Shoe Dog

Hunt like a hungry lioness: A miniseries on Craft It about Nairobi’s creatives

Sitting across from Ian Arunga at Lava Latte, listening, I picture him as a juggler manipulating several balls in the air.

The first ball he threw into the air was in 2009, when he launched his blog, Dear Doris. His posts must have washed up on your social media timeline. They did on mine. ‘Dear Doris – Letters to a plus-size woman’. ‘Dear Doris’ gained a lot of traction. He’d share stories twice a week. Unedited – and uncensored – stories. Those were the days when a story would get five, eight million views, he says. He made money from ‘Dear Doris’. Still does.

As the ball of ‘Dear Doris’ was still in the air, Ian threw in the ball of Sketch Experience, his creative agency. The ball officially went up in 2014. Sketch Experience is an outfit of freelance graphic designers who make the client jobs Ian brings, happen.

Ian juggled ‘Dear Doris’ and Sketch Experience while illustrating with Storymoja, his day job. He’d later leave Storymoja for FCB, an advertising agency. He’s the Art Director. Four years now, and still counting.

September 2016, after years of trying to figure out how to execute it, Ian threw another ball into the air. Dapper Monkey, ‘the one-stop shop for the dapper man’. The statement kitengee bowties Ian was known for informed the brand’s tastes for a niche and bespoke market. Dapper Monkey is what caught my eye.

Ian was already the master juggler. At 31. He wasn’t done just yet.

Last September, he threw in another ball – him and his pals opened shop at Lava Latte. Lava Latte is a coffee house and a cool place to hang out, he says. It’s on 205 State House Road, the old location for Hill Crest Schools. I meet him here on a chilly Thursday October evening.

I can’t imagine what ball Ian will juggle next. Because he’s still hungry to. He tells me he’s hungry because he lives in this town. And because he works hard. And with his hands. And he’s SDA. And the Bible verse which speaks to him most is Psalms 90:17, which says, May the work of your hands prosper.

This is Ian’s story.



I had a dream one night. It was about packaging socks inside mason jars. I looked it up on the Internet the next day, no one was doing it. Dapper Monkey now packages socks inside mason jars. It’s special packaging. So you’re not just buying quality socks, you’re buying an experience and a story.

I knew I always wanted to go into fashion. My Mum had a fashion business. It was a big business. She had many fundis. Her sewing machine wasn’t in the living room, no, it was…somewhere else. She made most of our clothes. When other kids were wearing ‘hakuna matata’ t-shirts, we were wearing kitengee tops and kitengee shorts. I liked it. It taught me to be different. And to be yourself, not to copy others.

My Mum died in 1996, then my Dad in ‘97. Me and my sister, Becky, we’re not orphans because there were many people around us we call our parents. We went to live with my step-mum. Well, my Mum. We were many siblings. I was the last one to leave her house. I’ve set a reminder on my phone to call her every day at 3. We speak to each other in English but we switch to jang’ when the stories become too hot. Today she was telling me about the house she’s building. It’s only the ceiling left. She went into business in her old age, she has houses for rent. She was a secretary in her younger days.

I was born with my umbilical cord wrapped tight around these two fingers and around my leg [middle and ring finger on the right hand, and left leg]. That’s how I knew as a kid which was the left side and which was right. These two fingers – see how your fingers bend at three points when you fold them, like this? – mine bend at four.

I can write about anything except my sex life. I have a sex life. Everybody has a sex life.

Death doesn’t faze me anymore. I went for so many burials when I reached the age for going for burials. That’s where I developed a backbone for grief. And after my parents died, there was no other death after which could faze me. Except for my aunt, the one I lived with when I came to Nairobi. She was my Mum. She died two years ago. Cancer. That one was rough. Really rough.

I’m emotional and very shy. Many people don’t know this about me. I mask it by talking a lot and telling many stories. I cry a lot. I cry when I watch some movies and read some books. Like ‘John Q.’, the Denzel movie. There’s also this Indian movie called ‘Kites’, it’s about an Indian couple who commits suicide. Then there’s Khaled Hosseini’s [novel] ‘The Kite Runner’ and ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’ by Mark Haddon. I still cry when I read them.

I like books that focus on young boys growing up. I feel that I missed out on my childhood because of all these grownup things which were happening around me. Death mostly. And we had to keep moving houses so I gave so much to settling in before we’d get moving again. Kids need a home to grow up in.

