Kalevala Training Center supporting female entrepreneurship

The founder of Home Street Home, Viola Wallenius, talks about the everyday life of the Kalevala Training Center, as well as the effects of the operation on female entrepreneurship in the area. Viola also gives a voice to the local team members of Kalevala Training Center and a student who has already graduated, Mercy.

Hot sun, reddish earth, palm trees, moist wind coming from the sea, monkeys, the sounds of children running past, the call to prayer from the mosque and the everyday life of the village - this is the kind of morning I wake up to in Makongen. I have been working in community development for almost ten years and half of that time I have lived on the coast of Kenya, in the small village of Makongen.

In 2014, together with my local friends, we founded a non-profit organization, Home Street Home. The purpose of the activity is to support disadvantaged children and young people in the fields of education, health and well-being. We run several projects through which we promote sustainable development.

In 2020, in cooperation with Kalevala Jewelry, we founded the Kalevala Training Center for young women.

Our training center offers three training programs leading to a degree: IT, hairdressing and seamstress training programs. All trainings are free for students. In addition to teaching and learning materials, students receive a hot lunch during the school day.

The training center is part of Home Street Home's activity center , which also includes a daycare for children with CP and developmental disabilities, a reception clinic, a children's play school and a library.

Kalevala Training Center is staffed by a group of local professionals in their respective fields. Promoting women's entrepreneurship is a primary goal for all of us. By earning a living, young women can guarantee a better future not only for themselves but also for their children and other family members. We see that Kenyan women entrepreneurs are drivers of sustainable economic growth and contribute to a more sustainable future.

We see that Kenyan women entrepreneurs are drivers of sustainable economic growth and contribute to a more sustainable future.

Dreams come true

80% of the students who graduated from Kalevala Training Center continue their studies, get a job or start their own company. By combining the content of the education with mentoring, entrepreneurship and peer support, with learning practical skills, we promote students' readiness to boldly move towards entrepreneurship or other types of employment.

We have organized entrepreneurship-themed training weeks, during which we consider e.g. how to turn an idea into action and how the dream of owning a hair salon comes true. Students also get to practice pitching their own business idea.

80% of the students who graduated from Kalevala Training Center continue their studies, get a job or start their own company.

Fire to learn and do it yourself

"For me personally, it is very motivating to teach young people who are ready to use what they have learned to improve their own lives. I have seen among our students a huge fire to learn and do it themselves. It's rewarding and keeps the work meaningful."

Omar Said, KTC's Responsible Teacher of Information Processing

According to the World Bank, there are the most female entrepreneurs in Africa compared to the whole world. In sub-Saharan Africa, the figure is the highest: 26% of the female adult population are entrepreneurs. Women entrepreneurs in the Global South invest 90% of the income they earn back into their own communities. So it can be said that women entrepreneurs are effective drivers of economic growth and effective solutions for promoting economic growth and eliminating inequality on the African continent.

Encouragement for creativity and innovation

"Several of my graduated students have founded their own hairdressing or beauty business. Among them are traditional barbershops, mobile party hairstyle makers, sellers of hair care products, and other producers of beauty services.

We strive to encourage young people to be creative and innovative when considering new business ideas. There is a demand for many kinds of services and products."

Everline Agola, KTC's Hairdressing Instructor

Female-oriented entrepreneurship also has significant social and societal effects. When female entrepreneurs succeed, they become valuable role models for the next generation of youth. This motivates more and more women to become entrepreneurs, creating a cycle of empowerment that closes the gender gap and promotes a just and inclusive society. Girls and women are still in a weaker position because of their gender, so strong female role models are needed.

As an equal part of society

"For me, studying at the Kalevala Training Center was not only an educational, but also an eye-opening experience. I myself grew up in a village community where women still have a weaker position compared to men. Now, as the mother of my little daughter, I want to work to ensure that she can grow up as an equal part of society, regardless of her gender. "

Mwanasha Ali, Director of KTC's Alumni Network

KTC Alumni: Mercy's story

Our KTC Alumni Mercy graduated from Kalevala Training Center's hairdressing line in January 2023. Through her training, she says she not only learned new skills, but also gained encouragement to pursue independent living. Thanks to an entrepreneurship period in the training programme, Mercy got the idea to start her own business. Mercy took the plunge and soon after graduation opened her own salon in the village of Makongen. 

We went to interview Mercy at her salon. She had just arrived from a home visit and was busy serving the clients who arrived. It was a busy day at the salon, with clients coming in to buy hair care products, ask for hair care tips and book appointments for braiding. In the middle of our interview, the phone rang: "Maybe there's a client, I have to take it." In less than half an hour, Mercy served ten clients. "It's not always this busy, the days are varied," she says.  

Mercy's advice to current Kalevala Training Center students is to be upbeat. Entrepreneurship is not easy, you have to be willing to work hard, stay flexible and keep your clients happy so they come back to your salon.

Mercy, KTC graduate hairdresser and entrepreneur

Mercy's tips for young entrepreneurs

  • Understanding the competitive landscape
    Before launching your business, thoroughly research the competitive situation in your region or sector.

  • Prioritize customer service
    Exceptional customer service is key to building a loyal clientele. You need to know how to serve your customers, so if someone can't pay the full price of 600kes, you can negotiate a price of 550kes to keep them coming back.

  • Explore Ancillary Products
    Consider selling ancillary products alongside your main services. These additional offerings can significantly boost your revenue stream.

  • Diversify with additional services
    Enhance your business's flexibility by offering supplementary services beyond the core offerings. For example, as a hairdresser, you can do home visits.

"You will hear from me again."

For me personally, the experience of everyday life at the Kalevala Training Center and monitoring the students' development has been empowering. It is wonderful to see how an individual young person grows during training and finds their own path to follow.

Kalevala Training Center is an intermediate step that opens doors and opportunities for something new. It is a great pleasure to be able to see the joy of success, self-confidence and sense of purpose on the faces of the students as the education progresses.

One of our graduated students stated when leaving the graduation party that "you will hear from me again" - and we didn't doubt for a moment that we wouldn't hear. We are proud to follow where our students end up. Every now and then I run into a young person who has graduated from us at their new workplace or notice an advertisement for a new hair salon or sewing shop. Those moments are reminders of why we do this.

Article author: Viola Wallenius, Makongen, Kenya