Newton’s Law


Whenever someone on the street stops me and asks me that elusive question about passion, about whether it pays, whether us chicks have more chances at exploring its possibilities than dudes, whether someone’s age plays into the dynamics, I readily think of Newton Omondi.

You remember Newton Omondi, don’t you? I’ve mentioned him here a couple of times. Newton is a tattoo artist living in Nyali with his family – his wife and their boy-girl twins. I interviewed Newton last year for a mini-series I ran here, ‘Hunt like a hungry lioness’. I interviewed him and a bunch of other creatives. The story moved me so much I felt it needed a much bigger, much diverse national audience. So I pitched it to the Saturday Nation. It ran as the first story in would become my Crafts and Culture column.

Catch a snapshot here.

Newton is a decent chap. Laid back. Lives free, like a plant (his words, not mine). Always rocks t-shirts. Humble to a fault. His arms are swathed in tribal tattoos. Greying dreadlocks tied in a careless bun to the side of his head. He’s a big deal in the local and international tattoo industry. Look him up on Instagram, @tattoosbynewton.

On the day we meet, Newton had been in Nanyuki for the weekend tattooing a never-ending queue of clients. He says, “These things always go like that – you set out to tattoo one guy and a hundred others show up.”

Newton tells me he opted not to go to university. Immediately after high school, the letter to work in Barclays Card Centre came on the same day the admission letter for a degree in teaching at Moi University, did. He worked with Barclays for nine years. He said it was a tedious nine years. He never felt that he belonged. That he wasn’t built for a suit-and-tie desk job. His was the classic case of a round peg in a square hole.

When he quit in 2003 – at 29 – Newton had neither parental nor spousal financial support. He didn’t even have savings. He had his brother, though, who’d also quit his job at Kenya Railways so they could both freelance as tattoo artists. They moved in to a dinghy one-bedroom house in Uhuru estate, Nairobi. Rent was 1,500 bob a month. Newton says, “We didn’t have furniture, we didn’t have electricity, we didn’t have money for food but we had freedom and many magazines and happiness.”

They had a handful of clients they’d been tattooing using a traditional hand-poking Japanese technique called tebori. They soon crowd funded and imported their tattooing machines from US.

Newton relocated to Mombasa because he loves beach life. He lived with his pals for a month, set up his machine in the corner of an Indian man’s beauty salon then moved out. He didn’t have anywhere to go so he slept on the beach for a couple of days. His phone wasn’t ringing. Defeated, he told himself this tattoo thing wasn’t working out, so he hopped on to the next bus to Nairobi.

He was approaching Mtito Andei when the Indian man called and said, “There are clients here for you.” He dropped off at Mtito, and took the next bus bound for Mombasa.

Newton hasn’t looked back since.

Like I said, he’s a big deal in the industry. He was the first black African at the 2012 Cape Town Tattoo Convention. He’s been invited to Dartmouth College, US to talk about contemporary African tattooing. He’s also travelled around Africa, Europe and US, tattooing.

Twenty-nineteen is Newton’s 16th year of being a tattoo artist. He also turns 46. Newton’s inkstand doesn’t look like it’s about to dry up any time soon.

Does passion pay? Yes, it does. Do chicks have more chances at exploring it to success, than dudes? Maybe, maybe not. Does age play into the dynamics? It doesn’t, I don’t know how else to say this but age really is just a number here.

I mean, look at Newton.

Newton settles his rent and children’s school fees and supports the family’s lifestyle from his tattooing. Even he can’t believe it. I remember he said, “Sometimes I can’t believe I’m making a living off tattoos. I sit like this and think that I chora chora people to get money for rent.”

I sat down later and thought to myself, How did Newton do it?

I came up with these three laws. The laws that Newton followed to be able to do what he’s doing with his tattoing.

Boys and girls, if you may?

Law #1: Newton worked hard.
Time gurus harp about working smart and not hard. You can’t adopt this shortcut when it comes to your passion. Working smart means delegating, hiring help, or just plain slave driving.

Newton tirelessly put in the 10,000 hours required to move his skill from basic to master level. The Malcolm Gladwell hours.

Sixteen years in, and he’s still putting in the hours.

