It is often said that women are the real architects of society. Over the years, women have made ground-breaking achievements that have set the pace and are an example for other women to follow. Women now continue making huge strides in different capacities in society proving that they too are smart, intelligent, shrewd, and can be equally successful in what was previously termed as male-dominated industries. These capacities include leadership, development, politics, and many more. The corporate world is therefore no exception. Now more than ever, the number of women-run businesses in Kenya is steadily on the rise.
Highlighted below are ten of some of the most successful businesses in Kenya run by women;
1. KEROCHE BREWERIES
Keroche Breweries is the second-largest alcoholic beverage manufacturer and brewer in Kenya. Keroche was founded in 1997 by Tabitha Karanja who is the current CEO of the company. Tabitha Karanja pioneered in founding the first alcoholic beverage company owned by a woman thus setting an example for the modern woman striving to start a business in a male-dominated industry.
Tabitha Karanja is one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the Kenyan business having scaled great heights by owning the first solely Kenyan-owned alcoholic beverage company since over the years the alcoholic beverage company has been dominated by multinationals, for instance, the East Africa Breweries Limited. Tabitha Karanja started off small and faced a couple of challenges including a lack of willing investors and financiers when she required starting capital but maneuvered past it to become the owner of the successful woman she is now.
2. KENYA ELECTRICITY GENERATING COMPANY (Kengen)
Kengen, the largest producer of electricity in East Africa is managed and run by Rebecca Miano. Rebecca Miano, is a Kenyan law school graduate, and the corporate executive is the current Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Managing Director of Kengen. She is the first woman to hold this leadership position in the company’s history since it was established in 1954. She has made massive improvements in the company and had great achievements one of them is generating great profits of almost 8billion after taxation for Kengen. Under her leadership, Kengen has been put on the global map having it ranked the 7th largest geothermal producer in the world.
3. MELVIN’S TEA
Melvins tea is a tea company started off from scratch about 20 years ago by Flora Mutahi. Flora Mutahi is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Melvins Tea and had started it off initially as Melvins Flow Salt in 1995. Once she realized that the salt did not bring in as many profits as she expected she decided to venture into tea manufacturing since she noticed the industry was monopolized at that time by KETEPA. Melvins Tea was the first tea company to offer ready-flavored tea. Flora Mutahi currently runs one of the most successful tea companies in Kenya that produces quality flavored tea and was awarded the best female CEO award 2017 in the top 100 mid-size companies.
Besides being the founder and CEO of Melvins Tea, Flora Mutahi has also been the Vice-Chair of COMESA Business Council, Chair at Kenya Association of Manufacturer (2016 to mid-2018), Director Azizi Realtors Limited, Board Member of Jubilee Insurance, and Board Member of United Nations Global Compact. The phenomenal woman also runs a non-profit organization known as Seed of Hope as a way to give back to the community as its mission is the improvement of the living conditions of the people living in Kibera Slums.
4. MARINI NATURALS
Marini Naturals is a natural hair care line products company founded and run by Michelle Ntalami in 2015. The co-founder of Marini naturals is also a phenomenal woman known Niyati Patel and together they have grown this company into the successful business it is now.
Michelle Ntalami is a graduate from the Nairobi University with a degree in Design and Communication and did her postgraduate studies in Interior Design at Florence Design Academy, Italy. She had always wanted to start her own business and she realized that getting good natural hair products for her natural hair within Kenya was getting hectic and expensive as she had to order them from abroad. This inspired her to start making a few for herself and her friends using natural products.
This was how her idea for Marini Naturals was born which now sells both within Africa and in France & Turkey making sales of about 50,000 bottles per month. The 36-year-old woman is truly making moves in the industry.
5. KENYA WOMEN HOLDINGS (KWH)
Kenya Women Holdings is a non-profit microfinance organization set to help marginalized and empower low-income generating women by offering convenient banking, free education, and training on finance thus promoting financial literacy and also innovative solutions. Dr. Jennifer Riria, the Group Chief Executive Officer of this financial institution is a microfinance banker and gender specialist therefore it is no surprise how committed she is to transform the lives of women in Kenya.
KWH was awarded the 2020 Global SME Silver award in the Best Bank for Women Entrepreneurs category. It is the only financial institution that solely deals with women clients only thus making it quite unique and one of the most successful microfinance banks in Kenya. Dr. Jennifer Riria is also a researcher and has been awarded the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year award in 2013 and 2014. She has managed to help over 400,000 women thus helping women scale to greater heights in innovation and entrepreneurship.
6. MAWAZO INSTITUTE
Mawazo Institute, a non-profit research organization founded and led by women is situated in Nairobi, Kenya. Mawazo Institute was founded in 2017 by two phenomenal female scientists in Kenya one of them being Rose Mutiso and the other Racheal Strohm. Their aim is to support women in research and address the gap in gender diversity in the field of science and other disciplines.
