From hawking porridge and plastic bags to supplying glass and paint

Rosemary M’mbone

Rosemary M’mbone has come a long way, from hawking plastic bags to running a profitable hardware.

Photo credit: Isaac Wale | Nation Media Group

 From hawking porridge in Kakamega town, Rosemary M’mbone, 31, is now a major supplier of glass and paints in the area.

Before she begun selling porridge to eke a living, she hawked plastic bags along the streets of Kakamega town after she completed Form Four. It is a job she did until the government banned use of plastic bags, bringing a stop to her trade. Then, her husband, Isaac Lubanga, was working as a casual labourer in a hardware in Kakamega town earning Sh100 a day.

“This money could not sustain our family and I had to think of what else to do. Our income was extremely low, and at some point, I feared that we would be evicted from the rental house we were living in,” says Rosemary.

She started preparing and selling porridge in the town and diligently saved whatever little profit she earned. She later approached Equity Bank and requested for a loan, qualifying for Sh500,000. It is with this money that Rosemary set up her business Gentvic Glassmart and Hardware, located in Kakamega town. The business currently employs five workers.

“After acquiring the loan, I tried out different businesses that would make me money and help me repay the loan, but after consulting my husband, we decided to start selling glass. In 2018, we opened a shop within the town and have never looked back since,” she says.

Using earnings from their business, the couple has managed to construct a family home and car.

They have, however, weathered challenges along the way. In January 2020, for instance, they suffered a big blow when their shop, along with others, were demolished on order of the county government. Their structure was brought down and all their stock was destroyed.

 “They demolished the structures in the night and damaged everything in the kiosks. We had a stock of glass worth Sh300,000 which was destroyed in the demolition process. This took us back to zero because our savings had gone towards constructing our house and buying a car,” Rosemary recounts.

She went back to Equity Bank to enquire whether she could get another loan, and as she waited for their feedback, she borrowed Sh60,000 from a friend and opened a small shop.

“I used to open an almost empty shop and hope that the business would pick. After a few days, I was called by the bank, and to my surprise, they offered me a second loan of Sh750,000. The bank also trained me on proper record keeping, financial and digital literacy. That is how I have managed to expand my business to where I am today,” she says.

Along Maziwa Road in Kakamega town, stands the Gentvic Glassmart and Hardware shop which sells paints, glass, kitchen and bathroom fittings.

 “I am now a proud owner of a place I call my own home within the town, whose current value stands at above Sh10 million. I have also employed people who are working in the shop and outside as painters,” a proud Rosemary says.

She has since repaid the Sh750,000 loan and is now planning to take a bigger one to expand her business.

“If I succeed in getting the third loan, I aspire to start importing glass directly from China and buying paint directly from manufacturers so that I can sell at lower prices to my clients and also make more in the process,” she says.

Rosemary advises other women to come out of their comfort zone and be courageous enough to pursue their dreams, that they should not be afraid to borrow loans to start or grow their ventures.

“Don’t sit and wait for the opportunity to come to you, instead, go for it,” she concludes.