Birth of a Social Enterprise Part 6 – Building The Show House

After the visits to the prototype by community members, we were invited by JJ and Ruth, 2 of the Kangemi Landlords to visit their plots and explore the opportunity for a show house. JJ is one of the early residents of Kangemi. His plot is now full of houses and the plot has been sub-divided between generations of children who have often sub-divided again to their children. JJ is the family elder still has strong influence over the whole plot and is a very well respected man in the community and active in the church and other community groups. He is passionate about Kangemi and improving the area. He still lives in Kangemi and has a nice bungalow in his main plot.

That morning we met JJ first at the ACK church (Anglican Church of Kenya) before being driven to his plot. We have been asked to describe Kangemi more to give people a feel for where we are working and the community etc. We will try and add more of that over the next few blogs. Look out for blog 9 for a blog focused on describing what we see and feel when in Kangemi.
On the short trip to JJ’s home, we travelled down roads lined with people going about their business, a dusty dirt road lined each side with metal sheet and bush pole shops and kiosks interspersed with newer stone and rendered permanent shops. All in all providing a vibrant and colorful vista.
At JJ’s home we entered via a tall double gate and were met by a group of running and smiling kids who were soon to become good friends of the “MZUNGUUUUU” (Mzungu). JJ took us on a tour of the area and introduced us to many locals. JJ’s status in the community was evident in these encounters. Finally we returned to JJ’s main plot for chai and to discuss the way forward. We agreed a location for the show house and JJ offered some spare blocks and sand he had on site to help with the foundation construction. An early demonstration of the true partnership JJ and we at Kwangu Kwako were to develop.

Shortly after, we commenced construction. The site is, hopefully, one of the most challenging we will encounter. The show house is 10ft x 10ft and the site falls around 5ft from front to back!! It is adjacent to the toilet block for JJ’s plot which on hot days provided a pleasant aroma for us building if the wind changed directions.
First job was to provide a level platform for the ground slab. We used the blocks provided by JJ and recruited a local artisan, Patrick, and a couple of local casuals to do this work ably project managed by Symon our Construction Manager. The excavations, foundation walls and back filling took around 3 days and was watched by an ever present group of people interested in what was happening.

Next was the all-important floor slab followed by a frustrating wait for the concrete to reach the necessary strength before adding the walls. Having gained the momentum with the walls and slab, this wait is always a shame but alas it is a very important part of the process. Rushing here will only lead to problems later.
Finally we could start the walls. We invited Erastus over from Athi River for this part. Erastus you will remember from the earlier blogs has been with us from the beginning and has helped us in early prototyping, panel manufacturing and prototype building. His experience from that period greatly assisted Symon in getting the walls built quickly and accurately. There were a few challenges as these wall panels are still from our first batch and have one or two elements we are ironing out in our next batch of molds we make. None or the issues were a major problem just irritations that slowed down the work a little. People checking out the work were amazed at how simple and quick construction was. In two days the walls were up and we even had time to start on the roof. Erastus had to return to Athi River at this point as his daughter was sick (recovered well in a couple of days thankfully). We then found a great new artisan called Joseph who worked really hard and had a fantastic rapport with Symon from the onset.


This was despite the fact that JJ had a huge family party on the plot on day 2 of the walls and we had a constant stream of interested people coming to check out what we were doing...fantastic marketing and exposure for Kwangu-Kwako and some great questions being asked.
We would have hit the target 3 days to complete but we were trying a new welder/metalworker to build the door and windows and he did not share our interpretation of time management? Eventually though after a lot of “coaching and feedback” the door arrived and to his credit he stuck with the job, carried out the alterations needed and did not argue for an increase in price. We all agreed that the learning from the experience would ensure a more effective process next time. We will see.

An early test of the roof construction!!!

The next few days were painting and furnishing the show house. Winnie did a great job with upholstery
and curtains and we opened to the public the following weekend.

The show house was delivered on target from the notional target we set ourselves in October 2015 of a
show house in a community by the end of the first quarter of 2016. Not bad when you consider that at
that point we had not even designed the first mold or panel!!.


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