Muna’s story: paving the way for women in a male-dominated field
Muna's company is creating opportunities for women in Kenya's leather industry.
Muna Elmi’s company, Mubi Leather, is creating opportunities for women in the male-dominated leather industry. Here, she shares how the Road to Growth programme supported her to gain networks, build her confidence and strengthen her business so she can pave the way for other women.
“My name is Muna Abba Elmi. I am a 33-year-old mother of two daughters, a wife and an entrepreneur. I am the founder of Mubi Leather, a Kenyan brand that produces and sells leather bags and accessories. We use locally–sourced Kenyan leather, and work with local artisans in Nairobi.
The Road to Growth programme basically tells us that it's okay – it's okay to be running a business. It's okay to be a mother. It's okay to learn every day and make a better person out of yourself.
When I moved to Nairobi with my family in March 2021, I felt very much alone in the business world. The Road to Growth programme came to my rescue by providing a platform where I could mingle, network, connect with- and learn from other like-minded women entrepreneurs. The programme ended up giving me a lot more than a network. After graduating, I was accepted into the 12 month Women in Business Program by the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women. I am now three months into that journey and it is going well!
Coming into the programme, I lacked a lot of confidence. As a young, Muslim, Somali lady, I face a lot of negative stereotypes, and people often assume I should be at home with my children, as if I am not meant to have dreams and follow them too. I wondered what people would think of me, and whether they would accept me. I’m still working towards it, but I’m glad I have come so far.
The Road to Growth programme basically tells us that it’s okay – it’s okay to be running a business. It’s okay to be a mother. It’s okay to learn every day and make a better person out of yourself. We wear so many hats. We are mothers, we are wives, we are housewives. And we also run businesses. I want to raise my daughters to be independent and confident in themselves, in a way that breaks the stereotpes in our community. I want them to know that their dreams and valid, and that if they work hard, they can achieve them. So I try to involve them as much as possible in my business journey.
But I know we cannot do business alone. We cannot grow alone. We need networks, we need connections. We need to meet other people out there. So programmes like this one fulfil an important role.
The leather crafting industry is quite male-dominated, so it is my dream to see more women doing this kind of work in the future.
The leather crafting industry is quite male-dominated, so it is my dream to see more women doing this kind of work in the future. In fact, as part of my mission to introduce more young women to the industry, I would like to design a course for them to learn how to cut and stitch leather. At the moment, I work with the Kenyan chapter of an organization called the African Women Partnership Program, where I organize sessions, trainings and programmes for women entrepreneurs around various issues. So I am very passionate about empowering women economically and through entrepreneurship in general.
I am working hard on improving the sustainability of my business, so that it has a positive impact on the environment and community. We pay special attention to the sourcing of our leather and the materials used in product packaging. We try hard to minimize waste, for example by using off-cuts to produce smaller leather items such as key chains. As the brand grows, the team needs to grow, so I am creating more jobs, and trying to encourage women into leather craftmanship to fulfil these roles.”
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