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From banking to carpentry: Lucy Njoroge shares her adventurous journey from corporate to craftsmanship

 Lucy Njoroge

Lucy Njoroge has defied stereotypes to thrive in a male dominated field, carpentry. Together with her husband, they have transformed their business Vumbua Homemakeover into a household name.  She opens up about her passion for carpentry, entrepreneurship, motherhood and marriage. She also reveals why fundis never deliver on time.

 Lucy in action

Why carpentry?

Having been in a banking industry for quite some time, I admired my husband’s profession in interior design. I loved the fact that he was working for himself and under minimal supervision with the creative freedom to come up with unique products. So with my husband’s encouragement during my maternity leave, I decided to jump into the industry. It was also easy because I didn’t necessarily need a capital injection to get started since a customer’s down payment is all that is needed to make a product.

How did you start out?

While still in the house during my maternity leave, I decided to post some pictures of my husband’s work on an online platform and mentioned that I did seats refurbishing...weee.. The response was overwhelming and I realized there was a loop hole that needed to be filled. That's when I decided to concentrate and put in all my energy in carpentry.

Challenges you face in the male dominated industry?

Challenges are not so many but there are those few clients who still believe furniture can only be made by men and so getting business from them becomes challenging. Thankfully I usually refer them to my husband so the business still stays.

A product of Lucy's handiwork

What is it with fundis and never delivering on time?

Poor financial planning and misplaced priorities. You will find them using up someone’s down payment to settle other bills. They also tend to take orders from many clients without giving accurate time of delivery.

What is a typical day for you in the workplace?

First and foremost, I source for materials early morning so that I am at the workshop by the time my fundis arrive. Then in the afternoon I do site visits, meet the clients then in the evening plan for the next day as I deliver the completed works to clients.

What are the issues that give you sleepless nights?

Emergency projects where I have to meet deadlines within the shortest time possible.  Also self-finance projects that need to be fully financed without down-payments.

How do you manage customers and their different personalities?

By being a good listener and trying to understand each client’s expectations. I also give them the opportunity to give feedback as work progresses by sending photos via whatsapp. That makes my work easier and ensures that the final product meets client expectation.

How do you juggle a demanding business and motherhood?

 Lucy and one of her kids

Being a mother at times can be tricky but the most important thing is planning.  Since I plan my work in the evening it becomes easier to juggle. Once I make sure everything is in order by the time am home in the evening, concentrating with family and especially kids becomes easier.  By the time am leaving home in the morning, I make sure everything is set with my domestic manager (nanny).

How is it working with your husband? Does work roll over to the home?

Remember he is the one who inspired me to join the industry due to the beautiful antique furniture he was making so working with him has been the most enjoyable experience.  I have learnt so much from him and still I learn new ideas from him every day.  However, work remains work and family time is strictly family time. 

How do you motivate yourself and stay motivated?

 A happy and motivated Lucy

I always make sure I give myself a target and once I hit it I reward myself. That way, I stay motivated and I end up enjoying what I do.

If you had to start from scratch, what would you do differently?

Maybe open a big showroom and display all the unique furniture and do major marketing.

Describe one of your biggest accomplishment. What lesson did you learn, and how did it contribute to a greater success?

My biggest accomplishment is learning all the skills in interior design through carpentry. I learned that art is an endless concept that has allowed me to explore excellent ideas. Through this I have been able to transform peoples’ homes into beautiful spaces and old furniture into beautiful art pieces.  I have received so many referrals from satisfied clients and I thank God.

Describe one of your biggest failures. What lesson did you learn, and how did it contribute to a greater success?

When I joined the industry I was a bit shy in quoting prices and ended up underquoting. This forced me to go back to my pocket to finance some of these projects. But I learnt the hard way and have now become a pro in pricing and giving value for money.  

Do you have a mentor to guide you through this journey? Would you recommend that women get mentors?

Yes, I have a mentor and that is my husband.  He has been in the industry for long and he has learned the ins and outs of this business so he was a perfect fit for my mentor.  I would advise women in business to have one. It's very important

In summary what are the five tips you would give women who have just started their entrepreneurship journey?

God first




Never give up

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