Perpetual Kabaya came back home from the hospital with a new baby when her nanny resigned. She tells GARDY CHACHA how an entrepreneural mind and being in a fix and a gave her a much-needed light-bulb moment.
Anyone approaching the two-storeyed maisonette on the fringes of this serene South C road would conclude that it’s either a circus full of clowns or a crevice for a battalion of raucous children to fight their imaginary wars. A trip up a flight of stairs confirms the latter.
A young Jayden Maina is sound asleep in his cot. At nine months of age, there is little he prefers anyway. Isaiah, a toddler, has woken up and is playing with his friend Karii. There are other children playing with flabby balls; or fitting shapes into spaces; or moving something from one place to another – and then another, in an unending sequence.
It seems the children have acclimatised to this space. Once they go through the gates of Haven Day Care, they have a home away from home; where they can burp, poop, eat, sleep, and wake up to tasty meals.
At their age, they may not realise it but the place they revere and identify with daily is a venture. Perpetual Kabaya, the woman who watches over them all day long, is the owner of Haven. On the first encounter, it is a business like any other. That is until you hear the story of its creation.
“I found myself without a nanny at a time I needed one the most,” says Perpetual. “I was nursing an infant and I couldn’t continue with my work. I sent my daughter’s nanny home after she starved my baby. It was a catch-22. I asked myself what I could do to provide my baby with safety while at the same time allow me to work.”
That is the story of Haven Day Care; the rest is history. Necessity is the mother of invention and Perpetual was not going to let the opportunity slip. Three months and Sh1.6 million later, the day care was up and running. Her noble idea proved ingenuous when other women saw it needful to leave their children with her if only for an hour of peace at their places of work.
“Every new mother is looking for a safe place for their child; a place where they are certain nothing bad will happen to them. I too, wanted a safe place where my baby is cared for while I work to earn for us,” says the mother of two. Her last born, Arianna Jepkemoi, now blossoms under her mother’s full attention.
But Perpetual’s story is not just about motherhood and business. She is the daughter of a former watchman with security firm Securicor. At some point though, the old man got relief working at the Canadian embassy.
At that point, she tells me, life got increasingly better and she was able to attend the prestigious Loreto Valley Road. Her mother worked at Icraf, tipping the scales of life in the family’s favour. However, after graduating with a diploma in Business from Kenya Institute of Management Studies in Nairobi, Perpetual was left to her wits.
“I went into business. I would import clothes and sell them in Kenya,” she says. Luck was on her side. Combined with sheer hard work, she has seen her destiny shape up as her financial worth takes the exponential curve. The might of her business saw her visit Turkey, Uganda, Tanzania and China.
Perpetual says she always believed in being self-employed. Evidently, it has worked for her. But this may have something to do with her business acumen more than just belief. She confesses to possessing a deeply entrepreneurial mind.
In the wake of her second pregnancy, Perpetual had hoped to start a kindergarten. This was, however to change when she hit a wall with a ‘nanny from hell’. Like many nursing mothers, she found out the hard way that there is a third side to caregivers at home; some were a conniving lot with unpredictable tendencies.
“The first girl left when I arrived home from the hospital after the birth of my daughter. I was still healing from a CS operation and could barely care for myself when she asked to leave. She said she couldn’t care for a newborn, despite having stayed with me throughout the pregnancy. As much as it hurt, especially her timing, I had to accept her decision.”
Her resolve to persevere worked for a while until it was time to get back to work. She would get a new lady to work for her but she too, would prove to be disappointing. Her daughter was about four months old; still young and in need of attention.
She would come home one day after spending the whole day out only to find her baby starving. “I felt like I had failed as a mother. I was angry and sad. I could have harmed her but my husband calmed me down; sense prevailed,” she says.
Perpetual says that when she left expressed breast milk for the nanny to feed her baby, she would return in the evening to bottles as full as she had left them in the refrigerator. Seeing her baby crying with the pain of hunger was the wake-up call that jolted her to her senses.
“Speaking with other nursing mothers, I realised that our predicament was the same; all of us hoped for a place where our children are safe and well cared for. What could it be?” she asked herself.
She realised that she would have to forego the kindergarten for a day care – if it would mean the end of house help shenanigans.
She signed up for a crash course at a Lang’ata daycare training school. There was nothing much to learn being a mother herself. She moved fast to register the business and acquire the necessary licences. No sooner had she opened shop than parents began streaming in for her services.
Not only has Haven provided her with a solution for her own baby; other mothers have also attested to the peace of mind the place has offered them.
One such mother is Maurine Maina – known to Perpetual as Mama Jayden. Her son, the boy we found sound asleep when we arrived, spends his days at the facility like he would at his home. Maureen has nothing but praise for Haven.
She says: “Perpetual is a blessing to us mothers using her facility. My house girl was so unreliable and I couldn’t keep her. The cost of having a house girl is way higher than what I pay here for my two children.”
Perpetual prides herself in offering working mothers a better alternative; something workable that gives them peace of mind. The next arrow in her quiver, I learn as we talk, will strike her a degree. She hopes to study anything on caring for children. In a decade, hopefully, she will be the mogul running “an empire that cares for children.”
She may not know it but converting her troubles into a venture that works for her will inspire many in similar situations.