The rise of street hustle

Photo credit: Shutterstock

What you need to know:

  • Stories of young people who are qualified but unemployed continue to fill social media platforms and newspaper articles, while images of young job seekers walking around with placards advertising their academic qualifications have now become common.
  • The youth bulge being witnessed across many African countries, including Kenya, has made things worse

As of January last year, the average unemployment rate in Kenya according to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics stood at 4.9 per cent. Stories of young people who are qualified but unemployed continue to fill social media platforms and newspaper articles, while images of young job seekers walking around with placards advertising their academic qualifications have now become common.

The youth bulge being witnessed across many African countries, including Kenya, has made things worse, as hundreds of thousands of young people enter the already crowded job market every year. Despite numerous promises from the ruling class, no tangible solution has been adopted to surmount this challenge. 

Left with no choice, many young people have had to devise clever ways of paying their bills and supporting their families. MyNetwork explores the stories of young people who have embraced creativity and decided to turn their skills and passions into profitable jobs.

Terry Wisdom, 26, is the owner of Glam by Nonnie, an online beauty parlour.
Photo credit: Pool

Terry Wisdom, 26
Owner of Glam by Nonnie

My journey into the world of makeup and fashion design was inspired by my aunt’s wedding. I studied fashion design in college, so I already had a keen eye for aesthetics. However, it was my aunt’s friend, a talented makeup artist, who truly ignited my interest in makeup. 

After our encounter, I found myself glued to makeup tutorials, completely captivated by the artistry. The thrill of experimenting with different looks fueled my passion, and before I knew it, makeup became more than just a hobby – it became my calling. 

Connecting with seasoned makeup artists has been an incredible learning experience for me. Their insights and wisdom have been my compass in this vast beauty industry. I try to stay consistent on social media platforms and refuse to throw in the towel, even on challenging days.  

I enjoy the freedom I have to express creativity through makeup. Creating unique looks that complement individual faces and keeping up with the latest trends thanks to the internet, is very satisfying. Plus, I have a circle of fellow makeup artists who constantly inspire and push me to evolve. 

I make Sh50,000 on average every month, which is enough to cater for all my needs. I am even able to save and occasionally go out with my friends.

However, this field comes with its fair share of challenges. Dealing with clients who do not stick to payment agreements or show up fashionably late can really test one’s patience. When it comes to working with clients, I believe in collaboration. Some prefer to share their preferences, while others trust me to create a look that works for them, based on the occasion. 

It is all about creating a personalised experience. My favourite products are lip-gloss, eyeshadow, and setting powder, I can never do without these, and of course, good quality brushes and lash applicators. 

Social media is my stage, where I showcase my work and interact with an amazing community. I recently began adding captions to my videos, which has really helped my brand grow. 

I mostly work with brides and bridesmaids. They hold a special place in my heart. Using my skills to make their day memorable brings me so much joy. 

I also love the challenge of handling live production shoots – challenging yet exciting, especially when time becomes both an ally and an adversary.

To navigate this dynamic industry, I have learnt that practice does make perfect, and staying updated on the latest trends is of great importance. 

Evans Omulama Is a visual artist.
Photo credit: Pool

Evans Omulama
Visual Artist

I grew up in Nairobi’s Eastlands area and growing up, the bus station near Buruburu shopping centre was my playground. I spent lunch hours marveling at the intricate designs of Number 58 matatus, not knowing that those moments would lead me to a full-time career in art.

The turning point occurred at an event organised by WAPI (Words and Pictures) for artists, which exposed me to so many talented young people, and the transformative power of different art forms. 

I saw firsthand how artistic expression can create positive impact in society, and this encouraged me to pursue art wholeheartedly. 

I specialise in murals, canvas art, and graffiti, and spray and acrylic paints are my tools of trade. Often, I combine these mediums to create vibrant 3D images.

Balancing the business and creative aspects of art remains a challenge for me, which is why I had to get a manager. He handles the business side of things, which allows me to immerse myself fully into the creative process. 

When it comes to inspiration, I would say it strikes at any moment, but I get it mostly from looking at powerful photographs and listening to good music. My images are mostly themed on personal life experiences, which makes me a storyteller of my own life. 

I was employed as a teacher for a year, but I decided to concentrate on visual art full-time. Art has always been my dream career and I do not regret quitting education. Since 2016, I have been in the visual art industry and I do not regret it. I earn between Sh25,000 and Sh30,000 every month, which enables me to cover my essential expenses.

To set myself apart and excel in my work, I ensure I remain committed to producing quality art items that have an emotional touch. 

