KENYAN DUO PAVE THEIR WAY IN PITTSBURGH IN THEIR NATIVE COUNTRY, THEIR PATHS WOULD HAVE REMAINED SEPARATE; HERE, TWO WOMEN TEAM UP TO BENEFIT FROM NEWFOUND FREEDOM. Series: PITTSBURGH'S NEW IMMIGRANTS

By Sholtis, Brett | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), June 8, 2014 | Go to article overview

KENYAN DUO PAVE THEIR WAY IN PITTSBURGH IN THEIR NATIVE COUNTRY, THEIR PATHS WOULD HAVE REMAINED SEPARATE; HERE, TWO WOMEN TEAM UP TO BENEFIT FROM NEWFOUND FREEDOM. Series: PITTSBURGH'S NEW IMMIGRANTS


Sholtis, Brett, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)


In Kenya, May Lebo and Lavender Wachira never would have met, let alone become business partners. They were from different ethnic groups, different social classes and different parts of the country.

But in Pittsburgh, where they attended school, the two Kenyan immigrants were free to team up as entrepreneurs, launch their own cleaning business and plan together for future business endeavors.

Like many recent immigrants, they came to Pittsburgh as students and stayed on work visas to capitalize on the economic freedoms of the U.S. -- freedoms perhaps best seen by contrast.

"In Kenya, in high school you take an exam that determines the rest of your life," Ms. Wachira said.

"Whatever you went to school for is what you work in," Ms. Lebo added. "You cannot be anything else. But here, you can be anything."

Ms. Lebo, 34, is a self-described farm girl from Kitale, an agricultural center. She studied TV journalism at the Kenya Institute of Mass Communication and worked in TV communications and other media roles for seven years.

Her business partner, Ms. Wachira, 28, grew up in Nairobi, Kenya's capital. The daughter of a college professor, she was inspired by then-president Mwai Kibaki to follow his educational path and study economics at the University of Nairobi.

Though they didn't attend school at the same time, the two women came to the U.S. as Point Park University international graduate students in the business program. They met through a common friend, and their business relationship kindled after Ms. Wachira graduated from Point Park and became frustrated with her job prospects.

"After school, I was at a point where I'm looking for a job, and the jobs that I was getting weren't exactly paying what I felt a master's degree should get me," Ms. …

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KENYAN DUO PAVE THEIR WAY IN PITTSBURGH IN THEIR NATIVE COUNTRY, THEIR PATHS WOULD HAVE REMAINED SEPARATE; HERE, TWO WOMEN TEAM UP TO BENEFIT FROM NEWFOUND FREEDOM. Series: PITTSBURGH'S NEW IMMIGRANTS
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