Rising like a phoenix

Orphaned at a tender age, Wanjiku Gituma, 32, sold tomatoes and beans at Gikomba Market to survive. PHOTO| COURTESY

What you need to know:

  • Orphaned at a tender age, Wanjiku Gituma, 32, sold tomatoes and beans at Gikomba Market to survive.
  • Now she runs a marketing firm. She shares her inspiring story with Soni Kanake.

"My name is Wanjiku Gituma and I run a marketing firm, Meticulous Marketing Limited, which specialises in below the line marketing. However, life has not always been rosy.

“I cleared high school in 2003 and scored a B- (minus), which unfortunately, was below the cut-off mark for public university. Mum was already over-stretched financially so I opted to continue with my A-levels as opposed to the option of attending parallel classes in the university.

"Mum enrolled me in Form Five in neighbouring Uganda but unfortunately, she fell ill and passed on during my first term. I was only 17 when they called me to tell me mum was gone.

That marked a new phase in my life. I'm grateful for the friends I had made in Uganda as they really stood with me. I'm glad mum had taught me to be an independent girl.

I remember she would give me my school fees and tell me to go to the bank and pay and when I asked what if it's stolen, she would tell me then I would not have money for school and thus I could not attend school. That taught me responsibility at an early age and how to take care of myself.


"After my A-levels I managed to do a diploma in public relations with the money Mum had left me. She was a single parent and now that she was gone, life took a toll on me emotionally and psychologically.

Also, being an only child can be lonely. I was allowed to access Mum's money through the High Court but the money was strictly for my education so I decided to enroll in USIU (United States International University). To take care of my personal expenses and bills, I started selling tomatoes.

I would hire a small pick-up and buy tomatoes from Subukia and take them to Gikomba Market by 3am. I would be done selling them by around 6am or 7am and ensure I was seated on my desk at USIU by 9am.

I'd probably be sitting next to a diplomat's son or daughter who had no idea my first stop was the market at the crack of dawn.

"My tomato business was doing well and I had graduated to buying them in a canter until one day it crumbled right before my eyes.

On that particular day, I had bought them at Sh600 a bag only to find them being sold at the same price in the market. I sold my tomatoes at cost price and after paying for all my expenses, I was left with a paltry Sh6,000, which I paid rent with.

“However, this was not the end of business for me and I started selling beans. I got a client who needed beans for the Pakistani market and I would buy them from Busia and Kitale and transport them to Mombasa so they could be shipped to Pakistan.

Unfortunately, due to purchasing the beans from various farmers, the quality wasn't consistent and the prices kept fluctuating. And that was how I found myself jobless again after my client stopped buying his beans from Kenya.


"By now I had already figured out I loved business, only that I wasn't sure what exactly. Mum's money ran out and I had to cut short my classes after two years in USIU. By this time I was emotionally and physically drained. Shortly after, I left for the Comoros with a friend where we sold fresh vegetables and meat though we were run out of business by cheaper Chinese products.

“I came back home and decided to invest the money. The idea was to buy a Tipper with a friend for renting out. My would-be partner told me to loan him money which he would refund later when business picked.

Needless to say, he didn't pay back and that business never saw the light of day. Frustrated, I started looking for a job. I got an internship in a PR firm before working in an agency for three years.

By end of 2015, I felt my time in employment was up and I resigned. By now I knew my line was marketing and advertising. I began to understand why my previous businesses had failed and what I would have done differently.

"Meanwhile, a client I had served while at the agency called and insisted she wanted me to handle her projects despite my telling her I no longer worked at the agency.


This was the game-changer for me... someone believed in me and I grabbed the opportunity and that is how Meticulous was born. I had initially began Meticulous with a lady friend but we soon parted ways as our visions were not aligned. Today I have a business partner who complements me and we are working towards making Meticulous a fully fledged agency.

As part of our CSR activities, we sponsor needy orphaned girls and take them back to school. I want the girl orphan to understand that being alone should be her motivation to make it in life. I encourage them to never give up.

"It is important to accept the situation one is in and not to live in denial. Deal with them, accept the mistakes, apologise and seek forgiveness and move on to brighter, better days. To survive in life and business, one has to develop a strong self-awareness.”