How Ms Karingi is Towering High in a Business Environment Dominated by Men

By John Kariuki

The Mention of the Word SARMA triggers the feeling of achievement, trust and integrity. It’s a brand, that has played an important role in Kenya’s Construction Industry for well over three decades now.

In a nutshell, it’s the most preferred supplier of timber and allied products for construction.

Sarah Karingi is the Chief Executive Officer of SARMA Enterprises Limited. A leader par excellence. A person of integrity. Just to mention a few of her attributes.

This is a business outfit that Sarah and her husband built from scratch since the year 1992 where it started as a small hardware. Sarma enterprises deals with timber and timber-based products.

The Times sought an exclusive interview with the lady referred to as “Queen of Networking”. She earned this title for her commitment in helping and serving multitudes of people.

Sarah had always observed keenly the zeal with which her late husband dedicated to nurture the business.

After her husband died in the year 2006, Sarah picked up very fast and realized she was the Captain to steer the ship that her husband was so passionate about.

“As the most preferred supplier of timber products, you have to earn that title. Trust has been a key pillar in this business. Customer referrals have propelled the business which makes me not to bother about the competition,” the CEO said.

The strong-willed lady was not even brought down by an ugly incidence that once threatened to bring her business down. She was a victim of an arson attack that devastated assets of her business worth millions of shillings.

“God is always faithful and once you trust in Him he will never let you down. After the arson attack, I admit it was a low moment for me but that did not deter me from pursuing my dream. I commissioned the repairs and soon the machines were renovated and we resumed business,” the entrepreneur beamed.

Her business has not been without a fair share of challenges. The greatest challenge is the infiltration of sub-standard goods from China. Another challenge is the inflation that has been occasioned by the increase in the price of fuel.

“Even the price of the raw materials has gone up due to the fuel hike. The trickle down effect is felt even by our suppliers,”

As a woman she also faced sabotage but this didn’t dim her strong will and dedication.

“During the construction of Outering road, there used to be power outages when the contractor was working on the relocation of the power lines. But I quickly solved that through purchase of a high voltage generator that ensured that even if there was a blackout, production would continue uninterrupted,”

As a highly respected and reputable leader of several organisations, Madam Sarah believes in results through collaboration and team work.

She has also honed her managerial skills through pursuing courses in Business Management on top of attending several workshops and seminars.

The courses just to mention a few are enterprise Development Program and Owner management programme which are an equivalent of an MBA, all attained from Strathmore.

She has so far referred 35 people to this school. She works closely with HR consultants because she believes that employees are the greatest asset in every organisation and they can determine the growth or retrogression of the same organisation.

“I mentor my employees a lot. I accept positive criticism and rectify whenever I’m on the wrong. I’m very free with my employees whereby I give them a chance to air their ideas and then we implement them together.”

Her parting shot as a woman who has made substantial progress and achievements in life is especially to the young generation to believe in themselves and work hard. She discourages idleness and people wanting freebies.

“In life you have to work hard. There’s nothing for free. Nothing comes on a silver platter. Hard work and dedication is a must.”

Her guiding principle is Trust. She attributes her achievements to the trust she has build with her clients over the years. She quips, “Trust is a very expensive virtue and one has to earn it with time. It’s for this reason that some of our clients just deposit money in the bank and we make deliveries to their premises without having to physically present themselves to our shop.”

Sarah has received several awards just to mention a few: Africa Business Networker Award, ABTEI Entrepreneurship award (which she was awarded alongside Her Excellency the First lady Margaret Kenyatta and Ambassador Amina Mohamed), Vigor Award and Africa Business Hero of the Year Award.

She is working closely with her  daughter whom she has mentored and entrusted  with running of the business as a way of passing the baton

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