You have heard it said time and time again, “A wedding ring is the smallest handcuff ever made, so choose your prison mate carefully and sentence yourself wisely.” Yet, despite all the wisdom in the world, we end up choosing unwisely leaving a trail of broken relationships in our wake. In our world today, relationships are slowly disintegrating. Marriages are in trouble, now more than ever, and divorce has become a very common thing. I remember in the days of “Nyayo milk” and “university boom”, divorce really was unheard of, and those who dared to leave their marital homes did so under very hushed tones. This was even hidden from the children until at a later age when they were way into adulthood. Not so today. The number of single parents is fast increasing at an alarming rate. In fact it is not alarming anymore. Just the other day we witnessed a gospel singer who got married for 24 hours then walked away. The audacity of this move just goes to tell you how the arena has changed from the days of our grandparents. Marriage is definitely not what it used to be back then. It is for this reason that Cynthia Wambui Otieno, a wife and a mother of two, started Lamead Network trust, with the hopes of walking with as many married couples as she can, and to try and save a troubling world from itself.
From tragic beginnings, American dreams and the like!
When growing up, Cynthia had a dream. She wanted to be a teacher and impact lives. You see when she was young, she had a teacher who really impacted her life. Mrs. Olechuri, she remembers, brought out the best in her and her classmates. She hated mediocrity and called them out to be the best version of themselves, teaching them how to speak up boldly without fear, and stand up for what is right. She also instilled values in them that to this day she wears proudly on her sleeve. As a result Cynthia decided that she too would be a teacher and be a Mrs. Olechuri to somebody else, and bring transformation to those around her.
This led her to give of her time at the Nairobi Baptist Church and for 13 years, she taught children and pre-teens and her love for transformation and imparting knowledge grew from there. From there she registered at the KHA (Kindergarten Headmistress Association) for two years and began her teaching career at an international kindergarten school. On the second year of teaching she developed an interest in the special needs child, or rather the highly gifted child. She realised that the special kid in Nairobi did not have a place and she wanted to focus on them. Upon further research she discovered that Kenya at that time did not offer any courses of that kind. She looked for a school in America that had a special child curriculum and that is how she landed in America, at the age of 22. Sixteen years later, Cynthia was no special children’s teacher. Her experience in the land of dreams shaped her in ways that she never imagined possible. Enrolled in a college in Ohio, Cynthia saw the world afresh. Remembering she had had a very sheltered background, now she was in the real world, unrestrained, untethered and she indulged in all the pleasures Ohio had to offer. She hit a snag and lost her way completely. She began to party and party hard. Every day was a Friday. Alcohol became her daily bread. Her relationships were a mess. She jumped from one relationship to another, leaving behind her a trail of brokenness and pain to others and herself.
“I really messed up quite a bit,” she says. At that she takes a minute as she stares into space. Thinking she is reflecting, I use this time to look at the menu. We are in Capital Centre, not too far from her office. From the corner of my eye, I take the time to admire the woman in front of me. She is smartly dressed, has a bubbly personality and a face devoid of makeup and yet one of the smoothest faces I have ever seen. The waiter interrupts my thoughts, bringing me back to the present. We order our food, and it looks like Cynthia has been jarred back to the present too, as she continues her story.
Cynthia’s salvation came through a brush of fate. She met a lady who could immediately see her pain and called her out on it. Stunned and shocked all at once, Cynthia made a clean break, and started her life over, once more. Years later she met her husband Donald Otieno while still in the US and they came back to Kenya, got married and settled. Little did she know that her experience in the United States for all those years would be her springboard to lunch her into her destiny.
On changing the world one relationship at a time.
Cynthia, began her business in a very timid manner. She had opted for an 8 – 5 job. However this did not last long as she begun talking to the women in the workplace about relationships. A colleague had come to the office and shared a problem she was having with her husband, and as a result she was distraught and unable to work. As the women gathered around to discuss the problem, Cynthia begun to share practical examples of how she could resolve the problem. Everyone seemed to like her style, and soon they were all sharing their relationship problems and asking for her advice. This progressed to lunch time meetings, and six months later, Cynthia was getting invitations to talk at bridal showers, relationship forums, and in churches too.
