In 2015, a 20 year old university student amazed the country as the youngest honouree for the coveted Top 40 under 40 Women in Kenya. Top 40 under 40 women is an initiative of the Business Daily, a publication owned by the Nation Media Group, that recognises women under the age of 40 with great achievements or who are making a difference in different sectors of the economy. The initiative seeks to, among other things; inspire young women in Kenya to pursue their dreams.
June Syowia understands well the intricacies of the entrepreneurial world. Her accomplishments are impressive for a lady whose peers are busy having fun and waiting to look for jobs after school. June is an entrepreneur and a successful community mobiliser. In 2013, June was part of the founding team of Mustard Seed Project in Dandora, Nairobi. The project was borne from the “Nyumba Kumi Initiative”, a governmental initiative for community policing to reduce the rate of crime in communities within Kenya. The project not only provides low- cost services to the community but it also provides jobs for many young people from the area
Her decision to participate in a training programme dubbed the Google Ambassadors that was sponsored by Google was the turning point for her journey in entrepreneurship. The programme imparted skills in technology and digital advertising to university students. At the end of the programme, she decided to utilise the skills she had acquired to help small businesses in their digital advertising and therefore she established BeiLess Digital in 2014. Business was very slow for the company until she identified a business idea in what is referred to as “transit marketing.” In Kenya, the public service vehicles have become great advertising channels. This is done by inscribing adverts from different brands in the seat covers commonly used in these vehicles.
These public service vehicles operate under Savings and Credit Cooperative Organisations (SACCOs). June approached the Sacco that operates vehicles to Dandora and this was the beginning of an interesting journey for her company. The company has expanded to cover other routes and is still growing. Her journey in entrepreneurship has not been all rosy. Within a very short time, June in collaboration with a graphic designer and a website developer, were making business pitches to corporate organisations. Among her greatest challenges in BeiLess Digital were getting the paper work right and getting people to take her seriously given her tender age and petite look. Her company has also organised summits such as ACT Uganda and the African Summit on Entrepreneurship and Innovation (ASENTI).
June studied Economics at the University of Nairobi but her achievements precede her. She is a classic example of how women empowerment can improve the livelihood of the people in an area. The Kenyan government has played a big role in driving the women empowerment agenda. A third of all government tenders have been set aside for women and youth. The constitution mandates all government positions to have a representation of at least a third of each gender and all the 47 counties in the country are required to elect a woman representative to the national assembly. The government also set up Uwezo Fund to promote entrepreneurial activities among women and youth. There are other numerous bodies and initiatives that have taken up women empowerment in Kenya. If the country keeps up the pace, marginalisation, extreme poverty, malnutrition, abuse and economic inferiority among women in Kenya will be just a memory.