In the male-dominated scrap metal industry, Rehmat Sumra has managed to make a name for herself. At the tender age of 19 she became MD of Roma Scrap Metal Dealers Limited and has since steered it to great heights.
I grew up in Mombasa and my family later moved to Kisumu. My life spurned the normal life of a teenager. During school holidays I kept busy helping my mother to run and balance the accounts in our family-run business.
I completed school in 2004 and enrolled for a Diploma in International Commerce at the University of Toronto in Canada. I was studying in Canada when my mother suffered a stroke. I quickly returned to Kenya to run the family business. I previously never saw myself in the family business.
Looking back I believe my family background impacted on my career goals. Watching my parents run the family business drew me into the scrap metal industry. The company supplies scrap metal to lead manufacturers and steel mills. I began as an administrative assistant and was later made CEO at the age of nineteen.
I do not have a typical day. My day involves a balance of home and work. My day begins at 5am with prayer. I get my daughter ready for school and leave for work. My work involves correspondence with clients, seeking new business opportunities and supervising and overseeing the company’s operations.
Working in the scrap metal industry has taught me to deftly manoeuvre this informal sector. Having confidence has been handy in this male-dominated industry. Learning to deal with industry stakeholders has enabled the company to broaden its operations to Kisumu and Mombasa.
I actively engaged in strengthening the Kenya Iron and Scrap Metal Association. I cautioned on the dangers and implications of vandalism. This helped to reduce the rift between dealers in the business and management of national firms.
In my early days running the company, I was faced with a myriad of challenges such as business deals gone wrong. I would take it personally, like it was my failure. But I learnt that it can happen to anybody.
Through the years I have learnt that it is important to separate business and personal life. Never let your business affect your personal life. Never take matters to heart.
I am married and have a daughter who is three years old. Motherhood is a beautiful thing. It is possible to achieve the intricate balance of business and motherhood. I remember when I was a new mum I made a nursery for my daughter at work; I somehow developed this need to be constantly around my daughter.
I believe my responsibility towards society is to be an excellent wife, mother and business executive. Women can excel both at work and at home.
My husband and I love travelling. Since we got married we have travelled to all continents except Australia. My dream destinations in the future would be Mexico, Cuba and Switzerland.
My husband and I partnered together to start Aayat Enterprises Limited in 2014. It is a building and construction company that aims to empower the youth.
I returned to school to complete my studies. I graduated from Catholic University with a degree in political science with a bias in economics. Despite the fact that my education was cut short when my mother fell ill, I have deeply believed in the power of education. I wished to set an example to my siblings.
I am always disheartened by the suffering of disadvantaged children. I have adopted fifteen children with special needs, mainly suffering from cerebral malaria, cancer and brain tumours. We cannot continue thriving in business as a country while ignoring the plight of the less fortunate.
Success to me is being happy; and I can say that I am happy. As long as you know what you are doing then actively pursue it. You need to have that drive inside you because at the end of the day, if you do not want it you are not going to get it!
This article is featured in True Love East Africa Magazine July 2015 issue.
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