Hildah W. Ndungu

Founder and Managing Director, Piccalilly International Limited, Kenya


I am Hildah W. Ndungu, the founder and Managing Director of Piccalilly International limited – a 100% woman owned Kenyan Company with a subsidiary in south Sudan and operations globally. I hold a BSC in Business Administration from Griffins College, accounts qualifications from the same institution, a certificate in long report writing from the British Council and qualifications in Total Quality management, marketing and team leadership.   

The story 

The journey to establishing Piccalilly – a journey that began in the year 2000 while I was working in south Sudan – hasn’t been devoid of challenges. Startup capital was a challenge. I started small, depending on my savings and the networks I had established over the years while working in the NGO world to get business leads. For a single mother to three children, striking a balance between career and family has also been a challenge over the years. Getting good business for a woman delving into a field seen as “traditionally male – oriented”, has been a tumultuous task. I have had to work twice as harder to convince people that I can deliver beyond their expectations. 

Piccalilly was registered in Kenya in 2003. My breakthrough came years later in 2007 when I worked with UNHCR to supply foodstuff to refugees in Daadab Camp, Kenya. With steadfast prayer –I’am a very religious person – and aggressiveness, I registered Piccalilly in South Sudan in the year 2011.  

Piccalilly currently deals in general supplies including petroleum products, aircraft lubricants and spare parts, construction and hardware materials, medical equipment and chemicals, electrical poles, transformers and related appliances, military equipment and products and  farming appliances.  Piccalilly is the first woman owned company to obtain a licence to import, export and trade in oil and petroleum products in Kenya. So far, we have worked with the Government of Kenya, Government of South Sudan, various UN agencies, USAID, CHF International, GOAL Kenya/South Sudan, CCM Italy, CDC KEMRI, GTZ and a host of many other local and international organizations and governments. The directive by the state that 30% of all Kenyan government institution’s businesses be allocated to women-run institutions is a good support mechanism to women entrepreneurs which should be adopted across for all kinds of business needs.

Women empowerment is key in this post modern economic and social environment. To me, it involves the creation of an enabling environment for women – at legislative and policy level, at places of work e.t.c – to participate in the global economic development space. As an empowered woman, I currently provide direct permanent employment to 20 ladies and gentlemen and 20 – 200 people at any one time as temporary staff. We are planning to expand further regionally in the medium term.     

Economic empowerment has played a great role in moulding me into the leader I have become today. I took the initiative to start Piccalilly in response to the plight of the South Sudan’s impoverished population where women and children bore the harshest brunt of the war and famine – They were my greatest inspiration. They gave me the initial push and conviction to make a difference in my capacity. 

Lessons learnt 

  • Be resilient in the face of challenges and keep pushing.
  • Build a strong network of partners like financial institutions who understand your needs better. I currently bank with Gulf African Bank – the leading Islamic financial institution in Kenya. www.gulfafricanbank.com 
  • Trust is important in business. It is a critical foundation for success. 

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