Every Monday we feature women and their careers in the Pearls And Heels segment. Our Pearls And Heels lady today is Kitawa Wemo. Inspired by the will to change, Kitawa Wemo runs a young organization, MAMA Ventures Africa that aims at creating market-based solutions for girls between the ages of 12-24. She also co-runs the Lupus Foundation of Kenya which is currently working on setting up resource centres for the condition across the country. She is also a photographer and creative director at Art360 that is a creative agency that deals with value-based solutions for start-ups. She is an active board member at PACE Kenya and currently a mentor at AkiraChix.
- Describe your typical day?
I love surprises and thus routine has never been my greatest strength. However, the constant of my day is coffee and a good breakfast. As I sip down my coffee, I skim through my social media feeds and read The Economist, Forbes, African Leadership Magazine and Foundr online. I am always seeking new ways to grow and transform myself.
Every single day differs from the next because I am my own boss. I, therefore, plan my day around growing the businesses I associate with, and facilitating workshops for the organizations.
I usually alternate going to the gym between mornings and evenings and when I need to think, I go for a stroll at Karura Forest, read a book (currently reading Anna Karenina) or go for a swim.
- What did you want to be when you grew up?
Growing up, I was eating, walking and breathing neurosurgery (must have been the Ben Carson fever). I was a top student all through my school years. I joined Kenyatta University and pursued Public Health. I was so passionate about being on the ground, impacting lives by interacting with communities.
- If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?
I think I would have taken the ‘risk’ of running my own business much earlier. Part of me was afraid that I would fail at it, and part of me wanted to get a regular job, and I feel it has slowed me down as an entrepreneur.
- What would you say are the top three skills needed to succeed at your job?
- Patience – In a world where you have to build yourself from the ground up, one does not expect to wake up and everything is perfect. Learning from your failures is key to growth.
- Passion – When everything else looks bleak, this is the one thing that has kept my fire burning
- Problem Solving- This has always been my mantra and the foundation of my business. Never let a problem or challenge stop you, find a solution to grow.
- As a professional how is it working in Nairobi? Is Nairobi open to what you do or what could be better?
Nairobi has such a fast-paced lifestyle that one has no option but to keep up. It has taught me to make quick judgements and also learn human character better. One always has to tread carefully to avoid falling into fraudulent traps. Nairobi is the land of opportunities, everything is happening everywhere at the same time. She has taught me to be more creative and edgy with my services and business approach.
- What motivates you?
Solving problems has always been my greatest motivation. If I don’t know, I learn. There is always a solution to a problem. After all, Master Yoda says “ Do or do not, there is no try.” When I “do not” I ask.
- How do you define success?
Success is believing in something and sticking by it to the end, no matter the obstacles you encounter in your journey.
- Who has been your greatest inspiration?
My Mother and Fiance. My mother has always been a “ do it” kind of person. I call her the Shia La Boeuf of my time. When I didn’t do it, she never spared the rod. My fiance, who is also my business partner is my cheering squad, pompoms and all. He never lets me quit and also teaches me a lot.
- What is your favourite aspect of your job?
Getting down and dirty with my work. I am a practical girl. I believe in doing things and learning from the people I work with.
- What would you say are the key elements to being successful?
Believing in yourself and taking risks.
- What advice would you give somebody just starting out in your line of work?
Simple: “ What is the worst that could possibly happen?”
- What has been your most satisfying moment in terms of your career?
Changing someone’s life. When I go to bed and I know that I have put a smile on a little girl’s face, made a Lupee smile, listened to a friend who has had a bad day or made someone feel confident through my photographs, I am happy. That drives me.
- What makes you happy?
Seeing the people I work with happy. From the girls at MAMA Ventures to the patients and supporters at the Lupus Foundation and the clients at Art360.
- What are your hobbies? What do you do in your non-work time?
I love swimming, cooking, travelling and biking.
- Where do you see yourself in around 10 years?
In 10 years, I see myself running a successful umbrella social business that supports young girls in Kenya and Africa.
I also look forward to being a mum and wife to a great family.
If you would like to interact with Kitawa find her on Twitter at @LooneyAri.
Pearls And Heels: Wambui Kamiru Collymore