TERRYANNE CHEBET Master of her own destiny

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If ever there was a personified definition of beauty, success and business all rolled up in one, Terryanne Chebet would definitely make the cut. With an enviable TV career, business ventures and a family, the composed Citizen TV news anchor demonstrates that the price of success is hard work. ESTHER AKELLO picks her brain on what it takes to build successful brands, the importance of mastering one’s craft and making life work.

It may come as a surprise to hear Terryanne Chebet say she is looking to slow down her life. Isn’t moving up and moving fast the obvious trajectory for her, especially after launching a skin and hair products line?

“I realised that I hadn’t been enjoying life for sometime, I was simply rushing through it. This realisation caught me by surprise because I really thought I was fine. That was until I started reading the Motivation Manifesto by Brendon Buchard. It talks about declaring what you want and slowing down life to enjoy your present moment including the tough times,” says the 37-year-old mother of one.

And tough times have been by her alley several times. Shortly after her daughter’s birth in 2006, the relationship she thought would be for keeps crumbled, forcing her to move out on her own together with her now 10-year-old daughter, Imani Cherutich. She barely had two coins to rub together and for a while, their meals consisted of rice and cabbage, and that was while she was holding down two jobs!

“I was working as an anchor for the national broadcaster KBC and the pay was per bulletin. However, there was no set frequency with which the station would call me to anchor and I ended up taking very little home. I was also working for an advertising agency and made just enough to pay bills. I couldn’t bring myself to ask my parents for help because to a certain degree, I blamed myself for my predicament,” she confesses.

Mastering the career game

In 2007, life extended a helping hand in the form of a former colleague and anchor, Nyatichi Nyasani, who tipped Terryanne that the international business channel CNBC Africa was looking to expand into the Kenyan market and needed anchors.

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Not thinking much about the offer, Terryanne applied and was shortlisted for an interview. According to her, the interview was a disaster. Having done little research on what the job entailed, most questions were out of her depth. Her anchoring experience was her saving grace. Honesty, too. She flatly told the interviewers that despite being a business anchor, she had little grasp of how the business world really manouvered.

“It was obvious that I had little mastery of what I was reading to the masses. However, the CNBC team said they saw the potential in me and if I was hungry enough to learn, they were willing to take me through a two-month training programme. I loved it and have never looked back,” says the anchor who is quick to dispel the notion that anchors are mere robots who read news scripts and do not put much work into anything.

“Looking back to my job before joining CNBC, I wish I had pushed myself more because while I tried my hand at everything including production, directing and anchoring, I was really a jack of all trades and a master of none. I can assure you the job description of what anchoring entails has changed in many media houses. I produce and research for my own show, source for my own interviewees and prepare the questions. You cannot hold discussions with industry captains and leaders if you do not know your content,” says Terryanne.

When she is not working on her show, Business Centre, she is working on regular news and business stories. She emphasises on the mastery of one’s craft saying, “Everyone should have that one thing that they are so good at so much so that if everything is taken away from them, they can still do whatever they are good at with their eyes closed.”
When Terryanne gets sloppy on her job, and she rarely does, she is thankful that there are people who care enough to call her out on it.

While still working at CNBC, she got a call from her former boss at KBC, Wachira Waruru (who is now her boss at Citizen TV) chiding her over an interview.

“He told me I could have handled the interview better and that it was clear I had not been keeping abreast with international issues. That was the turning point for me,” confesses the book fanatic saying she reads constantly to keep in tandem with market trends and changes. The Economist and Times magazine top her list of go to publications.

In 2010, Terryanne’s journey with CNBC came to an end when Citizen TV, determined to rebrand their image, came calling with a proposal for her to anchor the prime time business news segment. Hankering for a chance to make a difference in local business news reportage, she accepted the job offer much to the chagrin of some people who expected her to move on to other international stations such as BBC or CNN.

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“One of the occupational hazards of having a career in the limelight is that people, some of whom you don’t even know, have such high expectations of you. They expect you to live in certain places, drive certain cars and dress in certain ways. Sometimes the pressure is too much and you have to be strong enough to be your authentic self at whatever point you are in your life, ” she reveals.

After one year at Citizen TV, she left when another opportunity in the form of international Chinese media house, CCTV, entered the local media scene in 2011. The job demands, though intensive, were more flexible compared to local reporting and Terryanne found herself with time on her hands.

Establishing life goals and branding for success

Frustrated with simply twiddling her thumbs when she had free time, Terryanne made a series of leaps. First she joined the United States International University (USIU) for an undergraduate degree in international business administration.

Having started her career with a diploma in mass communication from the now defunct School of Information, Advertising and Diplomacy, she figured brushing up on the ever evolving school of thoughts on business and related fields wouldn’t hurt. She also had another card up her sleeve: Scarlet Digital, a digital PR firm she started with a friend. Her thinking then was that the PR firm would be her fallback plan when she finally bid the big screen adieu.

