What you need to know:
- I left my flight attendant role through the infamous Kenya Airways retrenchment back in 2012 and was out of work for about two years.
- Within one year I had hit rock bottom; with a dragging court case, no stable income source, and the stress of having to drastically downgrade my former lifestyle.
In life, everything is a lesson that could potentially set you up for a time of strife or struggle. For Daisy Nyaga, a retrenchment that left her out of work also gave her the roadmap for managing career setbacks. She took it as a chance to educate others, “To build fall back plans for themselves, be and do more beyond their jobs, and up their money management.”
Shall we start with when you got retrenched and what that was like for you?
I left my flight attendant role through the infamous Kenya Airways retrenchment back in 2012 and was out of work for about two years. Within one year I had hit rock bottom; with a dragging court case, no stable income source, and the stress of having to drastically downgrade my former lifestyle.
I didn’t have any emergency funds, so I had to dispose of my car and move to a very cheap house. Putting meals together was a challenge and noodles became a lifeline at a cost of only Sh 25…with 50 bob I could afford one packet of noodles for my then two and six-year-old girls and one cup of street githeri for me and my house help.
If we had potatoes and or greens, we would fry the githeri but if not, we would have it with cocoa. If I was lucky enough to get 100 bob, that extra 50 meant I had breakfast guaranteed- mandazi and chai.
Those first two years were truly harrowing for you and your daughters. Was there no light to be found?
Well as rough as 2012 was 2013 was particularly hard because the decline continued... I had no support and the little money I had was heavily strained to meet basic daily needs.
But in 2014 the restoration began. I got a part-time customer service job in a firm along State House road. I can’t forget the brisk walks I took three days a week to reach my workplace.
Because I was low on cash, I found out that very early morning fares are cheap so I would attend Morning Glory service by 6.15 am then start my walk towards the office at 7.30 am- in my heels and suits that I had bought abroad! The irony!
God’s favour followed me and three months into the job, I was hired full time and assigned a brand new Probox to use in the evening. After the salespeople ended their day, I’d drive home. Life was getting better, although it was nowhere near what I had been accustomed to.
What a turnaround! Did things continue to progress?
Yes, and No. In 2014 I opted out of the retrenchment case and with the ‘little’ package I received I invested in import business. I imported electric lunch boxes, and this did well for one and a half. But it late 2016 or early 2017 when my goods got stuck at the port, I lost Sh1,000,000.
I went into a depression. My losses were my retrenchment dues plus my ploughed back profits. I was also left with a couple of bad business debts which I have been repaying over the last two or three years. It’s a painful debt to pay.
I’m sorry you went through that! You mention a salary though, which means you made it through yet again. How?
I was depressed due to my business and money loss, but I kept thinking to myself that I need to share my story, especially with employees. I wanted to challenge them to build fall back plans, to be and do more beyond their jobs, and up their money management.
I was therefore inspired to write a book in 2017 titled ‘Beyond 8 to 5- Critical lessons by a Retrenchee’ which I self-published in 2018 amidst a lot of opposition and discouragement.
This like everything else was not easy. As I had been pushed back into employment, I found work as a service delivery manager. I would arrive at the office in Westlands from my house in Thika by 7 am to write my book then after everyone had left, I would sometimes stay behind until 7 pm to continue writing.
I still remember shedding tears for my lost million on the 5.15 am buses I took… but the sacrifice has paid off in ways I never Imagined!
That was quite an undertaking! Tell us some of the ways it paid off?
Before the pandemic, I had started offering personal financial management training sessions on the weekends but after the pandemic hit, I had to cancel all the physical training as neither I nor the participants could travel. This new development has inspired me to launch a free digital magazine, through which I continue to empower individuals.
In the pandemic, the book's relevance is more pronounced as this crisis has left many people suddenly laid off or on unpaid leave. Even very successful business owners have had to close their businesses- denying them their daily revenues, which were almost guaranteed before.
When I wrote the book, it was just to share my story and inspire other employees, but I continue to get clarity, pursue, and explore the endless opportunities that lie around the content of my book. It is a developing, evolving dream.
That takes us back to what you mentioned about being and doing more. Tell me more about how you’ve achieved that?
To actualise the digital magazine, I had to utilise part of my emergency funds because with no prior experience in the magazine space, it was necessary to engage an established magazine publisher through whom experts contribute content in the areas of career development, personal growth, investments, money management, and entrepreneurship.
Engaging experts and professionals mean you’ve got to pay for their valuable services. But It is an investment I don’t regret making.
I have also gone a step further to build and automate a business system around my book and magazine. Without my direct involvement, people can order, pay, and receive their book orders as well as subscribe and read the digital magazine. Being in a full-time engaging job, automation is a milestone I am proud of!
You’ve mentioned all your other ventures and revenue streams maybe now we can talk about your 9-5. What is your current position? And has it been affected by the pandemic?
I am Head of Operations at a credit financing company that offers affordable tailor-made business loans to business owners.
I count it a great blessing that I have not been stranded. In fact, despite the dwindling business revenue and uncertainty, my employer went out of their way to provide packed lunch for every working staff. This very kind gesture has been offered from April to date.
Furthermore, working from home is a refreshing experience. I finally managed to set up my vertical kitchen garden; an idea that may never have crossed my mind were it not for Covid-19.
You’ve had quite an extraordinary trajectory. What advice do you have for other people dealing with redundancy?
As Mark Twain said, twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do, than by the things you did. So, throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sail. Explore. Dream. Discover!