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Never Let Your Dream Die

Updated: Feb 4, 2021

Torchbearer: Joyce Sabari-Karanu — Kenyan. Nairobi, Kenya.

"In October 2016, I realized I couldn’t do it anymore and I did the unthinkable — I resigned from my stable, well-paying job of 17 years. That was one of the most difficult decisions I made in my life, but after handing in my resignation letter, I knew I had made the right decision and had to stick by it."

"As much as there was that great feeling about being in a top position, I humbled myself and left all that behind. I told myself, ‘If God had brought me this far in 17 years, He surely had a plan for the next 17 years of my life.’ All I needed to do was trust and believe in Him.”

Researcher turned Education Leader

I’m a trained researcher by profession. My work involved educational research and a component of quality assurance. I enjoyed my work and it brought me great joy. I started as an Assistant Research Officer, one of the lowest levels as a graduate. Then I rose through the ranks and became the Deputy Director of Research and Quality Assurance — one level away from the CEO. I was a departmental head in charge of a team of about 50.

In my 17-year career I had numerous achievements. I learned a lot and traveled so much, France, the United Kingdom, Kazakhstan, South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Swaziland and other countries. I was appointed as Secretary to the Organizing Committee for an international conference [Association of Educational Assessment in Africa] — which involved over 100 countries from around the world. I was as a Board Member of the Kenya National Commission for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization[UNESCO] — Amongst many other things.

The way I had planned my career, I didn’t think I would be self-employed. I always thought I would work to the highest level in the Civil Service. Looking back now, I have no regrets — I know I served my country, I served my time and I’m happy about that.

Living Society’s Expectations

“I never really thought I had a talent outside of my career. But in hindsight, I can now see that I had sat on unexplored talents all my life. My advice to everyone out there — If you have a talent that God has given you, please explore it. That talent can feed you, cloth you, pay your bills and can even make you into a multimillionaire. The only thing is, you need to find out what that talent is and put your all into it, before God forces you to use it — like He did me.

I now have time to mentor young women — something that was next to impossible while I was employed. I was talking to a young woman and she said, ‘I just want to finish my course and get a job.’ That’s society’s expectation of us — that without a white-collar job, you’re not complete. It is so ingrained in our heads that we must succeed in this way — I now beg to differ.

I would leave home very early in the morning, and return at 2:00 a.m. on some nights and it would continue like that for days.

That is not living! Society expects you to be employed — so you keep trudging on and trudging on, not asking yourself: ‘What is this doing to you as a person?, What is this doing to your health?, What is this doing to your family?”

What Am I Running After?

“I would go to the hospital thinking I was having a heart attack — and after an ECG test, the doctor would declare that I was fine, it was just stress. My blood pressure was so high that my doctor had told me that if it did not come down, I would have to go on lifelong blood pressure medication. That is when I got my wake up call. I asked myself: 'What am I running after? What is this that I can’t live without? What is this that is more precious to me than my health?'

A few weeks later, I quit my job — I didn’t have a lot of time. If in the next month my blood pressure continued to rise, then I would have no choice but to be on lifelong medication. When all these things happen at the same time and you look at the compounding effects, you just decide it’s too much.”

Family, I’m Retiring!

“The first person I shared with about my intentions to resign was my husband — since he had recently left permanent employment to run his own business, it was agreed that it was not realistic for me to quit until his business had settled down. We agreed that I would continue working so that we had at least one stable income. A few weeks later things were not any better, I had another candid discussion with him and I told him that if I continued on the same trajectory, my life was going to end sooner than God had planned.

I had a discussion with members of my family — my husband, mom, sister — and when I told them of my intentions, they all said, ‘Oh, no! You cannot leave your beautiful job.’

All they could see were the perks — trips abroad, a nice corner office, a secretary, fully paid for family medical insurance. But nobody could see the kind of turmoil that was going on inside of me.

