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Irene Wanjiku, the founder of Rexe Roofing Products Ltd, discusses building her business with Gambeta News
In November 2011, REXE Roofing was incorporated after Irene left her job in the construction industry. She is one of the leading icons in East Africa’s roofing business. Big projects like The Hub Karen in Kenya and Acacia Shopping Mall in Uganda are among the list of her completed projects.
Irene is a graduate of Business Administration and had started her working career as a receptionist for a Kenyan construction company. She caught the entrepreneurial bug when clients would ask her questions about roofing sheets.
She recently spoke at the Big 5 Construct East Africa conference held in Kenya about standing out despite challenges faced in the construction industry.
As a woman in business, in a male dominated industry. What makes you stand out?
Although the industry is male dominated, it helped to first see myself as person first before looking at the gender and believe in my rights as an individual. I also quickly learned that most of the partners we worked with in the industry were more interested in whether we had the capacity to carry out a particular project as opposed to the gender of the founder.
— Irene Wanjiku (@Roofing_Queen) May 16, 2019
How did your upbringing influence the person you are today?
I was an only child for many years and this helped me develop leadership skills as I would be entrusted with different tasks at an early age. There was also a number of challenges that I was required to handle on my own and this has helped me build tenacity as well as empathy when dealing with people.
How are you changing the way business is done in East Africa?
The common narrative on doing business in Africa is that most people are unscrupulous and unreliable especially in the construction industry.
We started REXE Roofing on the firm foundation of honesty and by keeping our word we are changing this narrative.
We have also invested in technology transferred where our technicians are trained directly by our business associates from Europe, which is not common in the industry but we set ourselves apart by investing in our people as well as ensuring all our products are environment friendly.
President Uhuru launched the Big 4 Plan to Build 500,000 Housing Units by 2022. How are you aligning your business to support his vision?
We are venturing into the manufacturing industry where we will provide quality and affordable products for the industry as well as create employment which will reduce and with consistency even eliminate the gap between the rich and the poor.
What is Rexe Roofing doing today to find new customers outside Kenya?
Our quality of delivery on various projects speak for us and we have been fortunate to have worked on projects in E. Africa. We have also been engaged and sponsored events by the Uganda Society of Architects, BIG 5 Exhibition in Tanzania all aimed at educating stakeholders on sustainable and environment friendly products that we offer.
— Irene Wanjiku (@Roofing_Queen) May 11, 2019
What are you working on right now, and your future plans?
We are now working on our manufacturing agenda as well as setting up a technical institution to equip the youth with the various skills they require to not only acquire a job but also get to keep the job for financial independence.
That’s a lot to take on. Do you look at the mountain or just what’s just right in front of your feet?
Our vision is Roofing the World, this means that we look at the entire mountain and plan accordingly working together to achieve it.
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