When Jeddidah Thotho was laid off in 2017, she did not let the bad news keep her down.
She had done good work in her six years as the Group Retail Director at Deacons PLC (previously Deacons Kenya Limited), having helped build a solid team and grow the brand as it entered the Kenyan stock exchange. But a number of macro economic changes and unforced strategy errors drove the company to downsize.
As a senior employee, Jeddidah was one of the few that were let go.
“I’m a go-getter, and I am all about making the numbers. But they didn’t come through and that was demoralizing,” she says of that time. “But it is important to believe in yourself and your skills despite what happens externally.”
She is very clear that though layoffs are something that many here in Kenya look down on, she chooses to talk about it because it’s important for people to know that downsizing does happen.
“They now happen more here [in Kenya] because of the economic environment. But in first world countries it happens now and again depending on the economic performance of the company and the macroeconomic experiences.”
Jeddidah has taken that same dynamo attitude to her new role as the Commercial Director at Liberty Eagle Holdings, which owns the local rights to Yves Rocher, Subway and Pizza Hut.
Because the company is a startup, she has had to stretch herself and use all her 20 years of retail experience from the U.S. and Kenya.
Having come from larger, established companies like Sears Holdings Corporation in the U.S., Jeddidah has had to adjust to the fast-moving, indefinite world of startups. As the marketing strategy director for Sears, for example, she led a department of about 5,000 people alone.
“Moving to a startup, you really have to widen your knowledge-base,” she says of the role she found through Kenyans Come Home. “Your skill-base becomes very flexible and adaptable to the point of stretching yourself beyond your experience, and you have to learn on-the-job things you haven’t done.”
And as more international brands continue to enter the East African market, Jeddidah believes the market is ripe for diasporans who can localize these companies’ international strategies.
“These companies already have the skills and expertise in their own countries. So what they are really looking for is the local know-how of the consumer and the ways of doing business here with a first-class mindset.”
She had that expertise in 2010 when she first moved back to Kenya from America. And now eight years later, she is glad she chose to come back “without a doubt."
“When you work in a smaller market like this and you have a specialized skill set, you can make more of an impact than you do in an organization that has thousands of people.”