When you meet her, Brendah Wanjiru asks that you be keen not to leave out the ‘h’ in her first name.
But when it comes to math and mats, the ‘h’ does not matter – she loves them both.
She studied accountancy at Rware College, having switched from Kenya Institute of Management.
With numbers, she is at home.
But in August last year, Brendah found herself another passion: mats.
When the Covid-19 pandemic came sweeping through the globe devastating livelihoods, she was desperate for cash.
“School was closed and I was at home, so broke. I had to think of something that could help me earn some money,” she says.
This led her to discover an activity that she would soon fall in love with during a visit to a friend.
“I have a friend who was making doormats at the time. She had learnt some skills and she asked me to join her so that we could make some cash,” she says.
As much as she had not done any weaving before, Brendah dived into it. “She taught me how to do the mats from scratch, starting with where to buy the materials and also how to target buyers,” she says.
It helps that she is a quick learner and within days, she was knitting her way into money.
At that time, still enthused with learning new skills, Brendah, while in the company of yet another friend, expressed an interest in baking.
She had visited her aunt who was taking a course in baking and decided to accompany her for classes.
The chefs’ dexterity piqued her interest in culinary art and since she had time, she could bake alongside weaving doormats.
It took her two days of tutorials for Brendah to bake her first cake.
But this, unlike making mats, is not commercial.
“I do it for fun. I bake bread and cakes for family consumption. So there’s some savings; no buying bread at home,” she says.
On mats, she has established a steady stream of customers looking for handmade, customised doormats. In a week, she can make two mats, though that depends on the number of customers who have placed orders. The first month, she sold four mats.
“I sell the doormats at Sh1,500 each. They are customised and depend on what design the customer wants,” Brendah says.
Yet, however easy it may seem, it took dedication to learn how to spin yarn into attractive doormats for offices and homes.
And she is no longer the rookie mat maker who fumbled with materials and struggled to make meaningful products in September 2020.
“I use sacks (gunia), chunky acrylic knitting yarn and a punch needle to make loops that form the fluffy rug,” she explains, displaying one of the rugs that she has made.
“I didn’t know how to use the punch needle,” she says of her first weeks.
“I had to be trained how to punch through the gunny sacks and pull out to form the loops.”
She approximately uses Sh600 on materials for one mat.
Sometimes she encounters bad customers who make orders and when time comes to pay, they disappear.
Brendah is waiting to graduate this year as certified public accountant, but says she will not abandon her one-year love with doormats.
“I want to continue doing this as a pastime. It is something that I have come to love, and something that gives me some money as well,” she says.