Each morning at 6.30am, Phoebe AokoObundo opens herthree by three meter shop, a tailoring business in a bustling northeast Nairobi market. She wouldn’t want to work anywhere else.
‘When you have your own business you are free,’ she says. ‘You could offer me a million to work for someone else but I would still prefer my own business. It may be small, but it is mine.’
Phoebe bought the shop in 2008 after taking out a VisionFund loan to grow her business. She rents out another space in the Kariobangi market and employs three people to help her make clothes: Steve, who is 18, Dovrin, 20, and 28-year-old Jedida.
‘We are like brothers and sisters,’ she says. ‘When the work comes in, we share it between us. If you display your clothes neatly, you will sell more things.’
Learning what works in business has helped Phoebe to do well and feed her six children and three grandchildren. ‘When you have money, your children can go to school. All of mine have and that means they can get any job,’ she says.
'When you have a business, you are free'
Phoebe’s husband died in 1989. At the time, her eldest child was 17 and the youngest was five. Phoebe made clothes but couldn’t grow her business because no one would lend her money, even though her work was in demand. ‘Whatever I earned went on food and rent and there was no more left,’ she says.
With her first loan in 2002, Phoebe bought a sewing machine, fabric and thread. ‘I was good at paying back my loan,’ she says. ‘Even before they asked for the money, I gave it back.’
With the money Phoebe earns from her current business, after paying the rent and food, she still manages to save a little.
‘VisionFund is good because it takes people from nowhere to somewhere,’ she says.
Phoebe’s vision is to buy her own house, live a comfortable life and teach other young people how to make clothes.