By Tabitha Makumi,
“Just make sure you mention that I grew up in the village of Ngarariga and not in Limuru town or anywhere fancy for that matter,” says Mary Njoki the young founder and MD of Glass House PR Company.
Today though, she is no longer the village girl that she once was but a proud owner of a young business with clients such as Fat Loss Lab Kenya and Film Kenya Magazine.
Additionally she has attracted the attention of a prestigious magazine in South Africa where her story will be running soon.
“Like a lot of Kenyans, I went to one of those village primary schools that most of us went to, you know, the ones with funny names. But that didn’t for a second mean that the village was going to be my fate or I couldn’t dream big,” says the 25yrs old as we meet in a popular eatery just out of town.
Young, dream driven and with a young business that offers online PR and media exposure to individuals such as artists and SME’s, Mary explains of how Glass House PR came to be. “I hadn’t done so well in maths in KCSE and with dreams of studying Computer Science, I obviously had to bridge to make those dreams come true, which I did at NIBS.
Unfortunately for her, a certain difficulty which plagues a lot of people crossed her path. “Due to financial constraints, I couldn’t afford to enroll for a university degree right away.” Not the type to be pinned down by setbacks, The 25 years old says she instead opted to enroll for an affordable certificate course in Business Information & Technology at Graffins College, followed by a diploma and much later with a higher diploma.
“After the higher diploma, I applied for a job with Softlink Options hoping to get an IT vacancy but I got a marketing job instead as a Business Executive where among other duties I would work with various companies and individuals and train them in specific IT and business skills. You can understand my agony since I had studied for one thing and doing another.”
As if nature was playing a crude joke on her, she later got another job as a Business Executive with CompEdge Solutions which was still on marketing. “All the while for a period of 4 years, I was volunteering for K Krew Ministries (the ones for Kubamba Show) where I was involved in various PR activities which led to a deep interest in Media and public relations.
Admitting that she knew nothing about public or media relations to start with, she was adamant to learn and develop her PR skills, an opportunity she got through The Orange Company which was one Kenya’s premier Public Relations, Entertainment & Events company where she worked for a period of five months.
It’s here she got to learn more about media relations, social media management, and event managing as she was involved in handling high flying events such as the Groove Awards .
Determined to pave her own path, in August 2012, she decided it was about time to start her own venture. With only Sh6k as her seed capital and a laptop, she used the little cash she had to acquire a modem and get the on its feet. She recalls that, “The first modem I bought had a weak signal in my rural village and I had to purchase another one from a different service provider.”
But times have changed since then. A year and four months later in business, Glass House PR is still going strong. Its proudest moment was when Google Kenya shortlisted them last year as one of the firms to handle their PR. “Even if we did not end up getting the chance as it awarded to a more established company, it was quite a big deal for us. I mean Google contacted us, that should mean something,” says the young MD who is quick to add that meeting Julie Gichuru at Women in Africa Forum last year who congratulated her for the profound work she was doing was quite memorable.
Proud of how far she has come and aiming to make over Ksh8.6M (USD 100,000) this year, she says “I can afford to live on my own now and I have five proud employees today and even though I don’t pay them their dream salaries as some are still on allowances, I believe every company has to start somewhere.”
Currently she has a Managing Partner, Content Developer, an Intern in Media Relations, an online marketer to events and administration personnel.
And while her mother and a lot of Kenyans may not understand what online PR is all about, and with companies opting to remain with traditional PR, Mary is optimistic that 2014 will be a good year for Glass House PR, “I just came from Addis Ababa where I was attending a Conference dubbed Africa Arise and I got to meet a lot of prospect clients from Malawi and Zambia,” she says enthusiastically.
Currently studying part-time for a BA Communication in PR at Daystar University, she calls out on young job seekers crying foul about unemployment to rise up and change the fate of Africa by breaking away from the cocoon of being finding formal employment.
“If you have an idea and you feel it has a potential to grow, stop looking for a job and sending 100 CV’s everyday and look for how you can create wealth and jobs for this generation.”