In the end, when I actually told them the truth about what was going on in my life, they all supported me, but on one condition — I was to rest for two months and look for another job. I got work less than a week after I left my job. It was a confirmation from God that I had taken the right decision. I started my interior design and gifting business very small scale with gift hampers (or gift baskets).

Now we have more time together as a family. My husband has been instrumental in helping me improve my new business. He’s constantly asking me, what can we do to assist you in the business? He now knows I don’t need an 8 to 5 job. The goal is to make what I have started grow and become bigger.”

Becoming an Interior Designer

“Even in university, my friends would call on me to help decorate and organize their rooms. Then as we got older, they would call me to help them do the interiors of their homes. I would only do it while I was on leave, and I wouldn’t charge them anything. Some of my first customers were those friends who I had done houses for previously, and they now needed a new look. The most exciting thing — they were willing to pay for my services. Can you imagine?

The gift hampers (or gift baskets) is something I’ve always done since I was a child. During Christmas, I would always look for gift items and wrap them up nicely for my family and one or two friends. What amazes me, is that even before I left employment and the same year I resigned, my sister, encouraged me to prepare gift hampers for Valentine’s Day, 2016. With very little marketing, I sold over 50 gift hampers. But after Valentine’s Day I got busy with my work and I forgot about it — but a spark had been lit.

It was a very important lesson that God was trying to teach me. Even if I quit my job, He had a well laid out plan for me.

That gave me some confidence even as I was resigning, that if I did some gift hampers here and there as I rested, I could make a few shillings. This past Christmas [December 2017] we did gift hampers for about 5 corporate clients and numerous individuals.

Not many people leave employment and immediately make it in their own business. I got so much business I had no time to think about the fact that I had quit my job. I was totally busy for two to three months, continuously. I even have to turn down some jobs. The work has been consistent. The business is growing. I’ve never marketed my company. I get my business through word of mouth.

My dream is for my business not only to bless me and my family, but to bless other people as well, because I believe that God blesses us so that we can be a blessing to others. The day I am able to pay school fees and attendant costs for 5 less fortunate children, then I will know I have made it.”

Never Let Your Dreams Die

“Never let your dreams die. Deep down, in every woman, there is something that you dream of. You should not let anybody, or anything come between you and that dream. As long as you’re dreaming, that means you’re making effort towards that dream.

There was a point I stopped dreaming — I reached a point and said, I’m going to work for the next 30 years in this job. You are so fixated on that one aspect — you don’t even ask yourself, what else can I do? What was my dream as a young girl? You don’t even realize that you have talents that you can use because you’re no longer dreaming. You’re just fixated on waking up every day, reporting to work, meeting the goals that have been set for you and going home. The next day is the same; the next month is the same; the next year — and before you know it, 17 years have passed."

Keep asking yourself — ‘Is this where I want to be, or do I want much more?’

It’s Not In Vain

“My sister keeps reminding me that those 17 years of being employed weren’t in vain. They taught me about hard work. A lot of discipline, resilience, and perseverance — all values that are key in running my own business now.

Not being as busy as I was, also helped my son when it came time for his national examinations. I was able to sit with him consistently and help him study. He really did well on his exams. He’s now in Grade 10 and we spend a lot of time together. Even my husband, I think we have a closer relationship. Maybe I need to ask him? I could be all in his space!

My mother has been instrumental in my new role as a businesswoman. Her prayers and encouragement are overwhelming, in a good way. I’m happy that I see her more often.

When I meet my former colleagues, I’m always bombarded with questions and comments, ‘How is it possible to transition that quickly?’, ‘You look younger and happier.’ Really, it’s God’s favour –There’s another level of happiness!”

— Joyce Sabari-Karanu


Enjoyed Joyce's journey? Then let us know! Here are other inspiring moments.

  • Read: "Powered by Purpose" - When you see there's a gap in something, go solve it! Don’t just complain. I’m not just going to complain. I have to be involved in order for it to change.

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