Dapper Monkey is inspired by men’s English fashion. I like their fit and fabrics and quality. I was in Wales [UK] when I walked into a shop and was pointed to the section that had suits in my size. Size 45s. That had never happened before. I can’t even walk into a shop in Nairobi and get the right shirt size, I usually take mine to a fundi to slim them. Most of Dapper Monkey’s stuff is imported from the UK and US. Our leather products are locally sourced. Someday I want everything to be 100 per cent made-in-Kenya.

Lava Latte is a place where you’d come and want to put it on Instagram. No one does that with Java. There’s a coffee shop in Senegal called Tee Bagh, I think, two of my co-owners got the idea for Lava Latte from there.

I came to live in Nairobi in 2006. I’d lived in Kisumu all my life, I know I was born in an estate called Kiyabe. I’d passed through Nairobi before, on my way to Mombasa for school festivals. I knew it was Nairobi. 2006, I was coming for a funeral. Funeral for my uncle, he was the husband to my mum’s big sis. My favourite uncle. Everything I owned in this world I’d packed into the suitcase I’d carried. It was a black suitcase with a brown leather strip going around it. It was the suitcase I went with to Form One. I remember my Mum gave me 1,000 bob – 800 was for bus fare and the 200 she told me to get a matatu from Odeon to my aunt’s place in Mountain View. I took the Easy Coach bus from Kisumu. It was supposed to get to Nairobi at 5 p.m. but we got to Afya Centre at 2 a.m. Nobody had told me what Nairobi was like. So at 2 a.m., guys had remained in the bus to sleep ‘til morning, me I put my suitcase on my head and walked across tao looking for a mat.

My entire body is covered in tattoos. From my neck down. On my back, I have four faces – one of my father, my dad, my mother and my sister. On my arms I have … I’m lying. You couldn’t tell I’m lying? I’m a really bad liar. I don’t know how you couldn’t tell. Anyway, I have three tattoos. That’s the truth. Two on my chest and one on my back.

I never question why I like what I like.

I don’t know what I’ll wear when I get married, I’ve never thought about it. I don’t know what I’ll be buried in either but it better be some expensive shit. I’d like a blue suit. Gold buttons. Not double breasted because double breasted doesn’t go with my body type, I have a small torso. Socks. No shoes. I’ve worn shoes all my life, I don’t want to be buried in shoes. I wear such shoes a lot [brown brogues], they’re shaped to hold the foot.

‘Dear Doris’ was the closest-sounding thing to ‘Dear Diary’. Because the blog started as a diary in 2009. I used to write on this platform called Typepad. I thought it was private because I had a login and a password. I’d write there every day. I’d just open and type. Very personal things, things from my head, like what would go into your diary. Very personal, woi. So one day a lady from Poland who works for Google called and asked if I’d like to put ads on my blog because it had a lot of traffic. I told her she had the wrong number. But she told me to check the stats on my dashboard. I didn’t even know I had a dashboard. I was getting about 2,000 views a day. I shut the blog down immediately. I’m surprised it’s still showing up when I Google it. But I realized then that people like to read real and personal experiences.

It’s a coincidence that the women in my life now look like Doris. Like my girlfriend, Cheryl, does.

I can’t read a book unless it has pictures in it. I really struggled reading as a child. That’s why I became an illustrator. That’s why I wrote a children’s series of activity books called ‘Can You See Me?’. They’re four books in the series. I published them with Storymoja. I make royalties every year. I don’t know how much exactly but I know it makes me very happy.

I’m not happy in this moment because I want something to eat. But I was happy when I was driving here [to Lava Latte]. I was listening to a podcast on BBC Radio. I always listen to BBC Radio. I like their presenters and their voices, in the mornings they have science talks. The podcast was about voice commands that can start and stop things, like a car. I stayed in the car five minutes longer waiting for the podcast to end. I wasn’t happy at lunch time because the food lady brought chapati and beans instead of chapati and beef. I had expectations.

I didn’t wear a watch today because we had a client meeting all day. I have a habit of checking the time when I’m in the middle of a meeting or presentation. It’s subliminal. People think it’s rude.

