Winning Women – Liz Gakuo: Early support that lets you walk tall in life

2014-03-17 08:00

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Inspired by her first baby, this winning woman developed The Enzi Chair, which provides back support for children into their teens, writes Sue Grant-Marshall

Motherhood, especially when parents are young, is often a time associated with diminished resources as a double income family is reduced to a single breadwinner.

Liz Gakuo has bucked that trend by using her first baby’s early years to research the best highchair for him. In the process, she created a small business called The Enzi Chair, which is steadily making an impact in the world of childhood furniture.

“When my baby started eating solids, I bought him a high chair of the conventional plastic kind that worked well for a while,” says Gakuo. But she soon noticed her baby was uncomfortable.

His feet dangled, not quite reaching the foot platform, and the table top was just out of reach of his little hands.

“He slouched and I was worried this would affect his posture,” recalls Gakuo.

By the time her second child arrived, she had found the highchair she believed would fulfil all her requirements. She had done extensive research into what she knew a little child needed to support the trunk of his body.

“This is really important. Bad body posture in the early years of a child’s life can lead to poor muscle tone. This has developmental consequences,” says Gakuo.

She had found an adjustable, durable and aesthetically pleasing chair made from polished beechwood that was easy to clean. Gakuo modified the original chair so children from six months of age could use it and, with its adjustable modifications, can go on sitting in it into their early teens.

It seems an extraordinary concept, yet it works. The Enzi Chair, which means “throne” in Swahili (Gakuo was born and raised in Kenya) has a platform on which babies can rest their feet, an essential tool in creating good posture.

“Seated adults rest their feet on the floor,” emphasises Gakuo. And indeed, whole office furniture industries have been created around perfecting ergonomically correct support.

“If your child’s feet dangle, he may find it physically impossible to sit up straight. Furthermore, he needs a chair that offers back support or his trunk and pelvis will tilt.”

The Enzi chair seat and footrest can be adjusted to the size of your six-month-old. A complete set comes with a swing tray, guard rail and a five-point safety harness.

As the child grows, you can adjust the chair by removing the harness and feeding tray while systematically lowering the footrest and increasing the seat area.

The evolving needs of the growing child are met by modifying the chair. When they start school, they can sit at a normal table-size height, feet still supported, to do their homework.

Gakuo was so determined to import this chair, she and her e-commerce master’s graduate husband Eric Njuguna mortgaged their home to buy stock.

He helped Gakuo build a website so she could begin trading, and it wasn’t long before she had sold all her stock.

By 2011, she had redesigned the website, creating a complete online store.

She writes extensively on the website on issues relating to the Enzi chair, such as families eating meals together and not sitting around a TV looking passively at the screen.

She says: “I believe it’s important that every member of a family can discuss their day, sharing highlights and asking for help with problems.

“If this is done from the time a baby can sit in a highchair, you create a sense of support, encouragement and love that remains with your child for life.”

A chair that enables a child to sit as an equal opens up possibilities for other interactions, such as playing games, drawing, painting and doing homework together.

Now Gakuo, whose business plan was judged the best in her Goldman Sachs 10?000 Women Certificate Programme at the Gordon Institute of Business Science (Gibs), has to decide whether to expand by selling her product to retail outlets or by sticking to her online store.

“My mentor at Gibs suggested I look into manufacturing but for now I am happy to stick to distribution and plan to move into Zambia, Mozambique and Namibia,” says the plucky young mum.

She is the fifth child of a Kenyan mother who worked as a supermarket cashier while also running a fruit and vegetable stall on a busy Nairobi street. Her father was a civil servant for the Nairobi city council.

When Gakuo’s older sister moved to Joburg, she followed, studying at Damelin College and eventually working in events management. She moved to Essex in England to be with her husband as he studied for his master’s degree, and she fell pregnant on their return to Joburg.

Today, Gakuo and The Enzi Chair are featured increasingly in magazines. She recently had a stand at a baby expo in Joburg and travels the country promoting her product.

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.