Law #2: Newton showed up. Every day.
Doesn’t matter if he had one client or a hundred clients, he showed up. He’s still showing up. Newton approaches his art as if he’s a thirsty and hungry beginner, eager to learn the tricks of the trade.

Law #3, and the most important: Newton mastered the art of business and the art of business.
Passion pursuers usually don’t crack this. Newton poked his nose in the air and sniffed around for where to make money from tattooing, then he took himself and his machine there.

He travels because he loves to, but also because he must.

Long-read version of Newton’s story is here >> Rolling stone

Days after I met Newton, I made up this silly game I called ‘What would Newton do?’

As I said up there, Newton’s a really laid-back chap. And his age – 46 – turns him into this wise old owl. He’s a fine mix of maturity, level-headedness and a humility you don’t see every day.

I remember when I called him to invite him to the interview, I didn’t even think he’d say yes.

“I’m I speaking to Newton, Newton the tattoo artist?”

“Yes, you are.”

“My name is Bett. I run an online brand called Craft It. I’m interviewing bunch of creatives, I’d like to speak to you about your craft of tatttoing. I’ve had a look at your Instagram profile, I really like what you’re doing. It would be my honour to meet you for an interview.” (In case you’re wondering, that’s Interview 101 – Butter up your subjects, corner them into saying yes. Find your pungi, use it to charm the snake out of the its pot)

“Oh, thanks. Thanks. Sorry, you said your brand is …?”

“Craft It. Craft. It.” Woi. My little blog and little brand. I could tell he’d never heard of it. No surprise there. Even my siblings have never heard of it.

“Sawa. I’m in Nairobi but I’m headed to Nanyuki,” he said. “Let’s meet Monday in tao when I come back.”

He couldn’t make Monday, he called to apologise and reschedule to Tuesday.

We met on Tuesday at Java Kimathi Street. (He’d taken the 2NK shuttle.) He gave me his story while he had late lunchthen he left for the hotel and the next day, the story ran here, just as he was getting off the bus in Coasto.

I didn’t send him the link story because –sigh, I’m embarrassed to say this – because I wasn’t confident that he’d read it or like it. Let alone share it. Know how you stumble into an unfamiliar blog then you peek around to see what it’s about then you leave, not even bother to bookmark the site incase you’d like to return later? Yeah, I imagined he’d do that. I don’t know if he did, though – I never got around to asking him.

It was a crisis of confidence, honestly, happens often with any creative. It’s an ego game mostly. An insecurity. I’m slowly getting over myself.

Anyway, when the story was ready to run in the newspaper, I called Newton and asked him if we could run it there. He said sawa. I asked him if he could send a picture for the story. He said sawa. No questions asked.

I woke up to his photo in my email.

I looked at it and it was too small in size for print. I called him and told him it can’t work for the paper, that I needed something that’s atleast 2MB, told him to take another one. I even gave him directions on how to pose and where. “Stand in front of a white wall with the sunlight hitting your directly, that way we get good light. Then cross your arms, and have someone snap the photo from your waist up.”

He said sawa. Didn’t fight with me.

In under 10 minutes, the photo was in my inbox, and off we went to the races.

So weeks after, whenever someone would knock on my door for help of whichever kind, directly or indirectly, I’d ask myself, What would Newton do?

Nanny Viv wants a ka-small ka-loan to set up a ka-farming ka-biashara for her Mum in Kitale. What would Newton do?

An old pal is struggling to find balance between being a new mum and new wife? What would Newton do?

One of the teachers in Muna’s school has a premie daughter who eventually doesn’t make it out of hospital? What would Newton do?

A young writer posts to his blog after a hiatus, the post is begging for a comment? What would Newton do?

My kid bro asks me to make the inconveniencing trip downtown to collect his shipment of majani from Kapkatet? What would Newton do?

Your spirit coaxes you to dive off a cliff because it’s certain happiness lies at bottom of it? What would Newton do?

What would you do?

Life lately
Back to basics

Comments (2)

    • Bett

      Dhanks, dhanks. Lakini why does it feel like I already responded to this? Hang on, Muindi, are you template-ing these comments? Hahha.

      Anyway, I’ll have a read.

      Send Reina my love. I hope she’s rocking that jikoni of yours.

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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

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