‘Women are change makers’ – Fresh Life Operator Mary Khaoma’s entrepreneurial journey

Training Fresh Life Operators on best entrepreneurial practices ensures that our franchisees run successful businesses. At this quarter’s Fresh Life Operators’ forum, Mary Khaoma won an award for the cleanest plot toilet! We caught up with her after she received the award, and she shared her business acumen with us.

Mary Khaoma at her Fresh Life Toilet
Mary Khaoma at her Fresh Life Toilet in Kayaba

How long have you been an entrepreneur?

Since 1990. I’ve run businesses for 25 years!

What inspired your entrepreneurial journey?

My obligation to provide for my young family was my strongest incentive. I was a young mother of two children, four years old and ten months old, who depended solely on me for provision.

How did you acquire capital for your first business?

My first business was selling vegetables outside my sister’s house here in Kayaba. She gave me a loan of two hundred shillings, which I used as my startup capital. I spent a hundred shillings in buying the vegetables and saved the rest to help expand my business.

How many businesses do you run now?

I own one public service vehicle; 25 rental units, where tenants have access to a Fresh Life Toilet; a water-vending business; and a small café. They are all based here in Kayaba.

What has been your biggest challenge as a woman in business?

Being too lenient with my customers. Having experienced tough times as a young mother myself, I often sympathize with other women going through tough situations. Sometimes, I issue out foodstuffs on credit, which customers often don’t have the means to pay back. I am learning to offer credit to a few loyal customers; it is a work in progress.

Tell us about your experience with the Fresh Life Toilet franchise.

In the past, the majority of landlords like me never considered providing toilet facilities to their tenants. People therefore had two options: pay a fee to use dirty, makeshift toilets or use flying toilets — plastic bags often disposed along pathways.

My tenants often disposed their plastic bags at my doorstep or defecated in my backyard, which is next to the rental units. I was tired of cleaning up the mess every morning. Having the Fresh Life Toilet has made my compound much cleaner. Hygienic sanitation is a critical service for the residents of Kayaba, and I am glad my neighbors and tenants have access to Fresh Life Toilets.

What have you learnt by participating in the Fresh Life Operator forums?

I have learnt that keeping financial records up to date is key for business growth. This has improved my savings, and I am more accountable especially when it comes to miscellaneous expenses.

Mary (right) demonstrating the handwashing steps to her friends (Anne Mutua, Ruth Musia and Necklyn Muchuma)
Mary demonstrates handwashing steps to her neighbors Anne, Ruth, and Necklyn

In addition to running your businesses, are there any other activities you enjoy doing?

Currently, I am teaching women and children in my neighborhood the five steps of thorough hand washing that I learnt from the Fresh Life team. Women are change makers within the community, and they pass on the lessons they learn, especially about hygiene and health. With my water-vending business close to the Fresh Life Toilet, I always encourage hand washing and even allow children to wash their hands for free.

Over the years, I have also trained expectant women on the importance of proper nutrition.

What one piece of advice would you share with fellow entrepreneurs?

When you start succeeding in business, humility is important. It keeps you focused and determined to achieve even more. My late mother, Rasoha Namikoye, who was also my mentor in business, shared this tip with me, and it has helped me run several sustainable businesses.

What are your entrepreneurial plans in the next two to three years?

I have always want to teach young children, and I am hoping to establish and run a successful community pre-school here in Kayaba. It will be called Little Angels School.

We are thankful to Mary for sharing her experiences with us, and we congratulate her on her recent achievement! Keep up the good work, Mary!

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