I had just come from Nairobi Garage where I had hosted an early-morning speed networking event for young Nairobi entrepreneurs. It was the very last event. I could not afford to produce another one. So I had a little cupcake and coffee party to thank my guests, and to encourage them to keep on with their good work. I went home.
With my handbag still on my shoulder, I sat on the couch, silent.
With a box of stationery still on my lap, I stared at the feedback forms inside.
Warm tears slowly slithered down my cheeks into the box.
Suddenly, a loud cry burst out of my mouth and echoed into the box.
I felt like such a big failure!
A failure to my company. A failure to myself. A failure to my parents who’d invested in my business. A failure to my supporters. A failure to my country.
After weeping, I sat on the couch for a while, trying to figure out my next steps. Normally, I would write an evaluation of the event and plan for the next one. Then send a message of thanks to guests, along with a networking tip.
But this time round, I had no idea what would be my next step.
I could not afford to pay back the loans from my parents because the banks I had visited didn’t offer loans to young unmarried ladies with small enterprises. I got to understand why there are so many microfinance banks for women in Kenya. Despite modernisation, most banks still see women as high-risk customers.
I could not reach out to my mentor because our relationship had been tarnished by his sexual advances. He had been in the process of supporting my application for a grant at an embassy, the accounting firm already set to receive the funds. But when he realised that I stand firm on my principles, he blocked the process and sent me this message: “I can’t be a mentor to a person like you. The people I mentor understand how we work. No wonder your startup is not working!”
So I put down the box of stationery, slipped off the couch onto the floor and removed my shoes.
I prayed. I wept. I prayed some more.
Exposed and vulnerable is what I felt as a human being. But I did not care at that point. If I were to be broken and all vulnerable, I would rather be so before my God who is also my friend. I asked Jesus to show me that all my effort had not been in vain. I asked for His guidance.
A wave of calmness came over me and I found the strength to smile. Suddenly, I noticed the chocolate cupcake that had remained from the party I had with my guests. I grabbed it, took a bite, and told myself: “Happy Birthday Michelle! All will be well.”
One birthday later, I am so grateful to have my prayers answered.
My parents chose to look over the loans I owed them, and invested in furthering my education in Social Innovation Management at the Amani Institute. So happy that I’ll be graduating this month. Yay!
I found the courage to take a few steps back on the idea I had had to focus on the core, which is positive conversations that inspire positive change. Now, I serve change leaders as a coach through a project that celebrates storytelling for leadership.
Despite not having surplus funds at the moment, I have never lacked. Opportunities are showing up along my journey. Not to mention the amazing people I’ve had the pleasure to meet and learn from.
I’ve got a strong roof over my head, food to put on my table and clothes to keep me warm. Every day, I wake up to new opportunities to serve people by doing what I love.
The greatest lesson I have learnt is that…
Failure is a great teacher with an ugly face.
It takes courage to look past the ugly face and see a resource to learn from.
Courage is a key word this new year of my life.
My hope is that this little story of mine encourages you never to give up on you. And remember…
Courage, Prayer & Chocolate cake!
Happy Birthday to me