I’ve worked in Sabina Joy [brothel]. My second job after college was a beer salesman for EABL. Senator, Tusker… such beers. I went to KIM for a diploma in business. I’d talk to the hookers at Sabina Joy as I sold my beers. It was funny – sometimes I’d be talking to one, she’d get a client then come back to finish talking to me. Hookers are very hardworking people.

I’m reading ‘Shoe Dog’, it’s a memoir by the creator of Nike. He says, “You can make anything out of what you have.”

Mixed signals
Natural lines

Leave a Reply

Subscribe to our content

Florence Bett-Kinyatti


Columnist Saturday Nation Writer Craft It Author of best-selling ‘SHOULD I?’ and ‘HOW MUCH?’ ~ Guiding word: Overdrive Subscribe to our Newsletter👇🏾 eepurl.com/igmN8P
  • Dear God, 
It’s me again.

I don’t pray as often as I need to, You know that. I don’t kneel by my bed in child-like humility, as Muna does. I don’t whisper a prayer in the morning. Or at noon. Perhaps just in the evening. 

This going-to-church habit is a constant false start. So is reading the Word. 

I’m often guilty but I also know: You and I have a language only we can understand. 

I speak to You through this gift You bestowed upon my Kale shoulders, this gift to write in colour. It’s a gift that sometimes feels like a curse, a burden I have no choice but to pursue. 

Yet other times – most times, actually – it’s the very breath of my essence. Everyday I sit to write, when the words flow from my head and heart through my fingers to the page, I feel You next to me. 

You are here, Lord. Hovering. Lingering. Swooshing about in Your regal robes, like a character from Bridgerton.

Sometimes You get so close I can feel You breathing on my neck and I’m like, ‘Err, God, do You mind, personal space?’

And You chuckle uncomfortably. ‘He-he, of course. Of course.’

I’m here to tell You, Thanks!

I hosted my first in-person event last March, Lord, thank You to all the lovely ladies who granted me their time and full attention. 

I’ve carried them in my heart since and every day, my prayer is that You bring them closer to the life of abundance they each seek. To their own version of wealth. 

I always call them by their name: Becky. Purity. Lindsay. Wangui. Naomi. Shiqow. Mercy. Liz. Winnie. Polly. Nduta. Lynet. 

And Mike. 

Dear Lord, I’m prepping for my next in-person event in June, Inshallah. 

Walk with me as I get there. 

Love always,

  • Highlights from our first-ever in person event hosted by Craft It and @financialfitbit 
Thanks to all the lovely ladies — and gent, hehe — who honoured us with the privilege of their time and attention. And colourful energy. It’s been weeks since and it’s only now that I’m coming down from the high. 

Thank YOU!

🎥 @mikemuthaka 

#craftit #author #MakeYourMoneyMatter #personalfinance #money
  • I am a woman.

I’m strong. I’m brilliant. I’m like a comet shooting across the sky, I’m so bright you have to put on shades to see me.

I’m almost 40, I’m almost fully realising myself as a woman and the power of womanhood I possess.

I’m so powerful that if KPLC connected me to the national grid, I’d power up this country and we’d never have another blackout.

Ho! Ho! Ho!


To recognize and celebrate International Women’s Day today, I’d like to recognize and celebrate eight women.

I have eight things to give away to each of these women:
a) Two tickets to my upcoming event on March 18 with @financialfitbit Theme is ‘Make your money matter’
b) Three autographed copies of my book ‘Should I?’
c) Three autographed copies of my other book ‘How Much?’

To participate:
1. Like this post
2. Tag women who deserve a win of either event ticket or book (tag as many women as you like)
3. Tell us what you’d like her to win and why she deserves the win
4. Make sure your tagged women follow @_craftit and @financialfitbit 

Here are the rules for the giveaway:
— One woman, one win
— Winners will be contacted via DM
— Giveaway closes at the end of this week, Inshallah, on Sunday 12 March
— Only open to people living in Kenya

All the best!

(Swipe right to see the women I’m celebrating.)

#craftit #internationalwomensday
  • My 2022 word of the year was Wholesome. 

Wholesome meant engaging in moderation and in pursuits that didn’t leave me feeling yucky.

An example: there’re weekend nights I’d go out then have too much to drink. On the drive home, I’d tell GB to stop the car every half mile so I could throw up on the side of the road. Then I’d take three working days recovering. 


No more of that nonsense.

