What you need to know:
- Her love for the pen always saw her emerge top of her class in English and composition writing. This resulted in a close relationship with her then-English teacher.
- Her message to young girls with burning ambitions is to stick to them and work tirelessly towards their realisation.
From her schooling days at Giathieko Primary in Githunguri, Kiambu County, Susan Waithera Njau loved one thing—writing.
Her love for the pen always saw her emerge top of her class in English and composition writing. She became the favourite of her then-English teacher.
When she joined Kanjai Secondary School, the script was no different. But this time, she also fell in love with literature. In an interview with Nation.Africa, Susan reveals that this would see her develop an interest in journalism.
She would become chairperson of the school’s journalism club.
After secondary education, contrary to the wishes of many young people, she opted not to work for media houses as a reporter. Her goal was to start her own magazine, a platform that would help her tell stories about people and society.
However, there was a problem. She did not have the capital that was required to start and run a magazine. Armed with only a burning dream, she approached her aunt to lend her some money to enable her to start the project.
The aunt was impressed but did not have the money she requested. And so, determined to support her niece realise her goal, she took a Sh100,000 loan from her chama and gave it to her.
And in 2014 while only aged 19, Susan produced her first copy of the Favourite magazine. Apart from being the founder, she became its editor-in-chief.
To start with, she produced 300 copies, which she sold for Sh300 each. The number, she says, has since increased steadily.
The Favourite is a registered quarterly social magazine that, among other stories, tell focusses on compelling life experiences, entrepreneurship, healthy living, fashion, mentorship and spirituality.
“It was the happiest moment in my life when I was finally able to publish the first edition of the magazine. I could not believe that I had finally achieved my dreams,” Ms Njau says.
Despite making a major stride in her entrepreneurship journey, she would, however, realise that the hard part was just about to start.
She had no ready market, thus had to employ a robust marketing campaign and strategy to have her project succeed.
It was a tough assignment, she recalls, though she managed to sell all the copies. From the Sh90,000 sales, she gave Sh40,000 to her aunt, as the first repayment tranche.
However, instead of producing the second edition, she used the remaining Sh50,000 and some more cash her parents gave her to enrol for a diploma in journalism course at Media Art Institute.
“I thought that pursuing a course in journalism would help to sharpen my writing and administrative skills and give me an understanding of the media career in general. It was the best decision I have ever made,” she says.
This move meant that for the two years she was undertaking her studies, she suspended the magazine project. She has since acquired another diploma in ICT.
In 2016, after the completion of her studies, she revived the project. But the capital problem returned to haunt her after she used all her money to finance her studies.
However, luck was on her side. A friend introduced her to some two businessmen, who, after a meeting, gave her two adverts, which helped raise the money needed to publish the magazine.
It was a breakthrough for her after publishing the second edition. She has never turned back ever since and now has 18 editions to her name.
And even though she has yet to marshal enough resources to get a physical office, this has not deterred her. She has converted her house into a workstation.
After conducting interviews, this is where she does the writing and editing, before sending the stories to a designer.
Celebrities who have been covered in the magazine include Catherine Ndereba, a popular Kenyan marathoner; Johnson Mwakazi, a prominent broadcast journalist; and gospel musician Jimmy Gait.
The budding 28-year-old entrepreneur-cum-journalist, however, reveals that the journey to the top has not been rosy.
Being a young woman, she has had to face rejection and dismissal from potential clients and people she intends to interview.
“I have had instances where some people ask me if this is really my brainchild. Some even go to the extent of telling me that there must be another invisible hand behind it. There are those who believe that a woman cannot come up with such an idea and execute it successfully,” she says.
High expectation from people, she notes, has been another major challenge, with the majority of those who know she owns a magazine having at times unrealistic expectation of her.
She terms the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in the country in March 2020 as one of the most trying times for her business.
There were no clients to advertise and sales dropped drastically. However, as the pandemic continued and the government imposed lockdowns, Ms Njau says sales went up as people opted to read a lot while at home.
She says determination to succeed and leave a mark in life is what drives her. She says the struggles she encountered while growing up in Giathieko village cannot allow her to give up on her dreams.
Through her project, she has already given jobs directly to at least seven people, who include the designer, photographers, marketers and vendors. She plans to expand the team by hiring reporters and editors as the magazine continues to grow.
She thanks her parents and former English teacher in high school for being some of her main supporters and mentors.
In the next 10 years, Susan is optimistic that the Favourite will become a continental magazine, if not a global publication.
She is also hopeful of acquiring a publishing firm to help other up-and-coming writers like her. Her message to young girls with burning ambitions is to stick to them and work tirelessly towards their realisation.
“For them to succeed, they just need to avoid the naysayers, bad company and stop being copycats but stick to their dreams,” she says.
The magazine has since seen her acquire a new name. Relatives, friends and clients now refer to her as Suzie Favourite. She has gladly embraced the nickname.