Emerson opened his own café in 2020. The tips and training he’s had from the Shujaaz Biz programme have helped him steer his business to success. He now employs three people and his café is so popular that, less than two years after launch, he’s had to upgrade to a new premises double the size.
Emerson lives in Butere, Kenya. When the Covid-19 pandemic closed his school, he started selling coffee from a roadside stall. ‘I couldn’t just do nothing,’ he explains. He soon developed ambitions to scale up and launch his own café, so he sought start-up advice from other entrepreneurs. That’s when he first came across the Shujaaz Biz programme.
‘Shujaaz had so many good ideas to help me prosper, in my business and my life too,’ he explains. Armed with some basic business tips, Emerson found a small room to rent, bought some cooking equipment, tables and chairs, and got started.
In Kenya, as in many countries, there’s a huge gap between the number of young people entering the labour market, and the number of formal jobs available. For many young people like Emerson, self-employment offers the most realistic path to financial security. But hard work and determination alone are not enough – young people also need basic business knowhow.
Shujaaz Biz supports and connects young entrepreneurs, enabling them to learn from each other through local groups and digital content. Prince’s Trust International has supported Shujaaz to develop and refine their programme.
Emerson attends his local group in Butere, and feels that the most useful things he’s learned are around keeping financial records and managing customers to build loyalty and reputation. ‘Before, I didn’t know anything about business really. I only knew that business was about selling things,’ he recalls. ‘I had problems with handling customers, and problems with saving and record keeping…. My business was small with few customers.’
Previously, Emerson would have no idea if he’d made a profit or a loss each day. ‘Before I learned about keeping records I just spent my money carelessly,’ he explains. ‘Now at the end of the day I separate out the money I used in the morning to buy ingredients, so I know how much profit I’ve made, how much I can take home to buy food for my family and how much to pay my employees, because I give each of them an equal share.’
With stable finances and happy customers, Emerson’s business has thrived. As he’s expanded, Emerson has taken on three employees, and soon expects to take on two more. He’s also moved from his small start-up room, which could hold 10-15 customers, to a much larger space which can accommodate 30 to 40 people at a time.
‘Because of those teachings I’ve advanced, I’ve been able to take a big step forward,’ Emerson explains, ‘My business is growing day by day… I feel good because I started my own company and because I’ve employed people. I’m very grateful to be my own boss. ’
One of the advantages of the Shujaaz Biz programme is the way it connects young entrepreneurs with each other for mutual benefit – and these connections can pay dividends. Emerson formed a communal savings group with some of his peers from the programme, enabling them all to save for big business investments, taking turns to withdraw funds. In September 2021, Emerson used this money to pay for his move to the bigger site. Next time it’s his turn, he hopes to buy a fridge so that he can offer a wider range of food.