Magdalene Metei stands tall next to her newly constructed shop in Kablemeiywa village in Kenya’s Kericho County. She smiles as she gestures at the building that is barely a few months old, but already has a reputation as the go-to shop in the village. Before the store opened, she had been selling vegetables from a roadside stall.
So how does one go from a wooden stand to a stone-walled shop that is one of the biggest in the village? Metei says it took a lot of patience and saving most of what she made.
The 33-year-old and her husband both grew up in the same village. He is a primary school teacher and a tea farmer. They met one day in 2010, when she was on her way to the market and he to school. They married that year.
Her husband’s family gifted them a one-acre tea farm as a wedding present. After they got married, Metei spent most of her time working at the tea farm while her husband went to work. She started selling their tea to a factory close by. A year after they were married, the couple had a son. They wanted to increase their income to respond to the growing needs of their family.
Metei decided to start selling vegetables. In the afternoon, when she wasn’t working at the tea farm, she would walk to the market with her baby and buy kale, carrots, tomatoes and onions, and then walk from house to house selling them. They had a daughter the following year, and their family needs continued to increase.
She set up a vegetable stall on the roadside near her home. She would go to the tea farm in the morning, pick tea and deliver it to a tea collection station, then open the stall in the afternoon.
In 2019, while working at her stall, WE and Lipton coordinators approached her about joining a financial literacy training program they were running. The program started in 2018, in neighboring villages, with the goal of providing financial literacy and business skills training to 150,000 people in tea farming regions in Kenya over three years.
Her husband encouraged her to go to the very first training, held in an open field next to the tea-collection station. Metei attended all the classes on saving, budgeting and identifying new sources of income. She vividly remembers when the trainers showed them photos of women who had participated in financial literacy training the previous year and had started businesses as a result of saving and investing.
This was the push Metei needed. She and her husband were saving and talking about possibly expanding her vegetable-vending business. He had suggested building a semi-permanent kiosk that would double as a shop for household items like sugar and tea. But she had an even bigger idea; to build a stone-walled shop where she could sell all the staples needed in a home. “I wanted to sell clothes, food, soap, cookware and so much more.” In the local language of Kipsigis, Metei explains she wanted it to be a one-stop shop.
Her husband was worried that they’d have to use all their savings on the shop. “We didn’t have a lot of savings, and he kept asking what we would do if it failed,” she says. But she managed to convince him, and they started planning.
Completing the construction took them seven months, and they had to take a loan to buy the initial inventory. Amid trepidation and excitement, the shop was opened in November 2019.
Metei has already started to see the pay-off. “This was a good investment. We've only been open a few months, but business is starting to pick up and we even paid half of the loan,” she says. She and her husband continue to farm tea, and will use the combined income to support their family.
What made you decide to open the shop? I saw what the women the trainers showed us had done, and I thought that if they could do it then I could do it too. I was inspired when I saw that some of them had started out like me, selling vegetables, and now they had also opened shops. I knew I could do it.
How else did the training change your life? I was able to meet many women who are also in business. They always give me advice, and they encouraged me a lot when I started building the shop.
What do you want to achieve with this shop? I want my family to be comfortable. My son is now in Grade 2 and I have a small daughter who is in nursery school. My husband and I want to be able to provide everything for them, so they can go to school, eat food and have clothes. I don’t want them to lack anything.
This interview has been condensed and edited from a translation.
“I saw what the women the trainers showed us had done and I thought that if they could do it, then I could do it too.”Magdalene Metei, Trainee
“When women are successful, they can support their children, their husbands and the entire community.”Alice Korir, Trainee
“Now when you see women, they have so much.”Mary Koech, Community Trainer
“Every time I went, they taught something new and I knew it was going to help me.”Caroline Korkoren, Trainee
“Financial literacy training is important here because it helps people take care of the money they already have. It helps them see how else they can take care of their families.”Samson Langat, Community Trainer
Zeddy Kosgei is a multi-media content creator in Kenya with over three years’ experience as a broadcast journalist. She loves finding stories that matter and retelling them creatively and eloquently.