When you meet Asena Wangui, nothing about her reveals she owns one of the biggest businesses in Thika Town. The former nurse runs a coffin-making firm that employs 10 people
Asena Wangui has been in the business of making coffins for several years and if you ask her to trade it in for another job, you would probably end up in her bad books. The 39-year-old woman looks jovial and content at her place of work although in her line of business her clients always wear a sombre face and when you get into the premise you are bound to get into a bad mood because you will be reminded of how short life is.
“There are few women who make and sell coffins,” Wangui who owns Githumu Royal Services says. Having been in the male-dominated coffin business for almost seven years now, she has met different people and faces different challenges such that she has grown a thick skin. Having studied Nursing in college, she says that her profession hasn’t been helpful at all.
“I studied Nursing, but that didn’t help me meet my future dreams. In fact, I did not enjoy what I was doing,” she says. She worked as a nurse aid for only eight months before she quit in September 2010 and immediately ventured into coffin making– first as an employee and later as the owner of a funeral service business. “I worked for someone and noticed the business has a lot of returns.
I, therefore, decided to start my own,” she says. From a business that started with Sh3,500 as capital, she now owns two hearses and a business stall and her firm is now one of the most successful enterprises in Thika town.
“I love what I do and because it is a business like others, I have to apply customer service etiquettes, including being hospitable to my clients,” she says. Nothing, but perservance, hard work, determination and a little bit of business sense has kept her going for the last 11 years. “I had a plan and that is what I have continuously been implementing. My business has grown from nothing to something.
I am determined, passionate and most of all, I have set my goals high enough to compel me to work harder every single day,” she adds.
Her secret is maintaining high quality of work no matter the financial capability of her clients.
“Whenever people need burial services, I am always their first option because I have set a standard for all my products,” she says. Githumu Royal Services offers casket and hearse services, lowering gear and flowers.
The whole package is offered from Sh18,000, depending on the distance and the quality of the coffin.
Coffins prices vary depending on the size, design and the quality of wood a client needs. The simple coffins range from Sh8,000 while executive one can go as high as Sh200,000. This will also depend on the size of the body.
Though her business has flourished, she has experienced a number of challenges. Some of them include some clients telling her that her coffins cannot match their status. “Other clients have despised me because of my gender and say that I cannot advise them on the best size of coffin for their loved ones.
I, however, have been trying to counter these challenges by doing quality work. I convince my clients to take the best,” she says. Another challenge she faces is the fact that some of her clients give the wrong size of the body and when it does not fit in the coffin, they lay the blame on her. Wangui who is now reaping from her passion unlike many career-oriented Kenyans, supports the new school curriculum system where vocational training, art and talent are appreciated.
“Many youth are jobless and I blame the former curriculum system for their joblessness. Many have done good courses, only to fail to secure a job after school. Had the government introduced the new system earlier, we would be seeing more people making good returns from their talents,” she notes. She said that youths have untapped talents, which when well-nurtured will enable create jobs.