We are waiting for Terry-anne Chebet at the reception of Scarlet Group… We are early, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, waiting to have a chat with the Citizen news anchor – who’s synonymous with ‘fresh, sweet and silent potent’.
I am just a little concerned that she’d declined to go through the interview’s questionnaire beforehand, to plan to keep her polished demeanor from getting chaffed up…
Anyhow, she scurries in with her usual glee – in blue jeans, beige heels, a casual floral top that tells you she enjoys being a woman, and long earrings that say ‘Hey! I am AFRICAN.’ A hug for me – the girl, and firm handshake for our BLN radio producer – amid profuse apologies for running a few minutes late. She moves on with the same enthusiasm to the rest of the staff/colleagues – hugs, firm hand-shakes for the men, chuckles…. – It sure is the 2016 work style! Though she insists it’s because she has been away for one and half weeks.
Terry-anne Chebet is the founder of Scarlet Digital Communications and Keyara Organics
We all quickly make up the stairs to the balcony where the interview officially takes off. She is the founder of Scarlet Digital Communications and Keyara Organics – whose natural based body butters, balms and hair food products are now retailing in health stores and beauty shops around Nairobi, Naivasha, Malindi and beyond the borders in Lusaka, London and New York. And the dream is bigger. Some heads are bundled together over Keyara’s new frontiers. “Keyara Organics is growing!” beams the ‘five foot two’ industrialist.
She is making the best of her IBA – International Business Administration studies
Beneath the pretty, dainty and articulate screen presentation is also a terse blogger that has a word for every unbecoming situation. She obviously enjoys teaching on values, correcting social-economic anomalies and just expressing things that are trapped in our hearts by vocabulary challenges – terryannechebet.com. So she is making the best of her IBA – International Business Administration studies at the United States International University (USIU) Kenya, broadcast journalism training from School of Information and Advertising and her avid reading – as indicated. Her creative knack has accorded her star stints at the Nairobi Phoenix Plays, and she was a key character in the KBC series Reflections. Besides KBC, she has also had two international anchoring experiences at CNBC Africa and CCTV News International. And on a good day she does part-time corporate Emceeing.
I have no work-life balance, says Terry-anne Chebet
“So there we go – I have no work-life balance. It’s not possible!” She shrugs with a playful smile. “And I think we shouldn’t push ourselves through much to achieve it. You know… I imagine, the day I will achieve it, then what? Then what are you living for…? I don’t like to be comfortable. I think I enjoy the rush,” she says matter-of-factly. “I sleep before 9pm – after quite a bit of reading – I still read a lot. No TV – unless it’s Fox News or Bloomberg. My alarm goes off at 6.55am. And I snooze it till around 7.00am – 7.30am when I wake up,” she says – now that her Citizen TV office is just a stone throw away. “I love my sleep,” Terry confesses, “I don’t agree with folk who say you must wake up early to be successful – I think they just don’t like sleeping,” she says laughing. Her work time is a stack of a production stint at Citizen TV, a business class in USIU, some time at her Scarlet PR/Branding firm, or her new love – Keyara Organics; body and hair oils with 100 percent of natural Africa’s shea butter, cocoa butter, coconut oil, macadamia oil and black soap. The list grows as they continue to explore the skin’s and hair’s best – the baby’s too. “I love my jobs – all of them!” she chimes.
She grew up in a humble setting in Kitale
She hankers after challenge, she regurgitates. Despite her flair in the arts, the stunning senior anchor and associate business news editor who brings a gush of fresh air into business news says it is REALLY time for business journalism. “I am already good in the arts. Now I want to understand this thing that makes the world go round – money,” she says nodding away appending that she is enthusiastic about breaking it down for the person next door.
She grew up in a humble setting in Kitale, she says. She has four siblings and she is the middle child – “Which probably says something….” she mutters laughing. “We didn’t have a TV. So to fit in with the cool crowd, we crammed the sequels of the likes of ‘Wild-Rose’ from some friends in school and retold them to other friends,” she laughs on. It could have been one of the situations that sharpened her story-telling acumen. “So most of our recreational activities were the usual village games – running to the river, being chased by cows, climbing trees….
