Meet Wilter, the tailor with a growing market share

Before joining a Hand in Hand Self-Help Group in Bomet County, Kenya, Wilter and her family of three could barely afford breakfast. “We ate leftover ugali [a traditional dish made of maize flour] every morning,” she says. “Now we get fresh eggs and tea.”

The 28-year-old’s tailoring business has doubled in size since she received business training from Hand in Hand with generous support from the IKEA Foundation, and today nets a profit of 8,000 KES (US $80) a month. At the same time, Wilter’s growing trainee workforce has pushed her products into new towns and villages.

Life in Bomet

IKEA Foundation projects in Bomet County, Kenya, run by Hand in Hand Eastern Africa.

Opportunities in Bomet, one of the most densely populated areas in western Kenya, are overwhelmingly limited to agriculture. The area is known for its tea and dairy industry, and most women tend to the home and cattle. Sixty percent of the working population sell crops for a living. Five percent hold permanent jobs, almost none of them women.

“Women don’t venture into business because they don’t know they can,” says Wilter. “Because of the culture, women spend a lot of time alone or at home.”

It wasn’t just an upgrade in business skills that put Wilter on the path to success, then, but a change in outlook.

A lesson in market share

IKEA Foundation projects in Bomet County, Kenya, run by Hand in Hand Eastern Africa.

Wilter got started repairing torn shirts and dresses for friends and family. After getting access to a loan via Hand in Hand, she bought some fabric and started selling her own creations. But it wasn’t until her Hand in Hand trainer taught her about market-building that she landed a contract making uniforms for her 8-year-old daughter’s primary school and things really took off. “Not only do they buy the uniforms, but they also come independently if they need more pieces as well,” she says.

“Before Hand in Hand training, I didn’t have money to do this kind of work. Now I have machines and materials,” she says. But she has no plans to stop there. With her new income, Wilter is focused on increasing her stock and enhancing her business. “My goal is to make it bigger and teach more trainees,” she says.

Wilter’s results

200 percent rise in business income

Average household income in Bomet: US $100-US $200

Wilter’s household income: US $280