Geoffrey Machoni, 35, is a graduate who has been teaching mathematics and physics but has been forced to turn into a food vendor on the streets of Limuru to cater for his daily needs.
The school Board of Management teacher has not been receiving a salary since schools were closed due to the outbreak of Covid-19.The announcement caught him flat-footed as he had no savings to cushion himself from the impact of the pandemic.
Machoni, who says he never imagined Covid-19 would push him to the streets, has learnt how to make an extra shilling in the most of unusual manner.
When he realised in March that he would no longer be getting a salary yet he had bills to pay, Machoni employed a survival tactic he learnt while studying at Kenyatta University: cooking and selling pastries.
“It took me eight years to complete my studies at Kenyatta University because of lack of school fees. I had a makeshift hotel where I would prepare and sell mandazi, scones and coffee to pay my bills in university,” Machoni said.
When the pandemic hit home, he put up a kiosk using sacks in Limuru town and with a capital of Sh10,000, he started his mandazi business and cared less about his social status.
“It was my only way of surviving. I had heard horror stories about private school teachers and those employed by school boards. I did not want to be part of those statistics,” Machoni said.
With the money, he bought a dust coat, a tin of charcoal, three packets of wheat flour, five litres of cooking oil, baking powder and a big jiko.
With everything ready, the business started.His decision to start a business by the roadside with high human traffic saw him get customers faster.On the first day, he sold all the mandazi he made out of the three packets of wheat flour within three hours.
He quickly bought three more packets and engaged an extra person to assist him.
Encouraged by the first day’s success, Machoni was at the business at 6 am the following day as he tried to target people looking for mandazi for breakfast:
“I woke up very early to prepare for the day. Surprisingly, customers started trickling in as early as 6.30 am. By 8 am, I had again sold all the mandazi made out of three packets of flour,” he said.
Nowadays, he also sells to people going home from work in the evening. On a good day, he pockets about Sh1,000 from the business.
Machoni says one of his lowest moments was when one of his students passed by his shed to buy some mandazi only to realise the seller is his mathematics teacher.
“The student got shocked; he called me mwalimu (teacher) in front of other customers,” he recalls. After spilling the beans, the student then asked him in sheng: “Kwani mwalimu umesota aje unapika mandau (Are so broke that you are selling mandazi)?”“That was really a low moment for me,” Machoni says.
“That was really a low moment for me,” Machoni says.
Jane Muthoni, a frequent buyer of Machoni’s mandazi, said that she didn’t know “the person making these exquisite mandazis is actually a science teacher”.
“I like his attitude. He is not noisy and greets me before he sells to me. Many vendors lack those small but important things,” says Muthoni.
Machoni says he has learnt that it is wise to have different sources of income so that if one source dries up, you will still earn money from other sources.
“I want to tell people, especially salaried employees, to think outside the box. Save and invest your money in different ventures,” he advises.