ESTHER AKOTH, alias Akothee, is a popular Kenyan musician, farmer, entrepreneur, and philanthropist. She spoke to Spice FM about her life and business ventures. As transcribed by ESTHER DIANAH
There is the music and the artiste, real estate, tours and travel and philanthropy. What is the inspiration behind the different industries that you have your footprint in?
I think many people do not really know who I am; they know of the Akothee who surfaced back in 2014 when I joined music. I have been doing business all my life - I started by making liquid soap, I have been a taxi driver. By the time I was joining music, I had acquired everything I have that you see on social media, and that is why most people do not understand me and call me all sorts of names.
Just by the virtue that I am a woman and achieving big things has had people calling me names, not knowing that these are small wins put together over the years. Akothee Safaris is 13 years old and is my first business. When I travelled to Europe for the first time, I saw several taxis, and as a taxi driver, I wanted to have several vehicles. This was before the yellow taxis came. So the taxi business birthed Akothee Safaris.
The real estate, when I wanted to have a roof over my head, I never wanted to have mansions, I just wanted a house that would cost Sh2.5 million because that is what I could afford. So when I bought my first property, I figured out that these things were possible, so I just grew and then birthed Akothee Properties.
You say you have a marketing agency, too?
I am a hawker by nature, I love to leave a positive impact. Everything you see in my life is a reflection of my past. If I look back, I cannot do anything differently because my past built who Akothee is today. Kenyans have a different view of what I am today because they do not know my journey; they forget that success is an accumulation of small positive steps.
- Akothee: Stop tagging me on posts about Kenyans suffering in Saudi Arabia
- Akothee: I am looking for the perfect wedding venue
- Determined to marry her mzungu, Akothee tells off family
- Akothee says she will not attend sister's wedding due to strained relationship
As an agency, I don’t touch products that I do not believe in, I am not an influencer, I consume what I believe in. I can’t put my fans in jeopardy. I worked for my mother-in-law as a househelp for seven years because my ex-husband was in school and I had to do something. I decided to dump my well-to-do family and got married.
I had to collect everything that life threw at me. They had a shop, and they had coffee stock that was going to go into a dead stock and my father-in-law was struggling with it, so I told him that I would hawk them. I had just given birth, my son was about five-days-old.
Walk us through your work as a philanthropist….
From my humble background, I know what it means not to have; I have seen it all. At some point, I thought if someone could just come to my aid and offload me the baggage. I had a lot of fear while taking care of my three children alone. I asked God if He had to take away my life, He should do it when all my children were married.
I was always walking in fear. when I overcame all that, I realised that the only legacy I could leave behind was impact. I used to party a lot when I got money. When people called me begging for Sh10,000 for school fees, I would check my bank account and realise I had spent Sh100,000 on alcohol. I think it took a toll on me.
I have educated more than 100 people; some come back to say thank you but three-quarters of them, I don’t know what they are doing. I get a lot of energy by giving and that was the birth of Akothee Foundation.
When did you decide to register a foundation?
Initially, I never wanted to touch public money because Kenyans are very good at dressing people down. They always see a problem in every solution. As a woman, when you come out to do something, they don’t believe you until they see you do it. I have had people ask me to register a foundation. I decided to register it back in 2019 because I felt that for me to do bigger things, I would need more people.
What avenues do you want the foundation to grow into?
At the moment, the foundation has five pillars - the feeding programme in Turkana (we are going slow because I do not have donors); the bursary fund (I have 10 students I took to school two years ago - my main aim was to take 10 students to school every year); sanitary towel drive; we are looking to build a rescue centre for people affected by drought in Turkana; and the Akothee Academy is coming soon.
Talk to us about access, control and ownership…
The spirit of manifestation is very important in a human’s life. What made me who I am. I am, I am single mother of five. Everyone wants success, but what makes the difference is analysing where you are now, where you want to go and what you want to do there. It is not just about getting there. You cannot understand your purpose in life if you do not have access, control and ownership over your life.
Where did we lose confidence and the ability to let people know what we want to say?
I feel drained when around people who do not match my talking speed, or doing things that make me sick. When you come to my interview, the way you walk through the door will tell you, I’ll get back to you. Own yourself because a single mother is not a title, so do not come to my office carrying your singleness. We need a forum to teach women basic etiquette like how to sit.
Where we lost it all is the point of access and control because you always have a negative mentality; people keep telling you how useless you are.
What you tell you about who you are is going to determine who you want to be in future.
Women in the corporate world have insecurities toward me. It took me a lot of time to start understanding that these people only knew books growing up. They forgot to take care of themselves, they have not taken time to mould the small girl within them and this small girl is vulnerable and you can see it in how they dress.
I learned about sex in 2010. Before that, I was a victim of rape because I did not understand it. I thought it was pleasure for a man and a duty for me. This is what most women go through, we have not arrested the small girl. Growing up, we were not allowed to express ourselves, but I talk to my daughters.
You will not see my children insulting people on social media. However, I told them to step up when social media started attacking them.
I am surprised to see women at 40 hating, but when I see a woman at 40 hating, I know that one is ugly, broken and bitter, so that does not disturb me.
The women you see who are broken, have not collected the pieces of the small girl.