The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in Kenya affected many small scale businesses and Millicent Akinyi Dula’s clean cooking equipment venture was not spared. Sales from her company that sells and installs improved stoves reduced from the previous average of 20 pieces per month to 8 pieces, as most of her customers postponed buying due to reduced income as a result of the impacts of COVID-19. Her briquette production business also dropped as most institutions she had partnered with before the pandemic closed, forcing her to sell briquettes to household users who preferred buying in small quantities.
While she braved the losses incurred, Millicent explored alternative sources of livelihood to compliment income from her clean cooking equipment business and sustain herself and her family. Her children who lived and worked in the city had also lost their jobs due to the pandemic and Millicent had to step in to provide for them. Her alternative farming intervention enabled her to supply them with staple food including; bananas, cassava and sweet potatoes.
“COVID-19 slowed down both my business and personal growth and it’s true that things haven’t been easy, but I am still optimistic that all will be well as long as we’ve got life”
As months have gone by, continued business mentorship provided by the Women’s Economic Empowerment project has enabled Millicent to grow her briquette business again. With the support of the mentors, she developed new product promotion and pricing strategies. She revised the price of a tin of briquettes to KES 50 (USD 0,45), a competitive price in comparison to charcoal, which is sold for KES 70 (USD 0,64) per tin in her local area. This has increased her savings, which she used to complete a few home improvement projects for her house.
“With the little savings gained, I can now carry out my own developments without the financial input of my children as it was the norm before, and they are surprised as well”, she said.
This story has been developed by our partner Practical Action as part of our Women’s Economic Empowerment Program.