Word of mouth, social media, and active participation in exhibitions are my primary marketing channels. When pricing my artworks, I consider factors like size, type, and complexity. 

The value extends beyond the physical piece; it encapsulates the story and personal experience intertwined within the creation. I have a shop in Naivas Ruaraka, and a digital footprint on all social media platforms. 

Selling on online marketplaces like and Jiji has also helped me expand my reach. To fellow artists, my advice is simple: Overcome your fears and embrace your talent. Focus on improving every day, and be patient because success doesn’t come in one day. Art can open doors to unexpected opportunities and experiences. In essence, art is life.

Caroline Awino, 20
Pedicure and Manicurist 

My dream career was to become a doctor. But after completing my Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) in 2021, I didn’t continue with my education due to financial constraints. However, I made a conscious decision not to succumb to despair.

I had so many bills to pay, but this did not discourage me. Instead, it fueled my determination to carve a niche for myself in the beauty industry. At the age of 19, I embarked on my journey into the beauty world.  

I work at a nail bar in Nairobi CBD, and each day I ensure I offer exceptional services to my clients. I am paid on commission. I arrive at work around 7am every day, and my departure time is based on the number of customers I see during the day. 

Being a pedicure and manicure expert in this bustling town demands creativity and a proactive approach, otherwise you won’t attract customers. I often stand outside the beauty shop or even stroll along the streets trying to find clients. 

Once I secure a customer, I bring them to the shop, offer my services diligently, and then set out to find the next one. Once the client pays for the service, I give the shop owner 50 per cent of the agreed amount and remain with the rest. 

It is sometimes hard to find clients, but I find satisfaction in my work as I have never gone home with less than Sh1,000, even on slow days. On good days, I can make as much as Sh5,000. 

What sets me apart is my commitment to offering superior services.  I use my own tools and prioritise hygiene by sanitising them frequently using soap and disinfectants. 

The inviting ambiance of our shop makes it easier to get clients, but the journey is not without hurdles. We work in a very competitive environment because there are so many people offering the same services. 

Also, I sometimes get into trouble with city council askaris who treat me like a hawker when I go out to look for customers. 
I charge between Sh1,000 and Sh2,500 for my services. I have aspirations to further my education and join college this year to enhance my skills and knowledge in fashion and design.

 I believe that many young people are flocking to Nairobi due to the abundant job opportunities it offers. My advice to fellow youth is to ground themselves in creativity and determination. I urge them to break free from idleness.

Kennedy Muchagi, 24, is a Photographer/Videographer in Nairobi CBD.
Photo credit: Pool

Kennedy Muchagi, 24

I studied mechanical production engineering and have a degree to show for it, but I wasn’t fortunate to find a job after graduating. 

I sent so many Curriculum Vitae (CVs) to various companies, but that yielded little. The few companies that responded offered poor remuneration and I felt discouraged. 

I quickly realised my heart was not in getting employed, rather, I was built to be an entrepreneur. I love doing business. 
However, I lacked direction. My passion for photography began during a period of idleness, when I had just finished school and was struggling to find employment. 

While walking along the streets of Nairobi, I noticed group of photographers at work, taking pictures of passersby and putting them on frames. I decided to take a photo, and I was so pleased with the experience that I vowed to try my hand in photography. My father owned a camera, and this was the  catalyst for this newfound passion. 

I borrowed his camera and embarked on a journey that has come to redefine my career path. I lead a team of photographers who include Eddy Ochieng’ who is the accountant, Jonson Mugendi (Director of Operations) and Anderson Asava who is the Marketing Manager. My role goes beyond capturing images. It involves making decisions that significantly impact our projects.
I draw so much satisfaction from capturing unique shots. While selecting backgrounds for clients, I consider iconic landmarks such as the Kenyatta International Conference Centre (KICC), I&M Bank, or panoramic city views. The choice of background, much like the act of spicing up a dish, adds a distinct flavour to the photographs.

Establishing a photography business comes with its own set of challenges, particularly the financial strain of acquiring and maintaining equipment. However, my strategy is centred on determination and prayer. I rely fully on divine provision. 

I stay in one spot in the CBD every day, which helps my clients find me easily. There are so many opportunities for aspiring photographers. You can sell your photos to Amazon and other international platforms, or make money through content creation. 

In future, I hope to open a company that prints T-shirts, and later, to establish a studio so that I can expand my reach even further. 

My dream was to be an engineer and I’m glad I took the course because it taught me more than just technical skills. It helped me develop strong communication and networking abilities. I don’t think my time in school was wasted.

I make an average of Sh100,000 per month which meets my needs and allows me to enjoy life comfortably.