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During her final semester in university for a course she was never interested in, Lynn knew she would not be pursuing project management as a career. She, therefore, had to come up with a plan – and fast.

Today, she is the proud founder of Santana Africa, where she handmakes custom home furniture and accessories.

This is Lynn’s story:

I did a degree in project management at Moi University. I never liked the course, it wasn’t even my choice. I’d wanted to do a degree in civil engineering. I desperately needed a plan B, so in my final semester on campus, I wrote down one business idea every day for 30 days. The idea for Santana Africa was one of these 30. It was the winning idea.

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Wood

I use different types of wood for our products — mahogany, cypress, teak and olive wood. Each of these woods has different properties that favour our products. Mahogany is hardwood and has a natural rich-red stain. Cypress and teak are softwoods with beautiful grains their smooth surface paints better.

There’s a home-office desk I made for a client where I combined cypress and mahogany. Combining woods ultimately lowers costs.

I’ve learnt a couple of things in these last 12 months of running Santana. I triple-check items before they leave the workshop. And that fundis are the cog in the wheel of your business. They specialise. Now I have a fundi for woodwork, another for metalwork, for carving the bowls and for the chopping boards.

Business

On the day I decided to go into business full time, I called my grandmother. I’m an only child, she raised me in Nakuru. I told her I can’t pursue project management into a career anymore, my heart had never been in it. She was worried about me. I was scared witless, to be honest. Would I nail this?

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People usually say their high school years were good but their campus days were a blast. It wasn’t like that for me while at Moi University because I wasn’t sitting the degree my heart desired. Then, Eldoret to me is too far and too small a town. I had a better time in high school because, from Form One, I worked toward making the grades for a degree in civil engineering. Which I did.

Relatability

I make the deliveries to our clients so I can take photos of where — and how — they place the pieces. These photos go up on our Instagram timeline. They show best how to style the pieces in your home. I never use photos from Pinterest or downloaded online — a local setting speaks better the familiar language of relatability.

Making the best

I’m happier now, in Santana. I have a feeling in my bones that it’s a stepping stone to running my construction firm someday. Doing fit-outs for restaurants and things like that, like what contractors do.

Twelve months of running the business, I’ve also learnt not to chase money anymore. If I can’t deliver your sofa in seven days as you want, then I won’t take your money. Lastly, I’ve learnt that customising furniture is a difficult way to build furniture for sale, but … it’s the path I’ve chosen.