Let’s Milk This Cow: Tapping Opportunities of Growth in COVID Economy
Two months after Rona’s unwelcome visit to Kenya, the story of Pastor Musyoka of New Apostolic Faith in Kitui captured media attention. If you didn’t gerrit, find it here. The servant of God decided a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do! And that’s how his gospel of chicken and pig products hit the airwaves. As IMF, World Bank and economic pundits predicted, the pandemic has indeed taken its toll on livelihoods. What Musyoka’s story illustrates is that Rona has no chills or fear of God! You can go to bed with the Bible as “Mtumishi Wa Mungu” and wake up with a bucket of eggs as “Musyoka Wa Matumbi!” A school can turn into a vegetable farm, and a Kiswahili teacher into a freelance video editor and photographer.
Without downplaying the economic realities and struggle for survival kwa grao, Winston Churchill’s counsel is still relevant: “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” Even with all the wahala, the COVID situation is still a good crisis. It is a rugged cow of great opportunities for those courageous enough to milk! Now, the silver lining is not in a quick return to normalcy. How I wish! I believe the blessing is in the unprecedented opportunity to discover new pathways of personal growth and reinvention, and translation of talent and ideas into practical solutions for the new challenges we face.
Over the last three months, I have had the privilege of interacting with Sang and Mike, two members of Lifesprings Christian Center, Kikuyu, who are milking this cow. In their separate initiatives, both have demonstrated a remarkable entrepreneurial energy. As President Uhuru recently highlighted in his speech, it is this kind of enterprising initiative that the youth need to thrive in the post-COVID-19 economy.
Before schools closed, Sang, a BOM teacher, would never have described himself a video editor, photographer and music tutor. With the urgent need for the church to transition to online ministry, Sang had a steep learning curve, spending long hours in self-training on video and photo editing software and applications. Within no time, he and small digital ministry team have become the nerve center of Lifesprings’ online ministry. Five months down the line, Sang has established a promising start-up, SangShyne Media. Part of this includes music tutoring classes that have him engaged each week with nine keen students, the youngest being a 6 year old. Mike on the other hand, has dusted his baking skills. With a touch of professionalism, he is now baking his heart out under a new brand Heaven’s Cakes and Pastries. In a recent conversation, it was exciting to learn of the orders he is delivering for various clients, including a former employer, whose family needed some pastries to celebrate Eid-ul-Adha.
What Sang and Mike are doing reflects the biblical wisdom we find in Jeremiah 29. Thrust into an uncomfortable reality of life, naturally, the Jewish exiles hoped for a quick end of lock-down. But this was a false hope, inspired by prophets and diviners without God’s mandate (Jer. 29:8-9). With this misguided expectation, they had withdrawn from the practical responsibilities of life, including the very ones critical for their survival and flourishing. Yet, this is the posture of life and faith God commended then, and still does in our situation: a down-to-earth realism that is committed to hopeful, productive engagement of civic life. As God’s people, I believe this is the key to prosperity in the ‘Babylonian exile’ imposed on us by COVID-19 (Jer. 29: 5-7). What unorthodox strategy for the Sovereign God to use to cater for our survival and welfare!
So, how can you milk this cow?
Firstly, you need a paradigm shift, from a ‘fixed mindset’ to a ‘growth mindset.’ In his article in a recent book, Accept, Adapt, Act, Dr. Wathanga commends Jim Collins’ concept of growth mindset as a posture of adaptability and openness to learning needed by organizations and individuals to thrive in this season. The Jewish exiles needed it; we too need it.
Secondly, it is critical to identify gaps in the market, and translate your knowledge and skills into products and service that solve real problems. With the disruption of school calendar and more unplanned hours spent at home, Sang has found a way of meeting needs of parents groping for ways to get their kids learn new skills that add value. For start-ups like Heavens Cakes, closure of some established hotels and restaurants has opened opportunity to offer customizable and cost-effective services to clients, with a personal touch.
Thirdly, this is a good time to position your talent and skills, for example through volunteering, starting a blog or using social media platforms. As Sang’s experience illustrates, simply being available to meet present needs can put your gifts on display, and link you with important networks. Doing so is much like posting your CV on a billboard; you never know who is watching!
Fourthly, at a time of shoestring budgets, creativity is king when vying for presence in the crowded marketplace of options. This is about generating fresh and workable ideas, while saving people some coins for baby’s milk on the way! As the President has rightly observed, surviving this season will demand innovativeness, for “the currency of the COVID moment is ideas…” But there is no greater scandal than wanting good mula but investing zero creativity! This matter became very emotional for me recently, when silly me was cajoled into buying shoddy revision workbooks for my kids. In her book, It Takes So Little to Be Above Average, Florence Littauer has lots to say about the peril of mediocrity- and the possibility of self-redemption.
Lastly, you need the humility to start small. No matter what, the great things we adore were born small, peeing and pooing, diapers and all! Unfortunately, many people want to become an instant hit with their first blog post, their first cup cake or app. Miracles can happen, but you need to be Midas Goldfingers, and his genes are in short supply! Most of us have to slog long and hard before the breakthrough finally comes. This is a tough lesson my brother and I learned when we burnt our fingers in Nanyuki in an ambitious onion farming project. But that’s a story for another day!
Whatever happens, milk this cow.