How Wayua weaved her dream into reality

By , People Daily Digital
Saturday, January 15th, 2022 00:05 | 4 mins read

The dream of every youth is to get a well-paying job, and for every fresh graduate, the hope of securing a job immediately after graduating is often the goal. Indeed, for Mercy Wayua Mugao from Thagicu sub-county Kitui County, this was not an exception.

However, after graduating from Karatina University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Agricultural Economics in 2018, she had to tarmac for one year, but she was unsuccessful.

Disappointed and frustrated, she decided to go back home and stay with her mother and wait for the doors of fortune to open.

“I kept on sending application letters to different companies but this didn’t help either as most of them never replied. Frustrated, even more, I decided to start my own business.

I wanted to start something that would sustain and cater for my needs as well as benefit society. However, this was not possible since I didn’t have capital.”

As she was still thinking about what she should do to change her fortunes, one little idea struck her as unique. She decided to try basket weaving which she was familiar with as a source of income.

“I did not obtain formal training in weaving, I learned the art through apprenticeship under the tutelage of my mother.

Together with other weavers that I work with we use traditional weaving style however, each weaver modifies the shape, size, and decorative details to create a unique piece of useful craftwork.”

She knew that it required no capital to start off since all the ingredients were within reach and free. However, she didn’t know where to sell her products, this became her Achilles’ heel. But she decided to give it a try.

Raw materials
Armed with a knife, walked for about two kilometres to the nearest river (Katse river) where the raw materials she required grew naturally.

She harvested the weeds and went back home ready to weave her first basket. This job required no formal training, so she kept weaving and weaving but had nowhere to sell the products.

Without a place to sell, some of these baskets ended up being destroyed by termites. This really discouraged her but she never gave up her resolve.
One day she decided to try and sell her products online.

The first thing she did was create a Facebook account page and named it Ndara Basket Weavers. She then invited most of her friends urging them to either like the page or purchase her products.

She was optimistic that she will make some sales from the move. Unfortunately, despite all the efforts, days turned into weeks and weeks into months without a single order.

But eight months later, she was shocked to get the first order and slowly, more orders started coming in. As time went by, demand surged and Wayua started receiving even bigger orders for different products.

She was forced to employ more women to help her do the weaving thus creating local employment.

“Apart from the raw materials from Katse river, my father has also planted some Doum-palm trees on our farm, easing access to the raw material. Since I believe that no part of the tree should go to waste, I have diversified into making furniture’s from the branches since they are some of the byproducts.”

Currently, Wayua makes an assortment of hand-woven products such as baskets, mats, planters, organizers, lampshades among others using the Doum-palm tree leaves.

She has also diversified and now makes furniture such as chairs, tables, and beds using palm branches.

Selling products online
She sells her products purely online to ensure she reaches as many customers as possible as well as to fetch better prices for her products. Her products range from Ksh100 to Ksh1000 depending on the size.

She works together with about 29 weavers and she can now be able to collectively weave about 200 pieces of the largest baskets and 1000 pieces of sizeable mats in one month.

All her products are customized and her wish is to continue the basket-weaving business even after she secures a job.

Having seen the potential of the basket weaving business, and the challenges that women face in her village, her future plan is to grow the business beyond borders and reach the international market so as to create more jobs for local artisans in her area.

She is also training people who are interested in learning this skill for free.
On challenges, she says poor infrastructure and inefficient communication networks are the major challenges she has been facing.

Lack of trust from some customers due to the fact that sells her products online has made some customers insist that they should receive the package first and pay after delivery.

Rural marginalized area
“Being located in a rural marginalized area where infrastructure is pathetic marketing has also been difficult. I have lost orders when I can’t reach my weavers to assign them to work in case an emergency order is given,” she says.

But her advice to all youths and especially opinionated graduates is that they should learn to open up their minds and see the opportunities around them.

They should not always focus on being employed but instead, they should focus on creating employment.

Her parting shot is that though the business seems rosy, craftwork is not a walk in the park, and there are many “ups and downs”. She advises that all one needs to do is to focus and have passion in what one is doing.