Creative of the Week: Rayhab Gachango
Rayhab Gachango (@Potentash) is a writer, poet and blogger. She runs an award-winning lifestyle blog, Potentash, and has had her work published in the anthologies Fifth Draft and Femmolution, as well as on various online publications. She is passionate about women’s and children’s issues so she writes a lot of stories based on this. She also loves to dance, read, watch movies, eat and socialize. Before going into blogging full time, she worked for 6 years in a Tobacco company in Sales and Marketing and for for 2 years at a travel agency as the Communications Executive.
1. Did you always know you wanted to be a blogger? How did you get into blogging?
When I was growing up there were no blogs. I did know that I wanted to be a writer, and for the longest time my dream was to be a journalist so that I could write stories like the ones I saw in the newspaper and then eventually become a novelist. That was the romantic dream. The reality is that I don’t like news; I find it mostly negative and so I generally don’t read the paper or watch the news. I love features though and enjoy telling the stories of individuals and groups so you will find a lot of that on my blog. I wish I had found this out before I studied journalism in University, but oh well everything you do sharpens you for other things you do later.
In 2009 when I was selling cigarettes, I used to write Facebook notes with my poems and short stories. A friend of mine (Wamathai) suggested that I should open a blog so that more people could see my work. So I did. I opened an account on BlogSpot, Raylitpoems.blogspot.com and that is where my blogging journey started. I used to wake up at 4am to write blogposts and then post them at 6 before getting ready to go to work. Eventually, I professionalized the blog and moved to Potentash.com.
2. What is your creative process like?
My creative process is all over the place. I used to be very disciplined with my writing, I would write whether I felt like it or not. Nowadays, sadly I am very undisciplined and I tend to procrastinate. (Not that I didn’t before but now it’s gotten worse.) I am trying to get back into the groove, but I need to learn to switch off my internet and just sit and write. Twitter is my weakness as I can go in to check something and before I know it, 3 hours have gone by. I used to write in a notebook and then transfer the work to the computer and I’m considering going back to doing that. I also like to write with music in the background, taking breaks to dance a bit when a song I love comes on.
I am inspired a lot by things I see around me and I tend to take mental notes for things to use later.
One of the things that has probably negatively affected my creative process is being an entrepreneur. You wear too many hats, and sometimes the hat that falls off is the one you love most. I am trying to balance several hats including editor, social media work and also attending events. I think I wrote better when I had a full-time job because I was writing from passion not for a pay check. People romanticize the entrepreneur life but it can wreak havoc on your creative spirit because you are constantly worrying about paying the bills. Balance is key as you can lose one thing while chasing another.
3. How would you describe your blog?
Potentash.com is a lifestyle blog covering entertainment, travel, relationships, technology, health and fitness, business, news, beauty and creative writing. That’s the technical answer. Potentash is a blog that celebrates the things happening in the Kenyan space and tells the stories of Kenyans doing ordinary things that make a difference, the everyday shujaas who you meet on a normal day. We bring you information on the latest products in the market, and also give you reviews on things you should try.
4. How much do your life experiences influence your work?
Earlier on I would have to say most of it was influenced by my experiences, because I was writing a lot from what I had experienced, or seen. But when you are running a commercial blog it is not about you, so you start writing more using facts and research, and not necessarily from personal experience.
5. Who are your favourite bloggers and why?
I have so many. I like different things so there are people who write on a couple of things I am passionate about. I enjoy the blogs by Morris K (Owaahh.com), Magunga (Magunga.com) and Wanjiru Kihusa (Stillamum.com). They write about things I am interested in with a different perspective. But there are others I love as well. There are very many great bloggers in Kenya, and you can find whatever you’re looking for depending on your interests.
6. What are your thoughts on blogging in Kenya, what challenges have you faced as a blogger and how do you think we can improve on the craft?
The blogging scene has grown in Kenya, we have come a long way in less than 10 years. When we started, it was as a hobby; many of us did not think it would become a business but now we are making money from it. Blogging has now gone beyond blogging platforms and people are now creating audiences on microblogging platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. This has led to the rise of influencers.
The biggest challenge is that people want to pay you with exposure. When you are starting out especially when you have a job, it is not a big deal. You are willing to write for free. After all, you attend events for free, sometimes get a goodie bag and you are excited because brands want you to attend their events. But eventually it gets boring, and besides you are spending money as you get exposure. And exposure will not pay your bills, although it does make you look good on Instagram. As Magunga says, “Expose me to money.”
