Mutua

Benard at his KibandaThis is Mr Mutua. Again.

This old photo shows him at his kibanda in Nguluni where he sold avocados and potatoes up until January 2005. Next to him is my bike which he renovated with the tools of the bike mechanic in the adjacent business plot. If you think that stall looks rickety you should know that the bike mechanic works in a circle of stones on the ground with nothing to protect him from the fierce sun. Impermanent structures is one of the legal requirements for working in Kenya’s Jua Kali sector.

“It’s a very important sector”, Bernard told me, “There are tycoons who have worked their way up through Jua Kali”.

Perhaps he knew something of what it takes to work one’s way up.

Benard in controlIn 2005, at the age of 21, Benard and his business partner founded Kenbric Vocational Training Centre in Nguluni with an initial investment of 10,000 KSH (about 100 euros) and two sewing machines. By 1 April 2005, when they had their thanksgiving and award ceremony, they had something like 50 trainees in three subjects:

  • Carpentry and joinery (C&G)
  • Garment making (GM)
  • Motor vehicle maintenance (MVM)

Vini visits KenbricMr Mutua is a remarkable and determined man. By July 2005 when Vini visited (compare this pic with those from early 2004) there were 45 trainees in the same three subjects but spanning two years (two stages) and (looks like) eight sewing machines (some were rented).

More sewing machines at KenbricOne day, back in in 2004, I asked him what were his top five priorities for Kenbric. We talked about various things including the fact that at that time the place they were renting as a classroom and office had no windows and a floor of broken hardcore but on concrete. The health inspectors had been and advised them that they needed a proper floor to avoid being closed down. But what struck me most was the story about MVM. As I recall, it went something like this:
“We have been teaching MVM now for five months in theory only as we have no components. I’m concerned that my trainees are not getting any practical skills because we have no components for them to use in the classroom.”

“So, you would like to get some components for your classroom?”

“Yes, but if we could get a vehicle we could mechanize it in the MVM class and then use it to teach driving lessons”.

Volunteers practise for their Kenyan driving theory testHe went on to explain how much he could charge per student for driving lessons and how many students could use the car at one time (one driving and the others in the back), in other words, he had a business plan for his vehicle. Driving lessons were always part of his dream for Kenbric, he and his partner had already made the model town used in the theory tests (you can see it on the left of this pic). Don’t suppose he had any idea how he’d get his vehicle, but he seemed damn sure that one day there would be a car or a truck at Kenbric.

Now it so happened that my reason for asking him for his priorities was that, at my leaving party in January 2004, Rena had passed round a hat for donations for me to take and use for a good cause. I had about 200 GBP worth of Shillings, that I had reluctantly agreed to take with me (charity, as I have mused here before, seems to me to have as much to do with the needs of the giver as those of the receiver), sitting in my bank account waiting for me to find a ‘good cause’.

I had imagined that I would deploy the money when moved by someone’s apparent need. But those who made their need apparent did not conjure in me the right feeling to make me want to donate. Mr Mutua, however, looked to me like someone who could really make use of the resources that this money could buy. I told him to look out for a suitable vehicle and that I was willing to help him purchase it for Kenbric.

Mr Mutua with a car

If you were one of the people who gave something to Rena at my going away party in 2004, this is what you helped to buy.

Later, when Mr Mutua went to register his first class of MVM Trainees for their examinations he found out there was a shortage of examiners for that subject. I helped him, with a loan, to pay for a training course that enabled him to become an examiner: its occasional work — during exam season– but it pays quite well, I suspect as an incentive to discourage examiners from accepting bribes. Here’s an excerpt from an email I received from him last month:

Am doing fine and kenbric with 16 new enrolled trainee’s 4 this year and 100% pass 4 last year exams, we started offering grade 2 our graduates.i was an examiner last year and with my share i putted half on the car 4 servicing spares, so its in good working condition, only the body work and painting remaining.

Benard presents me with gifts from KenbricIn January 2006 I was invited to another ceremony to give gift and prizes to supporters of the college and high achieving students. In this final pic Mutua is handing me an embroidered shirt on behalf of the college. We are both wearing Kenbric Vocational Training Cenre T-shirts that he had printed. When I left in February last year I left him my old Dell laptop. By the end of February he told me he had rented a printer and was making Wedding Invitations. In July I got this:

We are doing well in Kenbric with atleast 50 trainees all together and offering comp courses to the available trainee for marketing purposes.


6 Comments

  1. Tyg Says:

    Wow, what a fab story – and am happy to have been able to contribute to the hat! Thats the kind of thing that should be in the business and entrepreneurial magazines – not how Mr Branson built up Virgin. Real things that real people can achieve. What an inspiration!

  2. Mark Says:

    I just found this old comment from the time when I asked him what his proprities were. This post also talks about his aspirations to have a computer. A that time I had no way of helping him with a computer but later, when Penny came to viist me, I got her to bring my old laptop out with her.

    I got copies made of the CDs for the operating system and applications and got him to practise re-installing them from scratch (fdisk) so that he’d not be at the mercy of the computer-repair sharks out there who charge a months wages for an hour to fix your PC and, quite possibly, sabotage it at the same time.

  3. Tom Says:

    Really nice to be reminded of that hella fun party – and happy that the contents of the hat were used well. I really like the criteria you used to decide. Mr Mutua seems to be a total dude and a real bootstrapping inspiration.

  4. Virgin Says:

    A very nice story. I was struck by this: “I had imagined that I would deploy the money when moved by someone’s apparent need. But those who made their need apparent did not conjure in me the right feeling to make me want to donate.”. How do we conjure up the ‘right feeling’ in those who are in a position of power, precisely when we ourselves are in a position of need? Mr Mutua seems to have the answer…..

  5. dominic Says:

    hello Mark
    Thank you for believing in Mr Mutua. I hope he remain in the helm in shaping the future of the young in the Community. Dominic

  6. Renee Says:

    Mr.Mark Skipper thank your for helping Mutua,hope u dont forget him in future when you come back to KENYA.