Kenyan Woman in US Rises From Low Wage Job to Own Company

As humans, we have the tendency of underestimating the power of choice. Nonetheless, this perspective changes once we decide to do things differently and resort to viewing life from a larger perspective. 

Oprah Winfrey says that “We are each responsible for our lives and, more important, the thoughts that create them. If you want your life to be more rewarding, you have to change the way you think.”

Once we understand how powerful we are within, we exponentially increase the power and potentiality of everything outside of us. This clearly defines the life and journey of Jennifer Kuria, a Kenyan born entrepreneur thriving in the US.

Kuria, with her eyes fixated on exploring the American market, packed her bags and bade goodbye to her motherland Kenya, 20 years ago.  

The second factor she engraved dearly in her heart was the pursuit of new opportunities and making the US her new home. She believed that one of her sisters and current business partner would aid her map the market for she was a real estate broker. 

Real estate was a new venture to Kuria, a professional international banker. Breaking this barrier proved tough to her. She broke but did not yield. 

After a long period of time searching for jobs that matched her banking skills, Kuria opted for low paying jobs and one of these was an entry-level position at Wells Fargo.

The entrepreneur worked eight hours a day, from 9 am to 5 pm, but seized the moment to accumulate all the knowledge she could. Kuria used the job to open her eyesight to bigger and better aspects of her dreams. 

She learnt the ins and outs of processing loans, buying and selling properties, and making a living in real estate and development.

“I was very curious and inquired how the process worked. That experience inspired me to strike out on my own as a property owner and investor. Partnering with another investor, I used my savings and some borrowed money to buy, renovate and resell a small house.

“The business picked off from there. I think we did two or three properties and then I started working on my own. In a nutshell, that’s how I started,” Kuria recalled in an interview with Finance & Commerce.  

All was not rosy nonetheless for Kuria. As she rode to success, she also had to face several roadblocks which came her way. One of the challenges she faced as a person of colour in the US was bias, prejudice and racism. 

She stated that efforts to convince a bank to offer her a loan were demanding and straining as the financial institutions viewed her projects as risky. 

“If you’re wearing all the hats in your company, it can be challenging to get everything accomplished,” she lamented. 

“Looking around, there were very few people who looked like me — and I did not know any women of colour in construction. I did not have a support system and had to pave my own path,” she added. 

Storms hit her weakest points but unlocked her true strengths. Every challenge came with an opportunity for growth. 

She weaved her way through the adversities and found projects that would kickstart her rise to the top. Kuria oversaw the construction of modular homes for homeless veterans through the aid of the Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans.

Construction on the 35W@94: Downtown to Crosstown mega-project in September 2017.
Construction on the 35W@94: Downtown to Crosstown mega-project in September 2017. Craig Lassig/Finance & Commerce

The real estate developer also partnered with the city of Minneapolis on its Minneapolis Homes rehab program. They acquired vacant and boarded homes with one to four units and prepared them for sale as affordable housing.

In 2021, she was awarded five projects that will create two twin homes and three single-family homes. These houses will be sold as affordable homes at 80 per cent area median income. 

“She has been a critical participant in our programs,” Roxanne Kimball, manager of the Minneapolis Homes program lauded her. 

“We noticed Jenny right away because there’s … a higher level of design and detail and care in the rehabs that she did. Everyone just naturally rallies around her because they see that higher level of business acumen and effort in all of our projects,” Eddie Landenberger, vice president with Land Bank Twin Cities added. 

Kuria currently oversees dozens of renovations and new construction projects and manages her own company Jenny Investments LLC and Amani Construction & Renovations, which offers a range of construction services. From consultation, budget analysis, survey and construction. 

“We are looking and hoping for change and support for generations to come – not just for us, but for our children and also our children’s children,” she proclaimed.

Her daughter, Joanne Kuria, is following in her footsteps.

“There’s so much happening in the city, and it doesn’t shut down at 10 o’clock,” Joanne stated in a past interview with StarTribune.

-Kenyans.co.ke 

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