The unconventional ‘doctor’
After years of suffering from one ailment to another, Pendo Chiaful made it her business to learn how to improve her health and upon success, she has extended her knowledge to others
By Rose Muthoni
The world over, people are looking for healthier ways to manage and treat illnesses. Doctors practising conventional medicine are also stressing on the importance of adopting a healthier lifestyle, including clean diets and exercise.
But with the advent of the Internet, there is plenty of information and ironically, people are more confused than ever.
Enter Pendo Chiaful, an entrepreneur teaching people how to eat for better health while at the same time selling them natural products that cure their ailments.
Like most successful business people, Pendo used her own life experience to start a venture that would change the lives of many of her clients.
Before her 12th birthday, she had experienced more pain than any adult twice her age. Apart from stomach ulcers, diagnosed at four years, Pendo, who got her first period at 11, had to live through severe cramping that saw her visit gynecologists time and again.
“The problem began when the doctor, who discovered my ulcers, advised my parents to put me on milk. My parents went out and bought two cows to ensure there was steady supply of the same. Unbeknownst to them, milk would wreck havoc to my system for the foreseeable future,” she narrates.
To add salt to injury, Pendo was diagnosed with hormonal imbalance, a problem she associates with the litres upon litres of milk she had consumed growing up. The hormones from the cow’s milk, she says, messed up her system.
After Form Four, Pendo also had to contend with bad migraines on top of having appendectomy, the surgical removal of an inflamed appendix.
“The doctor advised me to stay away from noisy places and people. That is practically impossible. This was no way to live, so I decided to bury my head in books and find a solution,” she says.
Her research would bring a solution to her doorstep and in the future, she would eke a living out of the hours she spent on research.
Pendo discovered that indeed, food is medicinal; that we are actually what we eat. An Asian doctor she saw after completing Form Six affirmed her research. “He told me to go vegan, exercise and eat clean. And true to his word, three months later, I had pain-free periods,” says a beaming Pendo.
Pendo had adopted a clean, vegan diet and joined a swimming club. From her research, she discovered that certain foods were beneficial in curing hormonal imbalance.
“At the University, where I majored in environment studies, my friends referred to me as mganga (traditional doctor). I carried remedies with me even to the library. When they asked me to join them for campus meals, I would decline because I was very conscious of what I put in my mouth,” she adds.
With time, Pendo was giving remedies to her friends in campus who came to her with a myriad of issues. She did not stop researching and by the time she was done with her Masters in Intergrated Watershed Management, Pendo was an expert in food-based medicine.
Pendo started her business six years ago after her good friends, who received help from her for free, encouraged her to turn her passion into a business. That is when Pendo Tips was launched.
“Because I had two small children, I took orders throughout the week and delivered them on Tuesdays and Thursdays,” she says.
She would later stock her remedies in her sister’s shop at Kenya Re.
“I opened up my shop last year in April after the number of clients I was serving increased,” she says.
Her business is licensed under a Food Handling Permit.
But like any other business, Pendo has faced various challenges. “My main challenge is explaining to clients how exactly a product works. Explaining to them that they have to change their lifestyle is pretty hard.”
She has had to contend with customers who want instant results. “For the remedies to work, you have to keep at it and shun some of the choices you made before,” she says.
She has also had to deal with stereotypes stemming from people who believe in conventional medicine only.
“My remedies cannot be equated to medicine. They are a lifestyle. Making a customer and people I talk to on social sites understand that is sometimes an uphill task,” she adds.
But Pendo is far from done. She wants to transform families into their healthiest best.
“The world is looking for solutions. Be the solution. But before you help others, brighten your corner first,” she concludes.