Sylvia Karega has had quite the experiences -both in her business SAS Impressions, as well as in her motherhood journey. She started a children’s salon but had to close it just six months later. She also knows the pain of losing a child -that which only a mother can understand. I spoke to her and she talks about her life as a businesswoman and as a mom.
MT: Tell us about your business
SK: We are called SAS Impressions and are located at 5th Avenue Office Suites, off Ngong rd, 4th Floor Suite 18. We stock children’s furniture such as baby cots, car beds, transition beds, 4*6 beds, bunk beds, study tables, wardrobes, chest of drawers and desks and chairs for toddlers.
We also stock children’s clothing from new born to teens, baby shower gifts like diaper bags, baby carriers, gift sets, beddings and much more.
In November 2013, we celebrated our third year in business.
MT: Is this something you do on a full-time basis?
MT: Why did you choose self-employment over employment? Was it a hard decision to make?
SK: I chose self-employment after getting our firstborn child. I tried going back to work for a month but after much agonizing, I decided to quit. We wanted to be actively involved in her upbringing. At the time, yes it was a very hard decision to make due to the financial implications but three years later, I must say that it has been worth every minute this far.
MT: Why did you choose this line of business?
SK: I have always been passionate about children, and making them happy and comfortable is very fulfilling to me. I also noted that the market at the time concentrated more on adult furniture and children’s furniture was not such a priority to the players back then, so I thought I could fill this gap.
MT: How has your journey into entrepreneurship been? Was this the first business you started?
SK: It has been an interesting journey. I look back and laugh because it has been very hard, dramatic but thank God with time you learn. No this was not my first business; I had started a kids salon but which flopped 6 months after. Experience is the best teacher.
MT: What are the challenges you face and how do you overcome them?
SK: Being self employed means you need to multitask/Jack of all trades. Initially I was the sales and marketing lady, and yet still I was the accountant, procurement manager and delivery person. It could get overwhelming. We managed to get an assistant at the shop and also engaged a professional accountant to assist with the accounts.
Initially we stocked kid’s furniture only but realized soon after that furniture is not as fast moving and could not meet the monthly overheads. We therefore had to diversify to other children’s accessories like clothes and baby items to complement what we already had in stock to ensure there is a regular inflow of income.
SK: When working for yourself, you are very much aware that what you put in determines what the business output will be. Striking a balance between a young family and business was tough at the start. At times the business was not doing too well and I had to go without a salary or earn very little and that kept me wondering whether it was worth it, knowing that I have a few degrees.
MT: What about the best part?
SK: The best part for working for myself, is that I have the privilege to carry our daughter to work whenever possible. During midterms or school holidays, I tag her along and we are able to bond as I pass some business principles to her in my own small ways (she is a great marketer by the way).
It has given me that flexibility to be a full-time mum and a businesswoman. I could never trade that experience. I have also been able to interact with our clients on a one on one basis and given me the opportunity to make friends.
MT: What advice can you give to a woman thinking of starting her own business?
SK: Its great to start your own business when you are passionate about the business you want to do. Do not start a business because you want to be your own boss. When I started business, I got to appreciate my former boss because as an entrepreneur, everything about the business i.e. salaries, bills, customer service, squarely fall on your lap. So think carefully why you want to start that business. Remember Rome was never built in a day.
My mother says ask yourself “WHY” five times. Dig a little deeper as to what is driving you to start. Is it stress at your current job, or are you a new mum and having separation anxiety? Are you willing to go the long haul? Are you ready to go without an income or ready to put in long hours? Is it the right time to start or do you need a little more experience from someone already in that field? Once you have answers, then go for it.
MT: Tell us about your motherhood journey
SK: I knew this question was coming. Motherhood has been the greatest journey in my life and I could never trade it for anything in the world. I am a mum of three.
Our first born Samara is 4 years old, the second born Jaden was born on 13 November 2012 and passed on 1 month later after undergoing a successful heart surgery to correct the narrowing of the aorta.
I am currently pregnant with our third born due God willing on 23 May 2014.
MT: What advice/encouragement would you give to a mom who has had a similar experience to yours?
SK: I have truly come to believe that children are a gift from God. Jaden was born healthy and never in my wildest dreams did I think we would not have him with us 1 month after. It was a painful journey I must admit. We had all fallen in love with him.
Samara was the proudest big sister ever. Her title in school changed to “big sister” and we thought our family was now complete with two healthy babies. But have you ever heard that God gives and takes?
What kept me sane? I hang on to God. I got born again while in secondary school and that faith I had practiced was put to test when I watched them try to resuscitate Jaden before our very own eyes.
My advice to any mom out there is to lean on God, lean on your family and friends if they are supportive and attend counselling if necessary. I also joined a facebook support group (which I later quit when I felt it had served its purpose) and joined a physical support group for a short while.
It gets hard to keep hearing other people’s sad stories of loss over and over again and I did not feel my heart was strong enough to handle other people’s sad experiences and so I quit.
Mum, please know yourself especially during the grieving period. Do not push yourself to go for baby showers or to hold other babies or to do things that make you uncomfortable. Be fair on yourself and walk the journey with total honesty to yourself and allow the people around you to know what makes you uncomfortable or comfortable. It’s okay to turn down offers for a while until you feel ready.
My greatest challenge was returning to work. My mother (bless her), encouraged me to get out of the house and go back to work in January 2013.
I was scared to return to work because my clients and those who knew I was pregnant would ask where the baby was like we all do. She said talking about it, or even crying about it would bring the healing.
So I encouraged myself and came to work and I cried over and over again. At times I couldn’t get myself to explain that Jaden was not there and I tagged along with the conversation, sometimes I summoned the guts to say the truth. Eventually the questions stopped and slowly moved on with life.
This may sound harsh, but no season in life is permanent. Back then the pain was too painful, I cried everyday, I wanted my baby back but with time my heart is better. Not fully healed, I don’t think it shall but that pain and dark cloud pass with time so hang in there my friend.
MT: You are currently expecting. How is the pregnancy so far? Any cravings?
SK: Yes, a true miracle indeed. I never thought I would be a mother of 3 but our plans and God’s plans are always different. I am excited about being pregnant, we all are. Samara kisses the baby bump often and can’t wait to be a big sister again.
We are 27 weeks and this far the pregnancy has been enjoyable (did I say enjoyable?) yes it has and hence why I say it is a miracle. Losing a child that you have carried to term and bonded with is not easy hence getting pregnant again after loss takes God, faith and courage hence why I say it is a miracle.
Cravings in all three pregnancies always has been beef samosas and with Samara and this one I crave for Hawaiian Pizza once in a while.
MT: Thank you Sylvia for sharing your story with us.