- Susan Wanjiru is a Kenyan entrepreneur who is passionate about raising and empowering all women.
- Susan joined the 2022 UNITAR Online Entrepreneurship and Financial Literacy Training Programme for Women and Girls in the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) region.
- The online entrepreneurial training provided Susan with the tools to be financially disciplined and the steps to plan, manage and assess risk.
- The UNITAR training programme is run in collaboration with the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Secretariat and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). It is financially supported by the Government of Canada.
26 October 2023, Hiroshima, Japan - Susan Wanjiru is a self-professed “people person” who loves meeting new people. Brimming with ideas, a passion for promoting women’s leadership and empowerment and a drive to be in command of her life, Susan was perfectly matched to become an entrepreneur.
Susan began her career in sales and marketing in the insurance industry, after completing a diploma in fashion design. In 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, she decided to follow her dream of becoming her own boss and started a company specializing in detergent manufacturing and selling. The company offered different lines of cleansers and detergents such as toilet cleaners, hand wash soaps, fabric softeners and soap.
Facing the competition with traditional marketing
As a new entrepreneur, Susan found it challenging to compete with the big companies in the field. Her strategy was to focus on offering good quality products at more affordable prices compared to other brands. “If the product is good and the pricing is better, then the people will keep buying it”, she explained.
Her sales experience helped her develop her marketing strategy: Susan printed flyers and posters and started selling to her friends. She then expanded by exploring different markets and seeking out potential distributors and partners so she could show them her products and discuss her company’s vision and target with them. Her company now supplies products to schools and her employees earn commission from their sales.
Joining the UNITAR training
In 2022, Susan joined the UNITAR Entrepreneurship and Financial Literacy Training Programme for Women and Girls in the IGAD region, which she heard about through a colleague. She saw the programme as an opportunity to update her skills in budgeting, sustaining profit, bookkeeping, and keeping track of her business’s progress.
The UNITAR programme was launched in 2021 to train African women in entrepreneurship, innovation and leadership. Funded by the Government of Canada and run in collaboration with the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Secretariat and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the 5-week online training with a 1-week in-person workshop taught participants the tools to be financially disciplined and to plan, manage and assess risks.
Because of her marketing and sales background, Susan was especially interested to learn about digital marketing. “Marketing online is one of my key takeaways”, she says. She plans to use digital marketing for her next venture, a coffee packaging business that she and a fellow participant developed during the UNITAR programme. Now a team of four, they hope to employ young people and help their communities, start exporting coffee, and eventually expand to other stages of coffee manufacturing.
In the UNITAR programme, Susan enjoyed learning from fellow participants, an experience that she says broadened her mind. For aspiring women entrepreneurs, she has the following words of encouragement:
Never fear to begin. If you want to have a business, you must be a risk taker. So, I encourage [you to] begin. You might fail but never, never give up. —Susan Wanjiru, entrepreneur and UNITAR alumna, Kenya
Empowering women entrepreneurs in the community
Apart from her businesses, Susan also works with the Women’s Brigade Organization, a community-based organization that she set up in May 2022. The organization seeks to help women exit poverty by training and supporting them in running their own businesses. To date, around 40 women members – the majority of them single mothers – have benefited from the Brigade’s services. While government funding for such business ventures is limited, Susan hopes to help more women members access what is available.
Susan’s larger vision is to expand the network to other countries. By the year 2027, she aims to become politically known and maybe vie for political seats. With her passion for raising and empowering all women, she says to them: “Never allow yourself to feel inferior.”
Most women feel that they cannot do it, but I call upon women to rise. Let them know themselves, let them know that they have potential and that they have a purpose in this society. I want to tell women to love themselves and to learn more about what you want to do. —Susan Wanjiru, entrepreneur and UNITAR alumna, Kenya
The United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) is a dedicated training arm of the United Nations. In 2022, UNITAR trained over 395,000 learners around the world to support their actions for a better future. In addition to our headquarters in Geneva, we have offices in Hiroshima, New York and Bonn and networks around the world.
The Division for Prosperity is based in the Hiroshima Office and Geneva. We seek to shape an inclusive, sustainable and prosperous world through world-class learning and knowledge-sharing services on entrepreneurship, leadership, finance and trade, digital technologies, and nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. We empower individuals from least-developed countries, countries emerging from conflict, and small-island developing states – especially women and young people – to bring about positive change.
United Nations Volunteer Passant Hafez contributed to this article.