The colour TV experience!
Come high school we got the black and white Greatwall TV – the one that had a red back…? Then somewhere along the line, my mum came to Nairobi and got the plastic ‘screen’ thing that had different colours, to be stuck on our dear black and white TV – and there was our colour TV experience!” she laughs. “Interesting, my mum was never away – unless she was off for her ‘Merry-go-round’ (Table-banking) meeting. She plaited our hair – I still remember the tree under-which she did it. And made sure we had our fair share of house chores,” Terry recollects.
I want to be like this
Not that they did it much because Terry’s dad did not encourage it. Being a museologist, he had invested in a rich library. “My dad said, ‘Give a girl a book and see her change the world’,” she recounts. And she took it literally. She made time to stash away and thumb through books that had traversed the oceans to her home. “I never forgot the picture of this high achieving woman, in dark stockings, high heels, and with perfect make-up sitting on a high stool,” she recollects. She had a glass in her hand – coolly swishing its contents like she saw the world in it, Terry relays. And it settled, it etched – Yeah… I want to be like this….
She typified eloquence and creativity
Initially they all had African names. But when they got to class seven, the dad allowed each of them to pick a name of their choice for baptism. “I had just read a story in one of the Readers Digest my parents’ subscribed to and there was story about a lady who took in children of a race that was being oppressed – at the expense of her life.” Captivated by the big heart, she knew that it was the name to take on. ‘Terryanne’ complemented the other lady picture that would not badge from her psyche.
Through school, she typified eloquence and creativity. Terryanne aced all things gab and creative; and did not disappoint in the co-curricular. Does she consider herself a leader? “I don’t know… I thought leaders were people who spoke boldly and were aggressive. I am neither of those. I don’t know why I was made a prefect through primary and high school. I was also a class representative in college. It could have been my not hesitating to read aloud….?” She wonders laughing.
Parenting comes naturally
“I have always been an over-ambitious person… – I blame the books,” she says, “It’s the curiosity about those spaces… and a bit of boredom. I get bored easily – so I am constantly looking for something to distract me.” Then in the midst of working up her way, Imani, her daughter, showed up. “When I got Imani I grew up – in other words parenting comes naturally – you learn along the way…. And doors just started opening. The jobs came and the business ideas kept popping – including the Keyara Body butter – the only oil that kept her eczema at its lowest,” she tells. It has been 10 years since and there is definitely no looking back. Like many mothers, she is happy to pull many ends together to make sure Imani inherits a rich legacy – spirit, soul and natural.
So, there is no doubt that mother and daughter would not exchange each other for anything. But it does not negate that the culmination to their glad and easy current situation has been easy. Long story short, it did not work out with Imani’s dad. The heartache thereafter was great – and reverberated through the years.
The girl is brilliant
Good part, both parties are happy with where they are at – civilly witnessing the great thing that Imani is turning out to be. “The girl is brilliant,” mother cannot help but say. “She reads two to three books a week, she gets awards and awards, she is great company, and she speaks her mind. The other day I was driving back from Kitale after Christmas and I noticed she was quiet in the back seat. ‘Hey… you are quiet… What are you doing?’ I asked and she said she was reading,” Terry says. When they got home, Imani went ahead to ask her whether she knew that there was a malaria vaccine. “I said, there isn’t… – because I think I know everything,” Terry chuckles. Off the top of her head she gave the mother the details of its formulation, the biological composition, when it was first administered…. “Where did you get that from?” the mother asked. “From your Time Magazine,” Imani said with a ‘duuuh’ look. More details Imani availed thereafter confirmed that the 10 year old had read the business magazine back-back.
A child is best raised by both parents
Appreciating sole parenting, Terry says, “Personally, I don’t know anything else. But I believe there are things that a dad brings and those that a mum brings. However, there are gaps we may not fill as single mums. So saying, ‘I can’t find a hubby… so I will get a baby and settle down’ may not be wise. A child is best raised by both parents. My dad was away during my formative years. He got an accident and had to be in Nairobi for eight years receiving treatment. But when he got back home, we noticed the difference. They were two very different people both of whose parenting styles highly impacted us,” states the TV anchor. “But then again if you are like me, you have to pull double duty. Additionally, I try to have her get constant mentorship from her uncles. She has her dad-time too. I also give her a religious grounding – this I know reinforces what I teach at home.”
