Success Story - Ak...


In 2010, Judith Owigar received a grant from infoDev to cofound AkiraChix, an innovation hub in Nairobi, Kenya, that seeks to increase the number of skilled women in technology. It hasn't been an easy journey for Owigar, who at times struggled to pay her bills while establishing her business. However, Owigar is driven by her students' passion to learn more about programming, design, and entrepreneurship.

Sending a Message to the Next Wave of Geeky Girls

1. What are the three things that help your creative process?

I need a time to relax; having time outs helps me to think better. I enjoy reading books that cover a wide range of topics. And lastly, I like to be involved in stimulating conversations.

2. Why is it so hard to start a business in your community?

There are few support structures for entrepreneurs. In my experience entrepreneurship will cost you more than you thought in money, time, work and inspiration. Well at some point the inspiration just becomes plain hard work. In Kenya, it is hard to juggle trying to start a business and struggling to survive. We do not have the benefit of experimenting for long periods of time without a source of income. This leads most entrepreneurs to do more than one thing to survive which means less focus on their business or project. It's a catch 22 situation, especially for those who do not have financial or moral support.

3. What did you want to do when you were younger?

I never really had a particular career path in mind. I just knew I wanted to be successful. My favorite subjects in school were math and chemistry, and I wanted to do something that had to do with math and science. That is how I landed in technology because I was told there would be math.

4. Who was your biggest inspiration while starting out, and what did his or her support mean to you?

My biggest inspiration was and continues to be the girls whose lives we plan to change for better.

5. If you had to do it all-over again would you be an entrepreneur?

Honestly. I don't know. It has definitely been a worthwhile journey but it has also been a very trying journey. I have learnt so much about myself both strengths and weaknesses, and it has been great to build something from nothing. Maybe in a few years I will have a different answer.

6. Why is it so important to empower women?

Empowering women empowers the whole community. Women are problem solvers in the family yet the Kenyan culture does not appreciate them as much in the market place, By giving them technology as a tool to create solutions is essentially creating solutions for Africa.

7. How did you become interested in technology?

I have a degree in Computer Science and Masters in Applied Computing. My first interaction with computers was in high school. Surprisingly I found the computer classes very boring. Despite this I chose to do Computer Science because I thought it would be different (I think I had a lot of faith). I must say my brother convinced me that computers were fun also played a big role (my brother is a marketer, a good one). My turning point came when I did my first big project for school, and I saw how I could use technology to solve a social problem opened my eyes to different possibilities and sparked my interest.

8. What are three things that make you think outside of the box?

The three things are: having diverse interests, speaking with diverse people, and seeking advisors.

9. As a woman do you face more challenges in Africa?

Stereotypes - that technology is a male dominated field and the culture that does not encourage women to be exceptional- be good but not too good.

10. Tell us something someone may not know about you.

I used to make bags and bookmarks when I was a child.

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