Another challenge we face is getting paid on time. You can do a job but you are paid months later. The worst part is that the people who squeeze you to the wall in terms of what you are delivering and what they are paying you tend to be the ones that pay you the least and then pay you late. They’ll also call you every other day making big demands, things that you didn’t agree to in the beginning, but because you need to get paid sometimes you will do them. When you are done you will chase the payments for months. This can be discouraging especially if you are running your blog full time, as you have bills to pay and those costs add up.
Technology can be a challenge. New technology and platforms are coming up and it can be a challenge getting used to using new apps especially social media apps. This is where the younger bloggers and influencers have the ball because they adapt quickly, for some of us we are left where we are most comfortable.
Also, there are those who are willing to do work for very little money, and it undermines the industry.
There is a lot being done to make the industry better. Most bloggers do not have a communication background, and they come from various fields. Things like training for new bloggers and old ones is helping to professionalise the industry. Of course, there are rogue bloggers but hopefully the market will weed them out on its own. I wish there were more affordable classes for creative writers who are just beginning to horne their craft.
7. You’ve had a great year – winning Best Lifestyle Blog at the BAKE Awards. Has this changed your blogging or life in any way?
It has only been a month so I can’t say it has changed anything for me yet. Business is a bit slow because it is political season so we have to wait and see whether it will have an impact after elections.
It has changed how some of my relatives introduce me though! I am now the award-winning blogger, before I was just Rayhab. More of them now know what I do as opposed to before.
I think the award validates the work the Potentash team does. I have a wonderful team of part-time writers, and they put out some great content. Sometimes, people only see me as the person behind the brand but there are other people who have also contributed significantly to what Potentash is today. I appreciate all the work they do to make Potentash a great blog every day, not just for helping Potentash get the award. This award was for all of us, not just me.
8. What work/project are you most proud of?
The interviews including Man Around Nairobi and Pearls And Heels. We have given people a platform to talk about what they do to a wider audience. People have told me that they have talked to people they haven’t talked to in a long time who read their story and someone told me she almost got a promotion as her boss was so excited to see a feature on her. People are happy that somebody is willing to celebrate them and it gives them joy when other people know what they do. I want to tell people’s stories and Potentash has helped me tell the stories of ordinary Kenyans who might never appear in a newspaper or on TV.
9. What advice would you give an aspiring blogger that you wish you had gotten when you were starting out?
Don’t be afraid to start; don’t keep procrastinating to start out as a blogger. Do it for the passion and eventually the money or whatever you are looking for will come. Don’t do it for the money, you might get frustrated in the beginning.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you don’t know something ask and you will receive help.
BAKE (Bloggers Association of Kenya) is willing to help you get started. It wasn’t there when we started but they will help you out with information and training. Join. Network with other bloggers and share their work as well. Don’t be selfish and share only your work. If you want to be celebrated, you need to celebrate others as well.
10. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
If you had asked me this question 2 years ago I would have given you a definite answer. I am looking to do new things, what exactly I am not sure. Maybe that’s why I am currently re-reading A Purpose Driven Life. I will still be running Potentash but I think I am ready to do something else as well. I will still be writing; I want to write children’s books so I need to work on that. I am also working on my first book, an anthology of short stories and poetry.
I love teaching so who knows, I might become a lecturer or just be a consultant trainer. I am already doing a bit of training.
The one thing I do know for sure I will be doing is travelling (and eating) as that’s something I have a passion for.
I will have finished my Masters in Corporate and Development Communication. I am interested in development issues so I might go into that.
11. If you could have any experience whether travel or an interview with someone famous, what or who would you choose and why?
Richard Branson. Like Richard Branson I was an entrepreneur from an early age, and I have started different businesses, some of which have worked and others that have flopped. I think I would learn a lot from him about business and how to balance passion and profit.
Check out Rayhab’s work and profile below.
Facebook Page: The Potentash
LinkedIn: Rayhab Gachango
Instagram: potentash7http://www.mwendengao.com/2017/06/20/creative-week-rayhab-gachango/Creative of the WeekBAKE Awards,Kenya,Lifestyle blog,Potentash