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I was a drug peddler, at one point in my life I lived on the streets and now I run my own business.

How would you describe Joe?

Well, no one has ever asked me that. However, I would describe Joe as someone very passionate, purpose driven and who inspires people through his work. I am always up by 6:00am since I leave the house before 7, all packed up ready to open my shop. I have a small Kiosk, typically the size of your table at Runga runga. That is where I sell my merchandise. It is an open Kiosk, which means I have to carry all my stuff back home in the evening and bring it back the next day.

Tell us more about your business and what is entails?

I have a passion for tradition so I specialize in traditional art. I decorate gourds with beads; I also make accessories such as belts, bead necklaces, anklets, bracelets, bookmarks. I can customize anything the client wants.

I’m proud of my work, it’s an honor to wake up every morning to go to my Kiosk, regardless of whether I make sales or not. I make an impact in people’s lives through my work and I love that I meet so many different people everyday.

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Tell us about your life before your started your business and what led to your transformation?

Before I joined Nailab I was a hooligan. My life was a mess. If you go to the slum where I came from, people will tell you the worst stories about me. I would fight with anyone, I used a lot of drugs, I was always betting. All my money went into drugs and betting. I had conflicts with everyone in my family.

However, all that changed when I joined Nailab. I recall the first day I came to Nailab all too well. I had applied for one of the programs being offered by Nailab called The Next Economy. I was shortlisted and I was invited for an interview. I remember I had to borrow decent clothes from one of my friends to go for the interview, because I wanted to look presentable. To be honest, I had dreadlocks that weren’t neat.

I got admitted into the program and began going to classes. Nailab has transformed my future. My communication skills have improved tremendously and now I am in a better position to communicate effectively with my customers. I found my purpose and quit drugs, I have a better relationship with the people around me and am learning skills to help me scale my business.

What made you get into drugs?

It all started when I was in Form 2. My parents separated and my mum left, leaving my dad with me alone. My dad hardly took care of me; things were hard for me. I would go for days without food. I never had kerosene for the lamp, couldn’t even do my homework. I dropped out of school in form 2 and went to Kayole where I made some friends and began to sell drugs.

I went back home after four months when I realized my parents were looking for me. That was the first time I ran away from home. I left home again immediately after form 4, I went back to kayole. I reconnected with the friends I had made when I dropped out of school the first time. I carried on with my business of selling drugs, then I started using drugs and without knowing it I was already addicted.

What inspired you to start your business?

The drug business wasn’t making ends meet. I decided to look for another job and I started painting houses. A man who knew me, gave me a job; he’s from the same place my dad comes from. During this time I was living on the streets and a drug addict.

I realized my passion for bead work while I was sleeping in the streets. I was sleeping at a Kiosk next to a man who used to make artwork using beads. I started running errands for him and sometimes he would send me to buy the beads for him. I watched him as he worked and I practiced; with time I learnt. Later I joined Kenya Youth Empowerment Project in 2014 where I learnt about business management. I started making my beads and I would walk around selling my work and the clients would refer me to other clients.

What encourages you to keep fighting?

God, because if it were not for him I don’t know where I would be. He has given me opportunities to learn and platforms such as Nailab to help me transform myself.

What would you tell the youth and fellow entrepreneurs like yourself?

Dedicated yourself with what you do. Always be grateful for what you have and share your knowledge and skills with other people.

I have one employee whom I pay on commission; I share my knowledge and skills with him.

Written by

Nailab is an accelerator that offers a “Launch out” program for entrepreneurs and “Launch in” program for those seeking employability.

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