Dr Wanjiru Ndegwa-Njuguna 35, a wife and mother of two, started the Footsteps to Fertility Centre, in line with her efforts to eradicate infertility. She speaks to Shirley Genga
I am a gynaecologist but my specialty is in fertility medicine. I’m an alumnus of the University of Nairobi and KU Leuven University in Belgium.
During my Masters training at Kenyatta National Hospital, I came across many couples who had tried to conceive but couldn’t for various reasons. Their pain got me thinking about what I could do to help them out. Apart from the emotional and psychological torture that comes with being barren, I also realised the stigma around infertility was too much. Many of the women who confided in me aroused my curiosity on how I could use the knowledge I had acquired during my studies to change their situation.
WHAT HAPPENED NEXT
I started Footsteps to Fertility Foundation whose aim was to provide psychological support to couples who were struggling with infertility. When I raised enough capital, I started the Footsteps To Fertility Centre where we provide personalised holistic fertility care plans. Some of the services we offer include: Fertility tests, natural cycle monitoring, ovulation induction, intra-uterine insemination and In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) among others. I feel like I have found my purpose. There is no greater feeling for me than seeing my clients holding their babies or seeing a couple crying over the first pregnancy scan. I live for such moments.
RUNNING A START UP
At the beginning, I thought my biggest challenge would be capital. I remember going from bank to bank trying to get a loan, looking for investors and even trying to get partners but this never worked. I realised that if I worked hard and believed in myself, I could do it on my own. I had to make the tough choice of going back into employment to build my credit status.
It has not been easy, but I love the freedom of making decisions, whether right or wrong, I have learnt that you have to own them. I will admit I have made many mistakes, but I have learnt a lot along the way. My biggest challenge though is managing a team. It is sometimes the hardest part of business; harder than raising capital as I am slowly learning. The importance of emotional intelligence is hugely underrated but very valuable in business.
WHERE I AM NOW
Although we have not yet broken even, the business is growing; when we began, we had two chairs and a desk at the reception area. Now the office is bigger and our staff numbers have grown. We have a few permanent and some on locum; in total we have seven staff members. We also have more clients but the biggest challenge is publicity. The services we offer are very private and often people do not talk about it because of the shame society often incorrectly puts on infertility. For example, if a woman has given birth through IVF, that is not information she will willingly share, and so we are having to re-strategise. However, we are still soldering on as our dream is to have an open day filled with more than 10,000 babies whose parents we walked with through infertility struggles. That day shall come.
First, anything is possible when you put God first. Secondly, I wish I had believed in myself earlier and not wasted time. It is hard starting up but it’s worth it. Many people would tell me I would never do it on my own, being young and a woman because where would I find the capital? I listened to them and wasted a whole year looking for partners. I then decided to believe in myself and just started with what I had. I did my best to put all my resources together, started, and by God’s abundant grace, here we are, growing families.
Lastly, you need to pay more attention to the books. As an entrepreneur, you can easily be distracted by the product or service and forget that the numbers have to make sense. I really wanted the business to do well, to get babies, to provide great customer service, but I did not pay attention to the business side of things. Our first treatments were grossly under-priced and we made losses. I have learnt that it’s very important to pay attention to our books of accounts as we need to be here tomorrow to help other couples.