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Nobody owes you anything, life is what you make of it!

Achieving Woman
 Mary Njoki, founder Glasshouse PR (Shutterstock)

Mary Njoki has earned her place at the table of successful women entrepreneurs. Eight years since she founded Glasshouse PR, she can only look back and laugh off some of the challenges she has had to beat.

From being dismissed as a young clueless woman, to setting the record straight and standing her ground when some of her male clients thought they could get more than what her business had to offer, it has been a learning curve.

Njoki, who once dreamt of becoming a teacher back in primary school in Ngarariga village in Limuru, has many feathers on her cap and her company has handled big brands such as Facebook. She shares her greatest life as well as business lessons with Caroline Njoroge.

1. How has your upbringing helped shape the person you’ve become?

To be honest, my life feels like a divine appointment. I was brought up by a single mother and for the most part, I felt a void in my heart growing up. I was looking for something that I did not know how to define. So in school, I would try to hang out with the popular crowd.

I was looking for a sense of identity. I just didn’t know where to find it. Then began my search for God, my heart longed for a Father’s love, my younger self just didn’t know how to put into words this thing that I ached for. Going into my teen years, I began to know God in a more intimate way.

It was personal, not so much from religious settings. It has, however, been a journey. In finding God, I found a solid sense of identity. I’m still on the journey to becoming. Still discovering the wonder that I am in my Creator.

2. In what other ways would you say not having a father figure affected you?

I think identity and the need for a father’s affection was the primary thing. Looking back now, that is the glaring thing I can point out.

3. What would you say has been the most challenging experience in being a woman?

Wow, that’s an interesting question. I think the one place I can see that apply is in business. I started operating Glasshouse PR when I was 23 years of age.

This came with a lot of eeh.., for lack of a better word, interesting reactions. Most clients had a hard time taking me seriously and the fact that I was a woman didn’t help much.

There have also been times when male clients behaved somewhat inappropriately and I had to set the record straight before things got too far. Being a young entrepreneur is one thing. Being a young female entrepreneur is an entirely different ball game.

There was also the pressure to prove that I was a brand that could be trusted to deliver, the pressure to prove myself. It has been quite the learning curve.

4. What has been the most rewarding part of being a woman

The ability to incubate and nurture ideas. This has come with consistency and resilience, which I feel have worked well for me.

I look at my business as my child, which has been beneficial in numerous ways, it’s made it possible to stick with it even when things were rough.

5. Speaking of rough, how do you handle difficult chapters?

By talking to God. I remember handling a particular client a couple of years back and having to deal with so much that I had never thought I would have to handle. The client was a fraud. Basically, he made up stories about who he was and how he acquired his wealth.

I had trusted this person so much but at some point, things starting feeling a bit off. I started noticing inconsistencies in his narratives. Then all these propaganda blew up on social media and my name was dragged through the mad with it.

I remember struggling a lot with the intensity of hate that was spewed through different threads. Then this question arose from within, “why do you want to be liked? Why does it matter so much to you?”

I knew that there was something God wanted me to deal with – a hunger and need that I didn’t even recognise was there until this particular episode.

I had to outgrow some things in order to grow. But I learnt the hard way.

6. Would you say the entrepreneurship thing runs in the family?

Sincerely, no. Growing up, I did not see any close relative running their own business. All of them were employed, which in part explains why I wanted to be a teacher when I was in primary school.

7.  What changed your mind?

I went to high school and fell in love with computers. So I took up a course in Information and Technology at Graffins College in Nairobi and would have gone on to study Computer Science at the time, if I could, but circumstances did not permit. I still love coding, I think it is awesome!

8.  What has been the most challenging part of building a vision from the ground up?

Getting people to see things from my perspective. When I was starting out, in the year 2012, I would try to get firms to capitalise on digital media.

My sincere attempt was to make them see that this was the future of Public Relations and advertising.

But it was so challenging, so I took up a lot of probono work, got contracts that paid as low as Sh5,000 per month but I stuck with it. I wanted to prove that it could be done.

9. It’s often intimidating to date a woman who wears success so boldly, how do manage your dating life?

I used to get that a lot from men when I was in my 20’s. Some would tell me that it is hard to date a woman who is driving a Mercedes at that age, others just felt confused because they thought my way of thinking and doing things was not that of a typical woman in her 20s.

10.  So, what do you look for in a man?

A man with a legit relationship with God and one who makes room for me to become the best version of me. Someone who’s not intimidated by who I am or by my dreams.

11.  What have you had to learn the hard way?

I used to trust easily, take people at their word. After a number of ‘hiccups’ in business, I learnt to do a proper background check on people.

12.  What has been the most exciting part of your journey?

Watching me become. The evolving and unfolding of the potential that lies within me.

13.  What is your life’s anchor?

God and people who love God. I love my mother but we’ve never been that close. I find myself praying about stuff almost by default. This has and continues to work for me.

14.  When you look at your journey from when you began, what would you do differently?

Not much. I feel Iike I could not have planned my life enough. When I look at where I am and where I was when I started out, I see a higher power ordering my steps. I did not see myself working with the calibre of brands that I have worked with, but here I am.

Maybe the only thing I would do differently is endeavour to be more discerning when working with people.

15.  How has this season affected your life, pandemic and all?

This has been the best season ever, at least for me. It’s not in the impact of the virus but in all the changes that have come. It has created room for me to grow.

I’ve had to slow down and re-evaluate, see gaps that can be filled. I’ve taken better at taking care of myself, exercised more from home, taken better note of what I eat and so on. It has been very rejuvenating. 

16.  What lessons have you learnt from mentoring others?

Through a Billion Start-ups - a free mentorship platform that brings together entrepreneurs across Africa to learn on brand visibility and sustainable growth - I’ve gotten the privilege of walking with others, I prefer that term to ‘mentoring’. I’ve learnt that the needs of each individual are quite diverse, even when they ask similar questions, the solutions they are looking for are often times different.

I have also observed a dominant attitude of entitlement from the younger crowd; always blaming people and situations for not being where they want to be. Some think people owe them jobs, others think they are owed capital. Very few squarely place the responsibility of their lives on their own shoulders.

17.  Do you have a mentor?

I’ve had different people in different seasons enrich my life in different ways, sometimes from a distance.

18.  What is the greatest lesson you’ve learnt about money?

Money is just a medium of exchange, it helps us work on projects and achieve certain ends. It is far more important to focus on the value that one can bring to the table, the money bit will take care of itself.

19.  One of your greatest life lessons…

One of the greatest lessons I’ve learnt is not to limit myself. I’ve watched what I had previously considered as impossible become possible as I’ve walked my journey. So here it is; Just set yourself on that path that you want to walk, then watch the impossible become a reality, one step at a time

20.  How do you unwind?

I watch movies and hang out with people I love.

What are you most likely very wrong about?


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