The most truthful thoughts are those you get before you sleep
Challenges – When you are out on a new date and you say you have a child – you notice a shift, Terry evokes. “I got over that,” she laughs, “Now I spell it out – ‘My name is… and I have a 10 year old daughter…” Another snag is that you cannot bring your new love home for dinner. “You really need to be sure that’s THE GUY before introducing him to your child,” she asserts, “When he breaks up with you, he also breaks up with her.” And there is the thought, ‘I might not need a guy…’ That’s a fleeting one!” she laughs. “Not to say I don’t respect other ladies’ decisions to remain single, but the most truthful thoughts are those you get before you sleep,” she says smiling. “I don’t believe God created us to be alone. We are emotionally dependent. We thrive when we are loved.”
A single mum should not let heartbreak keep her from meeting good people
The TV anchor, business woman, and single mother says a single mum should not let heartbreak keep her from meeting good people. Everyone deserves love, she states. And goes on to say, a single mum should ask herself all the right questions before settling down; and should know that marriage is great! When there are issues in a marriage, the first option is usually to sort them out. The confines of a marriage allow folk to work out issues,” she says adding that the opposite is true when there is no civil commitment.
Dressing well is a sign of good manners
Quick tip. Dressing well is a sign of good manners, she avers. We can’t make a first impression the second time. “Motherhood often changes your weight side, leaves you with stretch-marks and ‘love-handles’ – which can dent your self esteem. It’s not easy when you meet your old friends and they say, “OMG… I didn’t recognize you…” thus the need to take care of yourself and look great! “I added 20kgs after the baby – from 47kgs to 67kgs. Guys said, ‘now you look like you can speak to adults…’ But I didn’t like it – so I went jogging at Jeffreys,” she says.
I have my mall times and also my nice bargains at Toi Market and Yaya Centre’s
To spank or not to? – “To spank!” she jolts. “Naughty corner and timeout did not work for Imani – she enjoys her own company. But we got done with that at age nine. Now we talk a lot.”
Shopping – “I have my mall times and also my nice bargains at Toi Market and Yaya Centre’s second-hand book store. And Imani being at the age that would want ‘everything’, Terry learnt to give her a specific amount of money so she could get whatever she wanted within that range. “That teaches her how to plan. I also have to be frugal – with two sprouting businesses and a child to raise, we have to be true to where we are,” asserts the business journalist – putting her well amassed principles of economics into play.
I cry over everything!
When does Terry cry? “I cry over everything!” She laughs. I cry during the Omo advert, while watching engagement videos, reading a book, during heartbreaks…. I am a bag of emotions! – But I choose a crying location,” she quickly shifts into a serious-cheeky posture. “I don’t cry in the office – certainly not on set. The last time I needed a good cry I drove down to Gilgil for a crafts festival – and wailed down Naivasha road – like what you see in the Nigerian movies, in the company of no one but music for crying,” she laughs. “I enjoyed the festival, got back onto the car and bawled back. Somewhere along the highway, the police stopped me for their usual checks. I quickly wiped out my tears, responded accordingly – and cheerfully so. Got back onto the road and sobbed back to Nairobi. It felt good!” She laughs. “ It’s important for one to be in touch with their emotional side – lest it boils over to something really unpleasant. God created tears for a reason,” she laughs on, “I think there’s a chemical explanation.”
“That would be, my boss, Farida Karoney (Citizen TV’s Chief Operations Officer who develops the company policies and goals). She is the driver of a TV station that commands 50 per cent of Kenya’s TV audience. And she does that with so much purpose. She is a powerful woman – yet she knows how to deal with everyone in their different spaces. She is tough love.
