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Social media forum for building enthusiasts

Salline Handa- Ononda talks about her Facebook group that brings together construction sector followers, connecting contractors, suppliers and home builders

Why did you start a Builders and Co-Creators group?

I created the group three years ago when we were constructing our family home. We realised that we needed a support group, known or unknown to us, where we could share our experiences, ask questions and provide answers, pour out our frustrations, share our little lessons and celebrate our achievements. It started with a family WhatsApp group, but we realised that a lot more people could do with this sort of forum and audience, and the group was born. Today, we have a membership of 370,000 with an active participation of about 291,000 members. There are 71,000 contractors and construction workers and 16,000 suppliers. Some are both contractors and suppliers.

With no background in construction,  why are you passionate about this?

I can claim some knowledge in interior design, and even that is self-taught. I studied arts in school. I am a market and social researcher by profession. I design research projects, design and manage them, analyse and make sense of data.  My career has been dotted with roles and responsibilities that require qualitative and statistical analysis as the key competence. On the side, I run an interior design outfit named ‘Terry and Pat’” named after my parents, where I do all things interior from design to decoration.

What change can the group bring to construction?

The group aims to provide a platform where building enthusiasts can interact. It focuses on opening discussions around the building and construction space. It is meant to be a top-of-mind destination when a client, contractor or trader has a question or answer on service, technology and products. However, it is not meant to be the final consultative forum for important matters regarding construction, but to make it possible to get indicators, solicit feelings, reactions and get people comfortable talking about brick and mortar, nail and hammer.

What are you most proud of since starting of the group?

My first joy is to see women specifically speaking about building as they do about shoes and hair! The fear of speaking about complex issues such as usage of architectural terms fades away. I like that people can come and say “do not use size ABC wood if you want DEF to work” and getting responses on the spot. Also, the convenience and speed with which members source stuff and sell to others is amazing.

This is a trade platform that goes beyond the exchange of money and products. You can ask where you can get used iron sheets at Sh400 each and have an answer in two minutes. You can compare prices, ask rates for paying workers or fundis, something that did not happen before. There are real people involved, real referrals, real homes.

What new product are you working on to make connections even better?

We have been able to introduce technology that is working for the African building client and contractor, the iBuild App. The App is the answer to the most common questions that clients and contractors have. It answers all questions building and construction in Kenya. It opens up the space in the most reliable way while retaining the human face to construction. This app could be  the answer to builders’ questions, and through the relevant partnerships, Kenyans can now access a free technology that greases the chute in building and construction.

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