For these four students, their career paths are already set

Not all college students spend their free time in leisure activities. Some have set themselves apart by engaging in moneymaking ventures while in school. PHOTOS | COURTESY PHOTO | FILE| NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • In a month I make an average of Sh72, 000. I use part of this money to pay my school fees and also to help my parents.
  • In a month, I make an average of Sh200,000, which I use to buy the equipment I need to improve the quality of content on my channel.

  • I have been in this business for four months, and I make an average of Sh25,000 every month.

Not all college students spend their free time in leisure activities. Some, like Maxine, Kyllan, Tess and Mumbi, have set themselves apart by engaging in moneymaking ventures while in school.

As they engage in activities which they are passionate about, the four are building their unique brands, making money, and gaining valuable work experience, all at the same time.

They have elevated themselves to a place where after graduation, unemployment won’t be the first monster they will need to confront.


Tess Kori.

From the first day I joined Kagumo Girls’ secondary school, I knew I was destined to be an air hostess. However, when I completed high school, my parents lacked money to see me through college.

My saving grace came in the form of a scholarship to study food and beverage production at the Christian Training Institute in Thika. Even though it was not what I wanted, I felt that it was better than staying at home doing nothing.

In my first year, I volunteered to design dresses for a friend who wanted to model at the school’s cultural night. She ended up becoming the best model in that event.

Her victory made me aware of my potential. I signed up for Miss Thika auditions even though I had little experience. I passed all tests done on my background, social media accounts and character. When it came to the actual modelling, however, I didn’t perform very well.

Thankfully, Ruth Opanga, the CEO of Vintage models, asked to meet me after the auditions. She offered to train me ahead of an upcoming pageant. Her influence was the spark that lit up my modelling career.

I attended training sessions in Ruth’s studio, where I had access to all the models I needed. Under her wings I honed my skills as a model. From mastery of confidence to how to strut down the catwalk, her influence was valuable.

By 2016, I had honed my skills and I participated in the Mr and Ms Thika beauty pageant. But even after doing my best, I  did not win. I was only recognised as the best model with the best creative wear.

By the time Mr and Ms Kipaji announced auditions, I had lost hope. However, I signed up and did my best in that pageant, and I ended up winning!

This success reignited my dream of being an air hostess. I completed my two-year training in food and beverage production in 2017, but I did not look for a job in that field.

With the guidance of my elder brother, I started working as an online marketer and a professional model.

In January 2019, with savings from my modelling and marketing jobs, I enrolled at the Kenya Aeronautical College where I am currently taking a course in Airline Cabin Crew.

I still run my online marketing business while working as a model. I use my Instagram page its_tesskori for marketing because it is effective and easy of use. To juggle between school and business, I simply plan my days well.

In a month I make an average of Sh72, 000. I use part of this money to pay my school fees and also to help my parents. I also invest in building my personal brand and the rest goes into my savings account.

Even though working while still in school has its challenges, the financial security it has offered me far outweighs those challenges. I am no longer worried about being jobless, and I don’t waste my time in school engaging in activities that don’t add value to my life.


Maxine Wabosha.

In my first year of university studying mechanical engineering, my life alternated between attending classes and staying at home. It was until I took a friend to audition with Spell Cast Media that my life took a different turn. Just before the audition, my friend developed cold feet and I decided to audition with her as a show of support.

Surprisingly, we both got drafted in the cast and thus began my ongoing career in acting. During my time at Spell Cast Media, I auditioned for an acting role for a play, but I didn’t make the cut. To be part of the play, I was told to come in as a singer.

Apart from being a singer, the organisers asked me to be in charge of make-up during the production. It was an interesting turn of events because at the time, I had no experience in make-up application. I never even used much make-up myself!

I got two of my friends to help me and together we did the make-up for the entire cast. Even though I was not being paid, I was happy to do it. I had so much fun. Our work was so good that the production manager asked me to take charge of the cast’s make-up for the next plays, and this time round, they paid me.

After the first show, it became clear that make-up application was where my passion lay. During my long holiday that year, I took make-up and beauty classes at Make-up by Rose and was certified as a professional make-up artist. During the production of the Cinderella play, I did the casts’ make-up at Sh1,000 per show. That officially kicked started my career as a professional make-up artist.

As I established myself as a professional, a friend asked me to show her how to fill in her eyebrows. I recorded a video to guide her, but I was unable to send the video via WhatsApp because it was too long. So I ended up uploading it for her on YouTube.

I was so excited after posting the video, that I shared the link with my parents. They in turn shared it with their friends who also shared it in other circles and within no time, the video had accumulated about 1,000 views.

This response surprised me so much since I had never thought that people were interested in such videos. I got requests for more videos, which I did and uploaded on my YouTube channel, Wabosha Maxine.

When I started that channel, I wasn’t even aware that I could make money from YouTube. I was posting videos as a hobby. Initially, I used my phone to record the videos, placing my phone on a window sill so that the shots could be stable. The shooting itself was a great challenge because I could only do it between 10am and 4pm when there was sufficient light.

But success did not come instantly. Not even within a month. For one year, I consistently put out videos but they received little attention. It took me another year before I got my first cheque of Sh10, 000 from YouTube.

