stage where they funded me,” said Akinyi.

Akinyi has won awards including DOT Kenya Innovator of the Year 2021 and Pamoja Innovation Awards, "which have also enabled me to get training that has helped me to improve my business."

“I desire to export shoes. I want mine to be an outstanding shoe brand in the world,” said Akinyi.

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