First Class graduate peels livelihood from bananas

Enterprise

First Class graduate peels livelihood from bananas

Ms Risper Kerubo at her stall in Imara Daima estate in Nairobi. PHOTO | PAULINE ONGAJI 

When she graduated with a First Class honours in health services management from Kenyatta University in 2015, Risper Kerubo was sure a variety of white-collar jobs would be waiting for her.

She also believed that a career in the health sector held out bright prospects as it was seen to possess plenty of opportunities.

However, Ms Kerubo soon realised, much to her amazement, that her fantastic career dreams were misplaced. She hunted for a job in vain for months on end.

With the hope of getting a job fading, she began to think of ways to make ends meet.

“Coming from Kisii, I had watched for years my kinsmen making money by getting bananas and avocados from the countryside and selling them in Nairobi, and I thought this is something I could do as well,” she says.

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She conducted research on how she could get the commodities from farmers at a fair price.

Armed with some knowledge on the trade, she set up a shop in Nairobi’s Imara Daima estate in 2016. And since then she has never looked back.

“In a day I sell up to two 90kg sacks of bananas, and nearly five crates of avocados. I make a daily net profit of Sh1,000,” she says.

“I get this after deducting all the costs which include transport, capital and of course salary for my worker who I pay Sh500 daily.”

Her clients are mainly fruit vendors and households within the estate.

Apart from helping her meet the family needs, the business has enabled her to make savings as she expands the enterprise.

Although it was not long before she started making profit, Ms Kerubo could not immediately come to terms with the fact that she worked so hard in school and university, posting the best grades only to end up as a fruit vendor.

“Here, I was literally getting my hands dirty, yet I had worked hard at university and got the best grades and First Class honours,” she tells Enterprise.

But as days went by, she came to not only embrace her situation but also to find passion in the enterprise.

To succeed in the business, Ms Kerubo has to work extra hard, putting aside her thoughts about her impeccable school grades and the First Class degree in her closet.

Her day begins at 4am, when she goes to Nairobi’s Wakulima Market. The hardest part is scrambling for the best produce as soon as the lorries that transport them to the market arrive. She has no option but to fight for the best fruits if she is to retain the loyalty of her customers and attract more.

“If I get to the market later than this, I wouldn’t be able to get the best bananas and avocados,” she says.

After getting the stock, she hires a person to help her carry it to the matatu stage where she catches transport to her shop.

“At the shop the hard task of sorting and getting them ready for the customers begins,” she says.

She also balances the business with taking care of her two-year-old child.

Although she is able to meet most of her needs and even make some savings, it is still not smooth sailing.

“It is an extremely tedious and dirty job, especially for a lady,” she says.

Another challenge she has constantly faced is convincing the society that “even though you went to university, it is okay to get your hands dirty and do something else, especially if you haven’t been able to secure employment”.

People, including some of her clients, have been insisting she get a good job and leave the business to ‘akina mama’.

When she started, her parents too did not think this is something she should be doing for long. To them, it was a stop-gap measure as she searched for what she deserved.

“At the beginning they didn’t have a problem because they thought it’s something I was just doing for some time as I hunted for a job. But later, they started complaining, saying I should get employed with a high pay.”

Despite this band of naysayers, there are those who admire her resilience and hard work. This has motivated her.

The silver lining in what is seemingly a dark cloud is that she has now developed a passion for business.

“Some of my friends and alumni at university who are employed surprisingly admire me for being courageous enough to stand up for what I love doing,” she enthuses. “I wouldn’t mind working in my field of study and surely want to continue with my master’s [degree]at one time, but my love for this business is unparalleled.”

“I have always considered myself as business person. I can always do this as my part time job.”

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