“Wachira Waruru, Royal Media Services group managing director, would be the other one. He saw my potential way before many and gave me an anchoring job. He urged me to take up the CNBC job when it came up, probed me to read the likes of the Economist, Havard Business review – to get acquainted with business news, and told me when I didn’t look well prepared for an interview. He also urged me to go to business school. I really respect him. “There is also Chimamanda Adichie, the renowned African writer. There is one of her quotes that I really like – ‘The kind of man that is intimidated by me is not the man for me.’ Then, being an African is not the SI unit of beauty. But Terryanne is true to who she is. She celebrates African, wears African. I like her purity of thought.”
A woman should always work into a room with her head high
Heritages Terryanne would like to pass to the next generation: “Integrity – A woman should always walk into a room with her head high – and looking smart as opposed to enticing,” she states. “Then, Curiosity – This includes books and travel. Once you are curious, nothing can hold you back. Curious people change the world,” she says with a gentle nod. “There’s also Hard work – If you were to check my bank account you will find that no one’s given me money for free. Hard work is the sweetest success.”
“Family values is the last one – You are grounded the most when you believe in the family unit,” states the journalist. “I have been reading Dunduzu Chisiza, Malawi’s nationalist and agitator for independence. I also agree that we are absorbing so much from the west that our indigenous values are washing off. I would be happy with us going back to saying my neighbor eats in my house; and I will also love them like I love my child – an ideology that’s far from the escalating individualism. If we lived like children – who never seem to notice boundaries – then the society will be restored. So I am for Nyumba Kumi!” laughs the eloquent journalist – obviously grounded in her research, “If Nyumba Kumi works for security, it will certainly work for other things!”
Some mother-daughter convos
“Mum when are you getting married?” Imani asks.
“I don’t know… why?” Terryanne mutters as she tinkers about her stuff.
“You know you need to get married soon… otherwise I will end being your best maid…. Because I can’t be a flower-girl in your wedding – 10 years later…?”
“Do you have a boyfriend?” She asks another day.
“I can’t have that discussion with you …”
Imani prompts her cousins to ask the mum when they get together. But they get a pretty similar response.
I wanna settle down- I want to fall in love
So now that she can talk THAT with us – the dating scene… It currently seems a little far-flung, she indicates. “But I wanna settle down. I want to fall in love – madly, stupidly – someday… soon… It’s easy to give up on love while on the other side of 35…. But I am hopeful – even as I enjoy my space. I want to come back home to a great man, and make a nice meal for him. And, by the way, I am not settling for ordinary love. It has to be a man who really loves me, who thinks about me when he opens his eyes in the morning – I still believe in fairy tales – And I believe the bible doesn’t express love any less. That it is honest, with overflowing kindness…. I am looking forward to a SMART guy…. I am turned on by good conversations – books, finances, world economics, humour… He has also to be a man of God.”
Obviously a hopeless romantic that is passionate about positive change
Is there a timeline? “Oh it expired five years ago!” she laughs. “I keep getting married every 29th December. And my girls sometimes remind me ‘…that’s a Tuesday….’ I say, ‘we shall work around that…’” Who would Terry say she REALLY is? “…hmmm…. I am a good person…. I am a dreamer – obviously a hopeless romantic that is passionate about positive change…” she says. Maybe she could start with her backyard, she thinks. “Kitale was beautiful. It was green… full of trees. It has always been in my heart to restore that beauty,” she says – evidently trapped in the vivid vision in her spirit – even as she also sees to economically empower the inhabitants of the region. “…So, maybe politics – if it’s the only vehicle that could help me realize that.”
She would like to be remembered for leaving a legacy as opposed to being successful
As we pack up to leave, there is one little question. How does she maintain her squeaky clean image? Hair preened, eye-brow shaped, outfit – up-to-the-minute, and a character and steps in tow. “Oh I am not perfect…” she pleads appending that she is on the trajectory of self improvement. She too does not escape her reprimanding.
The budding business mogul would like to be remembered for leaving a legacy as opposed to being successful; to change the narrative about Africa – making it a strong unapologetic African brand – true to its rich genus – from its sumptuous culture and to its looming huge economic potential; showing women how to be what they can be. And for being a happy wife! #HopeAlive!