The institute offers Ph.D., public engagement, and policy programs to its scholars. These programs give an opportunity to women to participate in policymaking, be problem solvers to issues affecting continental development, and most importantly actively take part & conduct research projects. Since Mawazo Institute is run by women, they have designed a great learning program that acknowledges the challenges that come with being a working woman who is still studying. The program, therefore, provides its scholars with mentorship, training, and funding so as to see women succeeding just like they have. Rose Mutiso and Rachel Strohm are doing a great job at looking out for the innovative potential and education of the modern woman.
7. GLASSHOUSE PR
Glasshouse public relations agency is a company that was started by an exceptional lady, Mary Njoki when she was just 23 years old. The independent agency offers a myriad of services thus depending on the request of their clients, they then work on coming up with a customized approach for each. Glasshouse PR deals with Digital Communication, Public Relations, Crisis Management, Brand Management, Media Relations, and PR training. Before starting the business Mary Njoki was initially doing data entry jobs at Graffins College.
The breakthrough of the business happened gradually over 6 years when it later became a top PR business competing with big companies in the game such as Ogilvy in the PR industry. Mary Njoki in 2018, was named one of the phenomenal women in Amazon Watch’s Top 40 women under 40 and awards like the Most Innovative Agency in Digital Communication and Media Management from Global Insight.
8. KENYA ASSOCIATION OF MANUFACTURERS (KAM)
This is a private organization that deals with the representation of various value-add industries thus offering a common voice for these businesses. The Chief Executive Officer of this entity is Phyllis Wakiaga who is a Kenyan lawyer and corporate executive holding a Masters degree in International Trade & Investment law. Phyllis Wakiaga has served as CEO of the Kenya Association of Manufacturers since 2015.
However, before becoming the CEO, she was first the head of the Policy Research and Advocacy Unit. She is definitely making huge strides in the corporate world having worked at Kenya Airways as the manager for governments and industry affairs before joining KAM.
9.INTERNATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE PHONOGRAPHIC INDUSTRY (IFPI)
This is a non-profit organization that helps its members in-licensing and generation of value for their music in various channels across the globe. The IFPI is responsible for the worldwide representation of the interests of the recording industry. The IFPI recently opened a Sub Saharan Regional Office whose headquarters are in Nairobi, Kenya. This regional office is headed by the learned and amazing lady Angela Ndambuki who will now be responsible for championing issues affecting the local music industry in 46 countries of the African continent. Angela Ndambuki holds a Master’s degree in Intellectual Property Law and headed in various capacities before landing a great job at IFPI.
Before appointment as head in 2020, Angela Ndambuki worked as the Chief Executive Officer of the Performers’ Rights Society of Kenya (PRISK) and also CEO of the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Most people know her as a former member of the Tatuu singing trio that rocked the Kenyan sound waves in the 2000s. Angela Ndambuki was recognized as one of the 100 most reputable Africans by reputation poll in 2018. Her extensive experience in strategic decision making, leadership, and great education credentials has landed her great job opportunities in the industry.
Safaricom is the leading telecommunications company in Kenya since it has the greatest and strongest network coverage within the country. Safaricom has been noted to be one of the most profitable companies in East and Central Africa. Sylvia Wairimu Mulinge is a Kenyan businesswoman who is the current Chief Customer Officer at Safaricom. She is a trustee of the Kenyan Corporate Venture Fund for entrepreneurs and a three-time awardee of the Top 40 under 40 most influential women.
Sylvia Mulinge was appointed the powerful post head of all customer service and engagement in Safaricom in 2018 after having secured a position as managing director at Vodacom Tanzania but failing to get a work permit. Sylvia Mulinge is responsible for brand marketing & experience, consumer business sales operations, customer service, and digital marketing development.
11. MAMA ROCKS (HONORABLE MENTION)
rs Sisters Natalie and Samantha Mwedekeli took their love of tasty food and their Kenyan and Nigerian roots and turned it into Mama Rocks, one of the first street food vendors in the vibrant city of Nairobi.
Mama Rocks serves up burgers and dishes that represent different parts of the continent and Natalie Mwedekeli explains why they chose to take their product to the streets of Nairobi: “It’s a merger of Africa and the West kind of together in one product… We decided on a food truck because we wanted to reach as many people as possible to try and get feedback about whether or not this would go down well.”
Having been founded in 2016 and consulted with restaurant owners in the build-up, the food truck concept also proved to be a substantial cost saver for the start-up.
Both sisters gave up their traditional 9 to 5 jobs to take the risk of founding Mama Rocks and have heavily utilised social media as well as their street presence to promote themselves.
Having founded the business to represent the whole of Africa, Samantha explains why they started their journey in the Kenyan capital: “We chose Nairobi because we’ve been traveling to Kenya every year since we were 17 years old, and it felt like a second home to us. It seemed like a natural place to start… We wanted to really create an African brand that represented modern Africa and its potential.”