It is another Monday and time to meet one of the women who make a contribution to the Kenyan economy. Our Pearls And Heels lady today is Florence Kamaitha. Florence Kamaitha runs a startup called Pad Heaven which manufacturers re-usable sanitary pads and have now ventured into making disposable sanitary pads. They have also written a book on menstrual hygiene. Kamaitha also runs a business blog where she aims to share with women all things entrepreneurship. She is also an award-winning entrepreneur, speaker, social activist and mentor. She also teaches upcoming entrepreneurs about running a business and speaking to girls in schools on reproductive health.
1. Describe your typical day?
My days are all different from the other, as I address diverse issues every single day in regards to running workshops and setting up a new production unit. My day starts quite late, though I am trying to be a morning person. I do a few emails, write proposals, check social media pages, and catch up on news. I visit the research lab to check the progress of my products. I then visit the workshop at Langata Women Prison as my last stop. Other days are filled with farm visits to look for suppliers and other days are entirely full of meetings.
2. What did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to become a lawyer. I thought that was the coolest thing to do on earth.
3. If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?
Well, I would focus my time, energy and resources on researching more about running a business in Kenya.
4. What would you say are the top three skills needed to succeed at your job?
Perseverance, patience and negotiation
5. As a professional how is it working in Nairobi? Is Nairobi open to what you do or what could be better?
Nairobi is a city of opportunities. It is dynamic, fast, challenging and a very entrepreneurial place. It’s a city where you meet the most intelligent minds that will challenge you to work smarter. Working in Nairobi makes you think ahead all the time. The business environment is not the best, but I think it will improve.
Unfortunately, not many people in Nairobi have faith in a woman entrepreneur. Most people ask me if there are men in my team and sometimes I am at a loss on how to respond to that. I find that many decision-makers are more willing to bank their investments on men-run companies than women-led.
I plan to build a network of women entrepreneurs and build a platform to match their businesses with investments. As we say ‘Girls just wanna have funds’.
6. What motivates you?
My motivation comes from knowing that my work changes lives. Every SMS I get from a parent I have assisted. Every email I get from an entrepreneur I have mentored. Every letter I get from a school girl who gets sanitary pads from us. All these motivate me to keep going and keep doing more.
7. How do you define success?
Achieving everything I set out to do is success to me. Also, doing what I love doing and making money from it.
8. Who has been your greatest inspiration?
My brother is also an entrepreneur. He teaches me to dream big every day.
9. What is your favourite aspect of your job?
Finding solutions to challenges and being my own boss.
10. What would you say are the key elements to being successful?
Commitment, consistency and the right team.
11. What advice would you give somebody just starting out in your line of work?
Do your research and do it well. Get a mentor early on and bounce ideas off them once in a while. It helps to have a sounding board. Do not second guess yourself. You will stall and give yourself reasons to give up.
12. What has been your most satisfying moment in terms of your career?
Getting a prototype that we can test has been very satisfying. It took us almost a year to get a product which we are still perfecting.
13. What makes you happy?
My wine, my friends and my travels. A good series at home, a home-cooked meal and neo-soul music also make me a very happy woman.
14. What are your hobbies? What do you do in your non-work time?
I play golf on weekends. I am an avid Formula 1 fan, so I watch the races with my friends most weekends. I also enjoy watching a good detective series. I also love to cook…. though sometimes I feel it’s more of therapy than a hobby.
15. Where do you see yourself in around 10 years?
I see myself running a successful empire that has branches in more than 3 African countries and employs almost 500 women.
If you would like to interact with Kamaitha you can find her on Twitter at @Kamaitha.