E4impact

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Lucy Kapkirwok: improving life of women in Kenya

Lucy is a woman entrepreneur from Kenya, that attended the fourth edition of the Global MBA in Impact Entrepreneurship at Tangaza Universiy College in Nairobi.

She is founder and CEO of Sanpad Products, an import and marketing enterprise – soon also producers – of a particular type of underwear integrating sanitary napkins. Lucy distributes this product not only in Nairobi, but also to the poorest women in rural areas of the Rift Valley and the provinces of the north and east of Kenya.

She’s very keen in improving the life of women in Africa and has a special care for those of the lower classes.

Let’s see what she told us during her interview.

  1. What is your business about?

The Sanitary Pad-Pant business is about an innovative low cost initiative aimed at manufacturing affordable and accessible sanitary pads cum pants to address the needs of women and girls in resource poor settings. It aims at improving the access of women and girls to safe and hygienic menstrual management practices and simultaneously addressing women’s reproductive health needs. The pad-pant is a disposable, convenient two in one product that will be useful for women and girls in diverse development contexts. Unlike ordinary pants, the pad-pant is a one-time disposable product that does not require washing or re-use.   It is safe and convenient and adds value.

  1. How was your Business Idea born?

I grew up in the village where owning a panty let alone pads was a problem.  The panty pad arose out of the need to address four kind of problems:

  • For women, menstrual management is a big issue across age group and economic class.
  • For young school going teenage girls, lack of access to affordable and hygienic menstrual management products is a major cause of low self-esteem and absenteeism from school. It is estimated that, in any one academic year, young girls loose up to-many school days. This contributes to poor performance and even dropping out entirely from school, with serious social and economic consequences.
  • Current efforts to address this problem, such as providing free sanitary pads, do not take account of the fact that many young girls do not have pants to begin with! And those that do have need access to often scarce and unaffordable water and soap to wash stained panties.  Older women in distressful situations such as in refugee camps or shanties face similar challenges: they either lack access to pads, or where these are available, the often cannot afford panties and soap and water to maintain hygiene.
  • The professional or middle class women’s greatest need in menstrual management is convenience. Ordinary sanitary pads have to be worn with panties which, because of inevitable stains, require frequent and bothersome washing. Active women whose work take them to the filed frequently (such as journalists and agricultural officers), or any women visiting her folks in their rural village, often have to worry about access to adequate water for washing stained panties.
  1. How can your business improve the life of the beneficiaries of your activities? Can you give us an example of this improvement?

My product has kept many girls in school who would otherwise skip it because of lack of pads and even where pads are donated there are no panties.

In many places also access to water is a challenge and people would rather use water to cook than wash panties. I support students from Raila Odinga Educational center to keep them in school and attendance among the girls has increased by 60%.

  1. What has been the main challenge you had to overcome in your entrepreneurial experience? How have you managed to overcome it?

The biggest challenge has been access to funds. Banks shy away from supporting a new product and a new business. I got support from family funds and friends and now we have been able to attract funding from banks after a long struggle.

  1. In your opinion, what are the main qualities an entrepreneur should have?
  • Persistence beyond measure!
  • Passion or better a burning desire to succeed
  • Ability to build networks with banks and clients
  1. Is there a person you are inspired by, i.e. an entrepreneur or a particular mentor?

Yes, I have always admired Tabitha Karanja, a Kenyan Entrepreneur whose persistence in the beer industry has paid off.

  1. What would you suggest to a new-born entrepreneur?

Fill a need that you can see and solve a real problem. You will never go wrong!

  1. Could you tell us a particular satisfactory moment you had in your entrepreneurial activity?

During the official launch of the product, we had invited several school girls and it was so exciting to see and hear these girls talking about how they think the product will work for them. It was so fulfilling for me, I’ll never forget that day!

#LucyKapkirwokInATweet:

“Inspired lover of life determined to change even one life and put a smile on a girl’s face”

Learn more on Sanpad Products on:

www.sanpant.com

Facebook page: www.facebook.com/Sanpadkenya

Follow Sanpad on twitter: @sanpadltd



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