I have been running my channel since September 2016, and so far I have over 86,000 subscribers, and have posted 224 videos. Each day is a learning experience for me because I do most of the work on my own, be it shooting or editing. I am also a social media influencer and a brand ambassador for a number of companies.

In a month, I make an average of Sh200,000, which I use to buy the equipment I need to improve the quality of content on my channel. I save the rest.

As a YouTube content creator, originality and consistency is key when building your brand. If you are consistent, YouTube extends your videos to wider audiences.

I am currently in my fifth year of study and just about to graduate with a degree in mechanical engineering. However, I feel that I have found my passion, and I will keep doing it even after graduation. I won’t pursue engineering, but I believe the degree will be useful in my future endeavours.


Mumbi Macharia.

Spoken word has been close to my heart from the time I was in high school. My journey began at the Nairobi International School just before I completed my secondary school education.

I first performed spoken word at an inter-school competition, from which I was disqualified, nevertheless, I received a standing ovation from the audience.

When my school’s representative in a poetry writing competition dropped out of the competition, my teacher of English reached out and asked me to give it a try. At the time, I had no experience in writing poems, but I took the challenge.

I did not want to recite just another regular poem. I wanted to tell a story from my own experiences and I needed it to rhyme and have a good flow. For me, spoken word is a fusion of music and poetry.

When other contestants saw my poem, I was disqualified because the category I was competing in required contestants to come up with original compositions.

I, however, stayed on until the last person had performed. After the awards ceremony, the master of ceremony invited me to perform my piece, which had earlier been disqualified.

That was my maiden performance and the poem was titled ‘A Stained Wedding Dress’. Again, I got a standing ovation from the audience even though the piece was somewhat unusual.

Three years ago when I joined Riara University to study Law, I started looking for people who loved spoken word as much as I did.

My first home was at the Kwani? Open Mic which is held every first Tuesday of the month. There I met Cindy Ogana who made me believe I was a good performer.

From Kwani?, another poet introduced me to Poetry After Lunch (PAL) which is held  every Thursday at the Kenya Cultural Center, where I met people who set my poetry career rolling.

In that same year, I auditioned in Slam Africa, a spoken word competition, and made it. After several attempts, I emerged second runners up. Even though I didn’t win the competition, the program played a big role in defining my career as a poet.

In early 2018, my poems started gaining popularity, but people did not know who I was until I performed at Churchill Show.

My journey has not been a bed of roses. Writers’ Block is a serious issue for me. Being a female artist and also a student, is also not easy. People sometimes doubt my ability and underestimate me, but I take every challenge positively and use it to improve my skills.

I am proud to have built my brand while still in school, to the point where I get invited to perform in high profile events. I have released an album, KenyanShiling, which can be found on my Instagram page @kenyanshilling.

As I wait to graduate, I spend my time performing and also offering lessons to high school students who are interested in poetry. I also visit children’s homes to spend time with underprivileged children.


Kyllan Qyto.

When I was a freshman at Kenyatta University, I had a lot of free time in my hands, and I spent most of it sleeping and watching movies.

One day, a friend who was writing academic papers at the time bought me an expensive perfume as a birthday present. I was very thankful, but I envied her ability to spend such a large amount of money.

Later, when my mother returned home from South Africa, she brought back the equipment she used in her salon, showed me different types of nail art techniques, and then left the equipment with me. I wasn’t keen on nail art business at the time, and I even considered selling the equipment.

But my friend’s birthday was just around the corner, and I could not afford a gift. So I offered to decorate her nails. With no prior experience, I was very slow. However, she was impressed with the results and I ended up painting two of her roommates’ nails.

I was so encouraged when I saw the satisfaction that others drew from my work, I started decorating my classmates’ nails for free just so I could improve my skill.

I also watched numerous videos on YouTube about nail art application, and afterwards I practised my new skills on my friends’ nails.

While doing my research, I discovered a new technique called polygel. Unlike acrylics and stick-ons, Polygel does not use glue. It is also very light and does not damage one’s nails.

I shared the video with my mother and she was so fascinated, she lent me money to buy the equipment I needed to start doing nails using the polygel technique. I practised the new technique on my friends’ nails and when I mastered the art, I attached a fee to my services.

Starting out on marketing was my biggest challenge. My clients were mainly students, so I would walk around with a placard hung on my chest to advertise my services. The results were not so good. I was banned from doing that inside the school compound.

I then opened an Instagram account called qiqi.nails on which I posted my work. After a while, clients began contacting me through Instagram. To expand my reach, I paid for my pictures and posts to be promoted by Instagram.

Polygel is still a new and expensive technique, however, I offer this service for Sh2,000. To gain even more advantage over my competitors, I meet my clients at their preferred location.

Being open-minded has helped me a lot. My clients choose their designs from my Instagram pictures. If I am not familiar with a certain pattern, I practice until I master the skill. That way, I am able to satisfy my clients’ desires.

I have been in this business for four months, and I make an average of Sh25,000 every month. Within the first two months, I cleared a debt of Sh50,000 that I owed my mum.

This job has enabled me to rent a place of my own and to furnish it. I look forward to growing the business, and even after I complete my Bachelor’s degree in Medical Laboratory Sciences, I will continue to focus on my business.


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