Lydia Wanjiru loves order. She likes her cutlery arranged in a particular style, and her clothes folded in a specific manner or hung facing one direction. Therefore, when she was thinking of a business venture to get into, she was keen on starting an endeavour that required order. Two years ago, she settled on professional ushering.
She was 21 years old at that time, had just completed her course work, and was waiting to graduate from a local university.
"I had studied Nutrition. I was good in sciences and my parents encouraged me to take that course. However, I love arts, and had a keen interest in fashion and design. I knew that I would not pursue nutrition in the long term. I needed to find something that I was passionate about," she says.
At the time, she only had Sh300 at hand. This is the money she used to kick-start her business. She purchased Sh100 worth of airtime, called her friends informing them of the idea, bought mobile data worth another Sh100 and put up a post on her social media platforms inviting her interested followers to an interview, and then spent the remaining Sh100 as fare to the venue where interviews would be conducted.
Thus, Shee Ushers Company was born. It is an events management firm which has trained more than 55 young people who are often contracted on part-time basis.
"Since most of our events happen during weekends, my team and I recruit college and university students mostly within Nairobi and Mombasa where we are currently based. We usually advertise the positions on various social media platforms, and contact suitable candidates for interviews. The selected individuals are then provided with training before they are incorporated into our team," she says.
At the events which they manage, Shee Ushers help in registering guests, coordinating incoming and outgoing guests, directing guests to essential facilities, sharing the materials provided by the event organisers, maintaining cleanliness at the venue, securing reserved seats and presentation of awards to winners. They have so far worked with tens of clients, including Africa Women's Health Summit, Women in Business Awards, and International Floriculture Trade Exhibition.
"When I started out, I was so scared of failing. That is why I did not even tell my parents that I was starting a business. It is only recently that I told my father about it. The business has picked up quite well. I earn a salary from it, I pay my three permanent staff as well as my temporary employees," she offers.
But starting and running a business is not easy, and Lydia's enterprise is no exception.
"One of the biggest challenges so far is when clients refuse to pay for the services we've rendered on time. Some even refuse to pay completely. Also, there are instances when I engage a client on email or over the phone but when I meet them in person, they dismiss me, saying I am too young.
There are also clients who ask for sexual favours before they can contract my company. I've had to turn down so many like those."
On average, Shee Ushers are involved in about four events every month. They get most of their clients through referrals, while others get to know about the company via their Facebook page, sheeushersofficial.
"The good thing about this business is that individuals and organisations hold events regularly, and they need our services. You just need to train and prepare your staff well and distinguish yourself as someone who provides impeccable services. When you serve one client satisfactorily, they are likely to recommend you to many more clients," she offers.
"I wish to expand our firm and ensure that we have presence in every county in Kenya. Further, I am hoping to get to a point where Shee Ushers can competently offer a full package to any event, from interior décor, public address and even catering services.
"As a young person, and a woman for that matter, I've learnt that one needs to be principled. You shouldn't compromise your values and beliefs just to see your business prosper.