The Kenyan corporate scene has in the past been dominated by members of the male gender - mirroring many other sectors of the society.
However, the proverbial glass ceiling is slowly but steadily being broken by trailblazing women who have worked hard to beat societal stereotypes and make a mark for themselves as respected entrepreneurs - and of course, they have made a fortune along the way.
Kenyans.co.ke tells these stories to inspire and celebrate entrepreneurship and innovation.
The journey of an award-winning entrepreneur and billionaire Esther Muchemi is one for the books. In fact, writers before me have described her as gutsy, resilient and one with an unshakable faith in God.Samchi Telecommunications Ltd as Founder and CEO Esther Muchemi.(COURTESY)
Her humility precedes her. She previously described herself as a common girl from Othaya, Nyeri County and the fact is, she has lived up to the tag, often giving the girl next door kind of vibes.
A first born in a family of nine, Muchemi has set the pace for her younger siblings and lived up to the good reputation that her family has jealously guarded over the years.
Muchemi's father, Moses Macharia, was a renowned teacher who encouraged her to do her best in school. He would not delegate any manual duties to her or physical tasks.
However, for her primary education, Muchemi did not perform well but Macharia kept up a spirited push and ensured she got admission at Kamahuha Girls Secondary School.
Here, she marked her territory and became known as a straight 'A' student and after her national exams, she was called to the University of Nairobi where she pursued a Bachelor of Commerce degree.
She would later became a Certified Public Accountant of Kenya (CPA-K) with the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Kenya.Samchi Telecommunications Ltd as Founder and CEO Esther Muchemi.(COURTESY)
For 16 years, Muchemi was employed as an auditor in different companies; 1984 – 1988 at Bellhouse Mwangi (now Ernst and Young) and PKF Kenya as a Salaried partner between 1989 – 1996.
In 2000, Muchei left formal employment to start her own business along Koinange Street in Nairobi.
"I left formal employment in pursuit of my dreams and greatness, to form an Audit and Consulting Firm, Esther Muchemi and Company Auditors as Founder and Partner," she writes in her bio.
Still, in 2000, she started Samchi Telecommunications Ltd as founder and CEO - the firm has since born numerous companies.
Samchi was the pioneer M-Pesa dealer when the mobile-money platform was introduced in Kenya and holds the till number 0001.
Muchemi was so successful in pushing her brand forward that in 2009, Safaricom honoured her as the top M-Pesa agent.
"My business journey has been punctuated with great milestones. I have since founded and run successful businesses in various industries," she writes in her bio.
Muchemi has had the privilege of serving on several boards and committees.Samchi Telecommunications Ltd as Founder and CEO Esther Muchemi.(COURTESY)
Marriage and personal life
While still young, Muchemi had fallen in love with a man she thought would marry her. However, that changed, when she received an upsetting message from him.
"Dear, I don't know how to say this: I'm getting married although I care so much about you. You are a great person and I promise to support you in any way I can."
For a moment, her time stood still. She felt betrayed.
She, however, managed to pick herself up from a broken heart and forgave those who had wronged her.
Muchemi found love again and got married to Gerald Muchemi – then Kenya’s chief of military intelligence. Together, they were blessed with two kids.
In March 2007, however, she lost her soulmate after a short illness in the United Kingdom (UK).
When his body arrived at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA), Muchemi could not hold her tears.
“I saw my kids and broke down."
"People never thought I would make it, by the way, they gave me just two years to live,” she stated in a previous interview.
Muchemi honours her husband for supporting and allowing her to work and climb up the ladder.
"I am not very easy. I am a very determined person. Honestly, if that was not the position, I would either have fallen or left the marriage. The business is now a pride of the family. Even my kids today are very proud and my daughter has now joined me. She is a general manager."
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