CHANGING LIVES one girl at a time

The Entrepreneur (2)

Joseph Gichunge, Director, Jazza Centre, is in the business of training domestic managers and leasing them to households. He narrates his story to SAMMI NDERITU.

In 2013 and having just become parents, my wife, Leah and I were having challenges getting a domestic manager (DM). It was frustrating as we kept changing one after the other. We wondered if there was a place that trained them so that we could get a professional one who was ready to work. I started looking at the business model of security guards’ companies and got an idea. What if someone could bring the girls together, train them and lease them out?’ I imagined a situation where I could provide such a quick solution. This kind of thinking gave birth to my business, Jazza Centre.

Jazza is Swahili for fill and we used it to mean – fill people up with knowledge and skills. In training the DM, we identified the areas of need among them etiquette, cleanliness, presentation, childcare, first aid and understanding the domestic chores. The curriculum we developed was largely advised by the challenges a modern home set-up and career family faces.

We started the business at home. Leah posted an advert on OLX, the online advertising platform and the response was overwhelming. Since we were targeting high-end and middle-class people, we had to look for a good and central office location.

We hired sales representatives that would distribute fliers with information that we were looking at training and employing girls. We announced that we were going to provide NHIF, NSSF and even give them leave days.

One month training

Four years later, we have trained over 1,800 girls. During the course, students wake up as early as 4 a.m. as a way of instilling discipline. Training continues throughout the day and lasts for a month. Thereafter, they remain our employees who are leased out.

We charge clients a fee of KSh 15,800 and the girl earns KSh 10, 000. Recently, we reviewed that and our minimum rate is KSh 12,600. We pay the legal minimum wage as per the government labour requirements.

Some people have pointed out, especially on social media, that our rates are high. I consider that one of the mistakes employers of house helps make. A house help takes care of your most precious things- it is sad that people want to pay the least amount to someone who will take care of their best and most valuable items. Investing in a professional DM gives you peace of mind.

We do not employ all the people we train. During the course work, we assess them in terms of skills and how they do the work. It is the girl’s individual performance that determines her next move. Our trainers grade them by skill one, two and three. Skill one and two will definitely get work. For skill three, we either recommend a repeat or we are not able to place them.

Having noticed the demand of professional house helps in the market, we decided to scale up our operation and among the steps that we took was acquiring a facility where the DMs board for the entire month.

We have also thought about hosting a graduation after the training and issuing certificates. We got an approval from the National Industrial Training Authority, (NITA) to do this. We did the first graduation on 4 February 2017.

Transforming lives

At Jazza, we consider training DMs as a way of transforming lives. We have had touching stories from clients who have felt relieved and at peace due to having a quick solution to their house help needs. The DMs too have been touched as we have connected them to employment opportunities. Most girls who take up DM jobs are either from poor backgrounds or are single mums who are trying to provide for their children.

I have learnt that there is nothing impossible in business. If you stretch yourself slightly further away from the comfort zone, it is just a matter of time and things will work. In business, challenges will come your way but you must soldier on. There is a time I felt like giving up, especially after the fourth month of starting the business. We had rent arrears and could not afford. The landlord called auctioneers in a bid to recover her money. I advised my wife, a mechanical engineer by profession to look for a job but she refused and opted to soldier on. Thankfully, we were able to move to a better office in Muthaiga.

Going forward, I see Jazza Centre being one of the most established and profitable companies in Kenya. The market for DM is very huge in this country. Our plan is to be a household name, and have an office in every major town besides Nairobi and Kisumu where we currently operate.


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