My name is Wycliffe Musyoki from Machakos County. I roast and sell maize along Ngong Road. But that is not my dream career. There is more to what I do. When I was growing up, I didn’t know I would one day end up roasting maize. But let me start from the beginning.
My mom died a month before I did my KCPE in 2009. Though it was a difficult time for me, I managed to score a total of 347 marks out of 500. I was admitted to a provincial school, however I wasn’t able to join high school. That forced me to stay home for the whole of 2010.
I finally joined high school in 2011 and sat for KCSE in 2014 and scored a mean grade of 64 points. After getting my results I applied and got accepted at Egerton University. Because I was not able to afford to pay fees join campus in 2015/2016, I lost the opportunity.
Because I did not want to stay idle at home, I came to Nairobi in April this year. It was while I was staying with my sister and her husband that I got a job as a security guard. Since the security firm was paying a salary of Kshs. 6,700 per month, considered the risks involved with guarding premises at night and decided it wasn’t worth it. I only worked there for 1 month. Because I had joined the security firm half way, I did not earn the full amount. I earned 2,400 shillings.
When I earned my first salary, my in law asked me to find my own house. I moved to a nearby house. I was seated in the house one morning when I got an idea of how I should the 2,400 shillings I had.
Roasting maize is my passport to becoming an Aeronautic Engineer
After sending 500 shillings home and using 1,000 for my budget, I was left with 500 shillings. That is the money that I used as capital to buy maize from the market. I started by selling boiled maize, from one point to the other. Strangely enough, I got to know most of the customers I have now from the days I used to walk around, selling boiled maize.
I started selling maize along Ngong Road at the beginning of August of this year. God has been faithful since then. I am able to sell and earn more money than I used to earn as a security guard. It is also way more than I used to earn while selling boiled maize. Right now I am able to earn over 2,600 shillings everyday when business is good. After deducting what I need for the following day, I save 1,400 shillings.
Why do I do this, you may ask. I am roasting and selling maize in order to pursue my dream of becoming an aeronautical engineer. My dream to become an aeronautical engineer started after I missed the opportunity to join Egerton University.
Since the grades I earned from my KCSE has enabled me to have cluster point that suits a variety of courses, I decided to choose a course that will give me an advantage. I went to the African Aviation College so I can study Aeronautic Engineering & Airport Operations. The money I have saved since I began roasting maize is enough to join college.
I will be paying 10,000 shillings per month while studying part time until I go for an industrial attachment. As a part time student, I will continue roasting maize so I can have enough money to pay college fees, transport, food and my house rent.
My turning point
Having grown up surrounded by negativity I had come to believe I was going to be a failure in life. In fact, I wasn’t a bright student and used to poorly in class. The deaths of my mom and other family members reminded me that I was heading nowhere. My turning point happened when I gave my life to Christ while in high school.
Getting saved transformed my life perspective. It made me see that I could amount to something. I took to prayers and reading the Bible while putting more effort in my studies. Reading the story about Joseph in the Bible encouraged me. And just like Joseph, I began having dreams of becoming a great person. I started wanting to achieve more in my life. That is when I knew that one day I would join the university.
Passing my KCSE (Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education) wasn’t as a result of being a very clever or hard working student. I regard it as a sort of reward, favour and blessing from God. With a friend of mine, we would wake up early to pray and then study. During the weekends, we would spend our time ministering to children in Sunday school and preaching during Christian Union meetings. Many of my classmates doubted but I believed God was going to see me through.
The second turning point happened when I quit my job as a security guard. While I was selling boiled maize, I met a man who advised me to start roasting maize. He told me that boiled maize doesn’t bring much profit the way roasted maize does. I would stop by his business premise just to learn how he was selling and setting prices. It was from him that I bought this jiko, stand and wire mesh.
Dealing with my customers
I have come to discover that roasting and selling maize is an art of science in itself. Thankfully, a majority of my customers respect what I do and pay the right price for it. But there are others who think I am just a desperate young man with no future plans. There are those who wonder why I am roasting maize instead of getting a better job that pays well.
Some believe I should sell maize at 10 shillings and not 30 shillings because each maize costs 5 shillings at the market. There are those who buy on credit and don’t pay later on. Dealing with this mix of customers requires a lot of wisdom. I therefore set prices that enable me to achieve my goals as well as recover what difficult customers refuse to pay.
I have come to device ways of smartly dealing with different people and at the same time, get what I deserve. That calls for calculation and juggling equations in my mind. Doing so enables me to get the best possible valuable from every maize I roast and sell. I have to take in consideration the time I wake up in the morning, travel to the market to buy maize and the time I spend standing here. That is what I factor into my pricing.
My work involves waking at 3 am, praying and leaving for the market before it is 4 am. Failure to do this means I don’t get the best maize at the right price. I report to work at 8 am and work until 7 pm. My work involves a lot of standing, walking and sometimes running to sell to drivers. I also have customers from nearby buildings where I do home deliveries every day. I should be using an umbrella when the sun is hot and when it rains. However, I only use it when it rains. I discovered that the light reflects on the maize and the customers think it is not well done.
I want to work at the Machakos Airport after my graduation
This Country is about the over 40 million people whose dreams and aspirations should be nurtured.
— Dr. Alfred Mutua (@DrAlfredMutua) October 26, 2017
My aim is to work at the proposed Machakos Airport that Governor Alfred Mutua is planning to construct. I have done my feasibility studies and discovered that the airport will take three years to construct. That is the same duration that my course will take before I graduate. You can see that my dreams to find a job there is valid. It is also a dream that is worth the investment I am putting into it.
Because my classes will be in the morning, I will continue roasting maize. I will be going to the Marikiti Market early in the morning to buy maize before I go to class. Once I am done with my morning classes, I will come back to roast and sell maize. I know this won’t be a permanent arrangement. However, I will be able to continue roasting maize and pursuing my dream. That is what motivates me to do this kind of a job.
Roasting maize has enabled me to learn how to deal with people. It has changed my perspective of what I can achieve as a human being. I look back at everything that God has taken me through and know I am destined for greater things. My advice to young people would be work hard in school and set goals for themselves. They should also seek to know God and study His Divine Word. God is faithful and He is able to turn dreams into reality.
I also think that Kenyans should treat each other with respect and not look down upon those who they think are not as privileged as they are. They should value other people’s work and effort by paying the right prices set by small business people. Lastly, I want to thank every customer that buys from me.
James Ouma is a CTI Clarity Coach, Cyclist and Writer. He is passionate about positive masculinity and helping incarcerated male teens to reconcile with their families and their communities. He loves staring at his bicycle, flipping through movies without watching them, and playing ‘tap out’ with his wife.