Now I have only two doubles of Singleton whiskey and chase it with water. I eat less food and I eat better. I take my supplements. I treat myself to an early bedtime and arise with my body clock, no alarm.

I spend a lot more time hanging with my kids, Muna and Njeeh. 

I buy fewer things. 

I play the piano. 

I created a disciplined routine for my work and take Thursdays off. 

You catch my drift…

Wholesome has become my lifestyle. 

(By the way, I was asked, ‘Where does this word-of-the-year come from, Bett?’ I don’t know about other people but for me, the words present themselves when I’m journaling. My spirit tells me what it needs; I must be still enough to listen and brave enough to obey.)

My word for 2023 is Overdrive.

My two books have unlocked new opportunities for me as a writer and creative. As an urban brand. I’d honestly not foreseen them. 

I know that if I adjust my sails to where the wind is blowing, these opportunities will translate to wealth.

Last Friday, I listed all the work I’m already doing and all the new opportunities – potential and realised – knocking at my door.

I asked myself, ‘What am I taking up here and what am I dropping?’

The response, ‘None – we go into overdrive and smartly pursue them all.’

#craftit #urbanguide
  • Years ago, my best friend said to me, ‘Bett, we’re almost 40 – forget makeup, let’s take care of our skin instead.’

I had to laugh because this was coming from Terry. Terry my Kisii pal, this fine gyal with skin the colour of honey, the only practising SDA in my circle. 

Terry had spent her 20s and early 30s sleek with Arimis. That’s right, the milking jelly with a lactating cow on its logo. 

Arimis addressed all her skin pickles back then. It was her problem fixer. Her Olivia Pope. It’s the one thing that always said, It’s handled.

Now here she was preaching to us about a consistent skincare regimen in the AM and PM.


It wasn’t until Terry shared her selfies on our girls WhatsApp group that I stopped laughing. It wasn’t until we stood next her – and took these selfies – that I reeally stopped laughing: Terry’s skin was youthful and toned, plump. Hydrated. Moistured but not shiny. 

It looked like it had been kissed by the Greek goddess of radiance. 

So we gathered around her feet and said, ‘Forgive us, master. We are ready now. Teach us everything you know.’

She did. 

Terry and I now spend plenty of time before work and before bed squeezing out little portions of expensive skincare products from expensive tubes, we layer them on our face in a calculated measure.

This serum here is for the circles under my eyes and the fine lines around my mouth.

Turns out I’ve been giving away too much of my face: I’ve been looking too hard, laughing too easily.

I’ll have to spend the next year into my 40s with my eyes half shut and laughing little. I'll have a resting bitch face.

Don’t blame me, blame the retinol.

And age.

#craftit #urbanguide #urbangirl
  • I’m Bett. I’m the author of your favourite books about money. I’m hosting an in-person event in March, Inshallah: This is my personal invite to you.

#craftit #moneymaker #moneyinkenya
  • I am hosting my first money event this March, Inhsallah. It’s the first of quarterly events I have planned for the year. 

(Give me a moment here so I pull myself together long enough to write this. I’m smiling very hard right now, ha-ha, I look like a donkey.)


The event will be in-person. On a Saturday morning, a loose three hours which, I am certain, you’d have burned on some other pursuit you couldn’t account for later. (I’d probably be oiling the hinges of a squeaky door or decluttering my sock drawer.)

My guest host for this edition is Lynet Kyalo. 

Lynet is a personal finance coach under her brand @financialfitbit She also hosts @getyourbagrightpodcast 

Buy your tickets from our Market.

Early bird tickets are discounted until the end of this month.

Limited slots available. 

#craftit #millenialmoney #moneyevent #moneymaker
  • Sometimes I sit down and read my own book. 

Odd, huh?

Reading my own stories is like an out-of-body experience. Or getting introduced to myself again. An outward journey inward.

It’s fascinating.

I also read because I need to improve my writing for my next project.

We call them the Elements of Craft: things like sentence structure and punctuation, word placement, story length etc, they all inform your reading experience.

This is what makes the book easy to read, and has you turning the pages.

Cop your autographed copy and #betteryourmoney 

#craftit #howmuch #millenialmoney #moneymaker

Seraphinite AcceleratorOptimized by Seraphinite Accelerator
Turns on site high speed to be attractive for people and search engines.