Before Rinah (25) started her own business, she and her husband sometimes struggled to put food on the table for their two young children. Rinah’s earnings from her thriving hair salon and grocery shop have transformed their family life.
Rinah lives with her husband, who drives a motorcycle taxi, and their two young children in Butere, Kenya. ‘Before I started my business I was a housewife,’ she explains. ‘I had to wait for my husband to bring home the money and if he didn’t earn we didn’t eat.’
A friend encouraged Rinah to start her own business and she began selling chips on the roadside, having earned the money to cover her start-up costs – a fryer, oil and potatoes – by washing clothes for a neighbour.
Rinah soon began to diversify, selling charcoal, fruit and vegetables as well. Then, with support from her husband, she moved into her own premises and opened a hair salon too, paying a monthly rent of 2,500 Kenyan shillings – around £16. ‘I didn’t have enough to pay the whole month’s rent upfront,’ she explains, ‘but I gave 1,000 shillings in the middle of the month and the rest at the end.’
It was around this time, in April 2021, that Rinah first joined a Shujaaz Biz meeting – a two-hour session which focused on bookkeeping, budgeting and saving. Shujaaz Biz supports and connects young entrepreneurs, enabling them to learn from each other. Prince’s Trust International has supported Shujaaz to develop and refine the programme, which has played a key role in helping Rinah to grow her business. She now has three times as many customers and has had to take on an assistant.
‘When I joined Shujaaz I’d already started the salon but it wasn’t doing that well, business was a bit down…. I wasn’t saving any money so my business wasn’t very stable,’ Rinah recalls, explaining that she used to spend all the day’s takings on immediate family needs, like food and school fees. This left her cash flow very fragile, so if a customer was late paying her, she couldn’t pay her suppliers.
Rinah started to keep accounts and to save a portion of her earnings. She also took on board some invaluable tips on customer service from her fellow Shujaaz Biz entrepreneurs. ‘
“Now I talk to my customers differently, I’m very welcoming. I don’t put on a gloomy face and I look for ways to make them satisfied. The number of customers has really increased. Before I used to have five or six each day but now I have 15 or 20.’
Rinah’s husband is very encouraging and supportive of his wife’s entrepreneurial ventures. And with business booming, the financial benefits for the whole family are clear. ‘Life is very enjoyable now. I can put food on the table easily, without stress,’ Rinah says. ‘I can prosper. We’re a happy family now, much more than before.’
Rinah also enjoys the logistical benefits of being her own boss. Like many mothers around the world, she values the flexibility of being able to balance work and family commitments.
‘Having your own business means that you can arrange your time yourself,’ Rinah explains. ‘I start my work in the salon at 10 because by then I’ve finished my work at home… Then at five I go home again and take care of my family. When you’re working for someone else you can’t get enough time to do your work at home.’
Worldwide, women spend about three times as long as men on unpaid care and domestic work. The burden is especially heavy in poorer countries where daily workloads include particularly time-consuming tasks, such as washing clothes by hand. While this remains the case, it is vital to empower young women to find flexible ways to earn.
Rinah is now a businesswoman, employer and valued breadwinner. Her income has made an immediate, practical difference to her family’s quality of life. It has also automatically increased her independence and status, giving her a greater say over household decisions and spending.
‘Now I can get my own shopping with my own budget,’ Rinah explains. ‘When I want to buy clothes or visit my mum I don’t have to wait for money from my husband.’
Rinah is now saving up for two big investments: a dryer for her salon, and a television for her home.