Mary Njoki: I was dismissed from work via SMS, now I own a PR company

Mary Njoki

Mary Njoki is the CEO of Glass House PR. A nasty experience at her former workplace prompted her to start her own company at a young age. 

Photo credit: Pool

I started my company at the age of 23 after my boss fired me through a text message. I was working in a small company and my boss would routinely fire people through SMS. I also was not performing at my best.

Raised in a rural village, my dreams of pursuing a career in technology seemed out of reach due to financial constraints, yet I was determined to succeed.

After high school, I was unable to afford fees to study computer science in university, which is what I wanted, so I settled for a Bachelor’s degree in Information Technology (BIT) while working part-time at a software company. I was just 19 years old by then.

Little did I know that this job would lead me down an unexpected path. When I joined the software company, I thought I would work in production, programming and software development, but that was not the case. I was posted in the marketing department.

I found myself interacting with small business owners while selling software products. During this time I stumbled upon Business Networking International (BNI), a networking platform for business owners.

Through BNI, I gained exposure and a platform to showcase our offerings, and this ignited in me a new passion for networking and business development.

As a result, I transitioned to a second company at the age of 22 which was selling hardware and networking solutions. I struggled to do the work and started wondering what my purpose in life was.

At this point, I discovered the world of Public Relations and image consulting. I explored my curiosity as I volunteered with K-Krew Ministries, a Christian outfit that empowers young people to achieve their dreams, and we did a lot of concerts and school visits.

Working with young people

Although I wasn’t getting paid, I enjoyed the activities at K-Krew more than my paid job because I enjoyed working with young people.

When the unfortunate happened and I was abruptly dismissed from my job, I discovered my true calling, and it lay in media relations and events management.

Through K-Krew, I had met a woman who owned a PR firm and asked if I could work for her. I enrolled at Daystar University in 2010 and took a degree course in PR to better grasp the concept.

I worked for four months at the woman’s PR firm, and the real test came when we got an assignment with JICA, a Japanese firm, and the Nairobi City Council where I was tasked with handling media relations.

I researched what the task entailed, I Googled how to write a press release and boom! Remember the networks I had established at K-Krew? A majority of them were in the media industry.

I shared my first press release with them and all media houses covered the event. I still remember how amazing it felt. The client was so impressed.

As a result, my mind went wild and I started envisioning how PR could be integrated with technology in the fast-growing IT space in Kenya. Nobody seemed to grasp my idea.

My narrative became “The future of PR”. I left my job at age 23 to heed to the inner voice that kept whispering that I was made for more.

With a laptop I had been given and a Sh6,000 modem I purchased, I went back to the village in 2012 and started a PR firm that focused on social media marketing.

This is how I founded Glass House PR. Our mission is to redefine PR in Africa through innovation.

Despite facing initial challenges, including unreliable internet access in my rural home town, I persevered. I leveraged my IT background to establish an online presence and attract clients.

As I embarked on the journey of entrepreneurship, I took a leap of faith. I borrowed Sh800 from a friend and used it to register Glass House PR. Drawing from my IT background, I established my online presence and launched our marketing campaign on social media.

Pro-bono projects

Initially, I undertook numerous pro-bono projects that helped me develop my skills. My first paying client offered to pay Sh5,000 monthly, which marked a significant milestone. Back in 2012, the PR landscape in Africa was still nascent, with many equating PR solely with events management.

However, I persisted in advocating for a more strategic approach, emphasising its integration with other disciplines like technology.

I firmly believe that automation is the future of PR, and in 2016, I began developing a PR software, which I aim to further enhance.

One of my passions lies in nurturing startups, walking alongside entrepreneurs, and contributing to their growth journey. The satisfaction of witnessing their transformation and aiding them in overcoming challenges is unparalleled.

Women possess immense potential to drive innovation and foster inclusivity, from grassroots to executive levels.

At Glass House PR, the majority of our team comprises talented women, whose ingenuity and dedication inspire me daily. I am deeply committed to empowering and mentoring women of all ages.

My vision is to become synonymous with impactful and innovative communication across Africa. I aspire to instil a mindset of clarity and discernment, cutting through the noise and fostering meaningful change in individuals and systems alike.

For me, success is not just about personal achievement, it is about driving meaningful change and inspiring others to pursue their passions.