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Cecilia Mwangi: Every hustle counts

 "Every step is a learning process," Cecilia Mwangi says [Courtesy]

Your transition from Miss Kenya and Miss Jiggers tag into entrepreneurship has been remarkable. How has the transition been?

I believe that life should be progressive. That is the message I share with my fellow women and the youth too. Everything I have ventured into along the way has been within my career path and has been on my discovery wheel. It is all about taking a step at a time as well as leaping from one step to another. Every step is a learning process. I never stop attending a masterclass to open my eyes to the next.

What has your strategy been?

There is always a gap to fill almost everywhere in society. For example, when we started the anti-jiggers campaign, no one had ever imagined anything like that could work. All I have said, plus one discovering themselves every day and pursuing the passion puts together an existing journey of a problem solver. I would say the worst mistake anyone can make in a career progress journey is being complacent with themselves. Being okay with being okay is not a good thing. Always challenge yourself. We are living in a fluid environment and I encourage those I interact with to always be ahead of the game.

What happened to your salon business?

I have tried almost everything; every business I could try to keep going. Life is not always linear as many try to look at it. I tried a kids salon, a business that I invested in very heavily, and sort of it didn't move. I also put my hands in the wines and spirits business. That too did not work as I had expected. It was after this that I started my pet business in 2019. After starting small at Valley Arcade, the business picked up and we moved to Naivasha and now to Kiambu. See, I have to feed my daughters by keeping the hustle moving.

You have been working with the Ministry of Industrialisation. Exactly what are you doing in that space?

The project is around innovation, youth, and ecosystem management. It is basically called the Kenya Industry and Entrepreneurship Project (KIEP) which is run by the ministry and supported by partners like the World Bank. We work with start-ups, micro-enterprises, and other related businesses. We work with innovators and have created academia for on-demand skills that help students get linked to the industry. I moved into this space in 2020 and since I have had a lot of new key learnings.

What are these key learnings?

Until I invested in supporting the youth and women, I didn't know there was a lot of talent out there. I have discovered that unless the right opportunities are granted to these young innovators, we might never get innovative solutions to some of the problems we are facing as a nation, and that is in almost all areas of life. We need to tap into these innovative opportunities by trusting the brains behind them in letting them into those spaces where they can experiment with them. We are not training students who will go out there to look for jobs but rather those who will create jobs for themselves by applying the skills they have.

Can they access the funding needed to implement these ideas?

Yes, they can. Indeed, I would say, those who have moved fast into seeking financial funding or other support through the government and even the private sector have moved far. The World Bank project we are working with is like a case study, a pilot project that is meant to see how the Kenyan government can leverage opportunities in the innovation ecosystem. If it works, this will open a door, opportunities that will help boost the industrialisation agenda.

 Cecilia Mwangi talks career [Courtesy]

Are women rising to this reality and if so, is there a catalyst from the powers that would be to support their ventures?

Already, we have an affirmative action on empowering women; Women-led and Women-owned businesses action call. We have seen many women taking up key positions in the private sector as well as in government. Two months or so ago Catherine Muraga was appointed the Microsoft ADC managing director as well as Sylvia Mulinge getting appointed the MTN Uganda CEO. The examples are many. The just concluded polls doubled the number of women governors as well as provided increased numbers of women MPs leave alone the reserved Woman Representative political post. I think soon, we will turn and start supporting the boy child.

What would be your advice for a woman who wants to move from employment into self-employment?

That it is brave to take that leap of faith and just do it. Looking at me, who would have thought my pet business would work and grow almost four times within that short time yet out of all the businesses I have ever tried, it is the one I used little starting capital on. The saloon where I had invested heavily flopped. Don't be afraid to start small. Also, don't look too far. It is good to work with simple ideas even some driven by your hobbies and passions. A month ago we were in Kisumu where we met this woman supplying cakes in the entire Nyanza region yet she started off from her kitchen not so long ago.

What are some of those easy landing entrepreneur undertakings that you would say are favourable to women?

Everything works. It is all about the thought process, doing the right thing, being at the right place and yes, I must say, saying the right thing when you get to that place where opportunity meets preparation. Agriculture is paying well, content creation too...I honestly wouldn't specify any career as every hustle counts. For the woman who wants it all, the sky must be the limit.

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