Boosting skills with the SME Trade Academy

20 August 2018
ITC News
Meet Dorothy Maureen Awuor Otieno, a Kenyan entrepreneur taking full advantage of ITC’s online learning platform.

Dorothy Maureen Awuor Otieno is an entrepreneur located Homa Bay, a small town in Kenya’s Nyanza Province. With nearly 30 certificates obtained from the SME Trade Academy, she is one of the most prolific users of the International Trade Centre’s (ITC)’s online learning platform. We recently got in touch with her to hear what’s behind her drive.*

‘I lived in the town of Eldoret for most of my life. In 2013, I relocated to Homa Bay and started a sugar-cane business. Looking back, I knew very little about the challenges that it would entail,’ Otieno says. Her business involved sourcing sugarcane from smallholder farmers, selling it to the local milling factory, and then sharing the profits with the farmers at an agreed rate. The sugarcane industry was – and still is – heavily male-dominated; from harvesting to cutting, loading and transporting. For Otieno, being competitive meant that she often worked very late into the night, with an early start the next day.

‘After some time, the demand for sugarcane started rising, and competition became very fierce. The factory that I was used to selling to suddenly closed for maintenance and, on top of that, I discovered that some of my suppliers had been cheating me. I lost a lot of money.

Otieno had to start to use her own savings to directly purchase the sugarcane supplies she needed, but things went from bad to worse. ‘Bank loans accumulated, and by the end of 2015, I was reduced to selling some of my personal items to survive,’ she says. ‘What’s more, my fixed assets were repossessed by my bank for nine months. I went into a deep depression, and today this period is still a very painful memory for me.’

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‘Then, one day, I saw a post on WhatsApp advertising free online entrepreneurship training from ITC. I resolved to learn more about business in order to become a better entrepreneur in the future. I realized that all I needed to have access to the training was a smartphone – and even this was a challenge for me, since at that time I didn’t even have money to feed myself properly on most days.

‘I enrolled on my first ITC online courses in 2016. I failed all of my first courses, which left me discouraged and even more depressed than before. But I didn’t give up. I started taking notes in exercise books, reviewing the course content seriously, and told myself that succeeding in these ITC courses was the only way to prove to my family, the world and myself that I was not a business failure.’

Since she first started, Otieno has obtained close to 30 certificates and taken over 40 courses on ITC’s SME Trade Academy. ‘I am not planning to stop learning anytime soon. I still have courses to take, even now, and I still hope to see even more courses on entrepreneurship to better equip women entrepreneurs,’ she says.

‘Today, I am back to working as an entrepreneur. The company that I have founded, Nyalore Impact, promotes clean cooking solutions such as stoves and fuel to customers who cannot afford LPG (liquefied petroleum gas), ethanol gel, etc. My biggest dream is to be part of the world’s best social innovators and entrepreneurs. Thank you very much for who I am today, ITC.’

Visit the SME Trade Academy to learn more and sign up to our online courses.