“I wanted to learn soap-making for a very, very long time,” Dorothy Luyai says as she pours the vibrant liquid into an empty water bottle.
In Trans Nzoia county, where Dorothy lives in western Kenya, land has been sub-divided to the point that many families are left with only 0.02 acres of land to subsist on (about 800 square feet), while others are completely landless. Left without the option of farming, many of these individuals struggle to earn a sustainable income.
To address this issue, Village Enterprise has launched a pilot program focused on vocational skills training, to provide landless participants with business options besides the standard choices of agriculture, livestock and retail.
Dorothy is one of the first participants in this pilot. “I attended trainings on soap-making, baking and creating animal feed. But I always knew what business I wanted to start.”
She recognized that there is a high demand for soap in her community—for washing clothes and utensils, bathing and hand-washing. Using the skills that she developed in the Village Enterprise soap-making training, Dorothy began producing soap that is cheaper than competitors sold in the stores. Her neighbors not only became loyal customers but also began collecting bottles at community events for her to reuse.
Dorothy’s wheels are already turning towards expanding her business even more. In the next year, she has her eyes set on becoming the main provider of soap for the schools in her area.
With the profits she has reaped, Dorothy has been able to diversify the food her family eats and pay for her children’s school fees. Best of all, as her Business Mentor, Gilbert Chepkwony, translated, “She is empowered economically.” Dorothy finishes pouring the soap and says, “I am smart.”
Dorothy’s story speaks to her determination to expand her business, her drive to improve her livelihood and her newfound confidence in her own abilities.