Judy Wanjiku Mungai runs Mirema Kids Club, a safe haven where busy parents can take their children to be taken care of and engaged positively.
I always wanted to be a children’s caregiver or a kindergarten teacher when I was growing up, but initially landed on a different career path. I studied accounting at Strathmore University and got a degree in International Business Administration from USIU-Africa.
Afterwards, I worked in the corporate world for 15 years - at Aga Khan Hospital and USIU. Both institutions were good employers, but I still felt the pull towards working with children and young adults.
This fire was stoked by my interactions with students at the university and children at my local church, where I taught in the Sunday school. When these youngsters opened up to me, they also opened my eyes to the challenges they face but are unable to report due to fear of victimisation. For example, some were facing sexual, physical or psychological abuse in the hands of trusted caregivers. They were beaten into silence, threatened, and in extreme cases, given drugs to make them compliant.
I enrolled for a Master’s degree in Counselling and Psychology to equip myself with the right skills to deal with my new audience.
I desired to create a safe haven for children and teenagers, where busy parents could leave their children to be taken care of and be engaged positively.
As a young mother, I had stagnated in my career and felt detached from friends. I had failed in self-care because I had nowhere to leave my children while I travelled for work or attended evening classes or met friends for a chat. The thought of constantly leaving them with the nanny was unappealing.
I did some research and realised many young mothers felt trapped just like I did. That was how my idea of a ‘home away from home’ was born. The idea is to allow children and teenagers to socialise and exchange positive energy in a supervised environment.
What happened next
I ran the children’s club for three years as a side hustle then, last year, I left the corporate world to do it fulltime. The growth is slow but steady; I understand that this is a relatively new concept in Kenya but we’re growing.
Running a start-up
The idea of a children’s club is new so a lot of parents will be interested, but adopt a wait-and-see stance. Also, some parents are skeptical about leaving someone else to care for their children.
Getting financing has not been easy; banks are hesitant to fund a startup. In addition, it is hard to get staff who are passionate about this line of work.
I have learned that business requires passion and dedication. It also takes time, patience and diligence for a business to thrive and break even. I am taking it one day at a time, growing the club as I find new ways to offer my clients solutions.
When I encounter difficulties, I remind myself that there is no exit clause. I left employment to do this and whenever I hit a snag, I must try, try and try again.
Children and teenagers are my world so I cannot walk away from them. When it seems like I have reached a dead end, I pray and trust God to make a way.
Where I am now
Parents can leave their children with me, in a safe environment, while they work, study, bond with their partners or just get an opportunity to re-energise.
This club also makes it possible for parents to give their nannies a break, and have them enjoy some personal time without concerns over where to leave the children.
We take children aged 4 to 12, and teenagers aged 13 to 19. From just four children, we now have a membership of 60.
Club activities include swimming, book club, baking, golf, daycare and night out services, school homework supervision, football, yoga, counselling, group trips and hosting of birthday parties.
Most of the children in the club are from estates along Kiambu Road, Thika Road and the Northern Bypass. By end of 2019, we hope to have members from all over Nairobi.
Be passionate about your business idea; this will ground you during the tough seasons. Starting a business is a step of faith and is very personal; listen to your heart, not your friends. Start small and grow.