“Different people start businesses for different reasons and to this day, I am sure my motivation for starting my PR firm was a tad off. My end game was to pass time and not really to make money, and who starts a business without the intention of making money?” she asks incredulously.

Her stance since then has however changed and the company which is now four years old, has seven employees and represents several NGO’s, fashion designers and brands with their biggest highlight being the hosting of the Old Mutual 2015 Great Talks, an entrepreneurship forum sponsored by finance group Old Mutual.

In 2014, Terryanne rejoined Citizen TV and in 2015, hit the market with her second business, her organic skin and hair care line, Keyara Organics.

“Keyara stemmed from a need to find natural skin products for Imani who suffers from eczema. When I started experimenting on Imani’s skin with natural Shea butter from Ghana, she responded well. After a while, however, I had difficulty finding the product locally. I decided to bring it in myself. After suggesting it to a few friends who had a good experience with it, I started packaging it for sale,” she says.

Initially worried that the market entry price would be steep, the market has proven her wrong and aside from Kenya, she has partnered with retail shops and chemists in Zambia, South Africa, Britain and a vendor on e-commerce company Amazon. Terryanne who is passionate about branding insists that while mastery is important, exponential success can only be achieved with good visibility.

“We live in an age where being visible is more important than being competent so much so that you may be the best at your craft but if nobody knows you, then nobody cares about you. Build your brand and identify what it stands for and make sure it’s visible.”

Of parenting and creating lasting bonds

In 2014, frustrated at having no time to split between her work, school, businesses and child, Terryanne decided to offload her plate. Her first order of business was relinquishing the day-to-day running of Scarlet Digital by hiring a manager. After changing her major from business administration to communication at USIU, she deferred her classes. Then she made the toughest decision of all. She took her daughter to boarding school.

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“I was so overwhelmed with life that at some point, every time Imani wanted something from me, her opening statement were the words, ‘Mommy when you have time’. It broke my heart when Imani had to beg for my time. I was neither there for playtime nor homework. After a lot of research, I stumbled onto Pembroke House School in Gilgil. It offered weekly boarding with the option of coming home on weekends and its tutoring and after school programmes such as music, horse riding and drama were amazing,” she says.

To maximise fully on quality time together, Terryanne does not work on weekends and uses the time to bond with Imani, who she not only considers her biggest achievement, but also her benchmark for success. “A lot of people ask me if I consider myself successful and my answer is no. I always say success to me will be the day I will be able to say my daughter is confident, respectful and living her life’s dream in a dignified manner. To me that’s the definition of success,” she emphasises.

Being a single mother to a pre-teen, and a curious one at that as Terryanne describes Imani, her strategy has long shifted from brandishing the stick to introducing positive and hopefully, lasting influences in Imani’s life. While she says they are able to discuss most things, she is Imani’s mother first, then a friend.

“At the age of nine, I sat Imani down and told her she was old enough to understand when I cautioned her against doing something and old enough to live with the consequences that followed. Rules and discipline are still very much a part of our lives and when she gets out of line, I confiscate something dear to her or hold back on treats such as events and so on,” she says.

Though a guarded subject at the Chebet household, Terryanne reveals that Imani and her father are still in contact and talk on phone or visit each other from time to time. Aside from the usual parental squabbles, she is more than content with him being in her life. That, however, does not make co-parenting any easier and for women who consider it, she advises at the very least caution, if not wisdom.

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“Single parenting has its merits but if you can, avoid it. God made a father and mother with good reasons. Imani and I are going at it alone for now and I am grateful for the grace to be both mum and dad to her but I definitely do want to get married in future. It would be nice to have someone to come home to and chat with about my day among other things,” says the petite anchor.

That married future however is still in the works as Terryanne is single. Admittedly, finding a man patient enough to keep up with her pace and the unpredictable nature of her career has been a challenge.

“It will be nice to have someone who understands my work and be okay with me doing many things at the same time and still ground me when necessary. It’s difficult finding someone with all those qualities because sometimes dinner and lunch dates get cancelled on account of work. I am not worried about the passage of time, I figure God is doing so much with me right now and when the right person comes along, they will appreciate that we had to go through these things to be perfect for each other,” she explains.

When she is not being a mother, Terryanne admits she loves to spend time with her girls, a tight knit group of friendships some of which have spanned over a decade. “We started out as a book club and ended up being friends who workout together, accompany each other to events, discuss business and parenting tips. In 2015 we did our first group vision board to help each other remain accountable on how far we had gone to achieve our dreams,” she says.

For someone who seems well put together Terryanne says the stairway to success can get cloudy sometimes and her main purpose in life right now is seeking clarity. “We tend to rush through the tough times in our lives but they are there to remind us to appreciate the good times as well. I hope God sorts this side of my life quickly so that when I get out if this space, I can move onto the next one with peace,” she concludes.

 

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