One Friday afternoon, after they had just concluded their lunch hour meet, passionpreneur Frida Owinga who was her work colleague then, asked her to think about leaving employment and turning her passion into profit; but Cynthia was too afraid to branch out. She felt she needed a stable income, as she was a mother now, and could not venture into the risky business of entrepreneurship. As a compromise she decided to organise a relationship talks outside the workplace, and see how it would go. This went really well. With the help of her mentor Frida, they put together a forum and charged for it, dispelling her initial fears that no one would come for the talk. This was the boost she needed because, a year later in 2014, Cynthia tendered in her resignation letter, and ventured off to start Lamead Network Trust, to become the ultimate relationship coach.
Lamead in Hebrew means to ignite. Her husband came up with the name. Long before anyone else, her husband had seen the passion Cynthia had for women and couples. So when he saw her procrastinating, afraid to branch out, he came up with the name, and went ahead to register it in February 2012. Lamead Woman is a novelty concept geared at women empowerment through ways that engage the women, not by outreach but by being part of their day to day lives. “The idea behind this is proactive conformity and by this, Lamead Woman reaches the woman by weaving ourselves into the modern woman’s routine and non-routine activities so that we not only reach them; we become a part of their lives. Lamead Couples is a movement that is inspired by the need to create transformation stories in marriage that build a legacy for generations that marriage is work – however it WORKS!” said Cynthia.
Lamead targets upwardly mobile, trendsetter young women between the ages of 24 to 54 years and couples married for less than five years. As a result Cynthia designed three products to cater for her target niche. They include Love Clinics, Couples Boot Camp and The Love Baskets. Five years later, Cynthia has gained recognition on her famous couple’s boot camp experience, bridal shower talks, and her love clinics. She is a seasoned speaker on relationships, and is always on the airwaves. She’s been on NTV, Family Media, KTN, and for a while she was on the bridal show.
Lamead has three facets to its business model:
#LoveClinic – everyone needs a clinic, at one point or another in their lives. When you are sick, you walk into a hospital clinic. When you are in debt, you walk into a financial clinic. So where do you go when you are struggling in your marriage? Well, a love clinic. This is a ten week program offered to couples who are either dating, engaged or married. It is done in a group format, and also has an inclusion of a one-on-one session.
#CouplesBootCamp – Lamead Couples Boot Camp is a unique, one of a kind couples’ event that provides a romantic backdrop on supporting and celebrating a committed relationship. The weekend includes a variety of couple-centric experiential activities that build, deepens and clarifies your journey in nurturing and strengthening a long- lasting relationship.
Our natural/raw instinct in a relationship or marriage is to settle into routine or status quo which is part of an instinct that wants us to survive. “Our goal in Couples Boot Camp is to unpack the couples’ experience, using the tools and skills that will reignite and refocus your marriage yet enhance intimacy, and most of all not just SURVIVE BUT BEGIN TO THRIVE in your marriage,” says Cynthia.
#LoveBaskets – Lamead offers unique gift baskets. Annoyed your wife lately? Or perhaps, angered your husband lately? Nothing says “I love you” like a Lamead Love Basket. These are custom tailor made to suit your exact need. Whether your message is an apology, an appreciation, or I love you, nothing says it better like a Lamead Love Basket.
Cynthia began her business with minimal capital, and set up an office in South B. With immense support from her husband, she was able to run with her vision. She then formed partnerships with various influencers in her line of work, thus gaining more momentum and recognition as a relationship coach. She developed programs for her target audience, which included love clinics and couples boot camp. She started the love clinics with her husband, using her own personal experiences while she was in the states. The love clinics then expanded to “Couples Boot Camps” which to date she is widely known for. As she looks back, she realises that her passion for teaching tied up with her desire for transformed lives.
Her staff comprises of three full time employees and seven volunteers to help with the experiences. She keeps her staff lean as the company is still growing. The challenges she has faced in the business are defining to people what a relationship coach is, and further to that, explaining the need to have a relationship coach, especially to couples who are going through a rough patch. As her main focus on married couples involve reigniting the marriage, most newlywed couples, find it hard to buy the concept. As a result they don’t attend the seminars, boot camps and coaching sessions as consistently as they need to. She also witnesses married couples who come to her, who are in the dying throes of their relationship due to years of mistreatment towards each other, yet expect that one conversation will fix their pain.
As a pastor, she experiences the challenge where people expect her services to be free, because anyway she is a pastor right? So whenever she talks in a bridal shower or does a one-on-one couples’ sessions, the notion behind most people’s mind is, it should be free. Yet she is indeed offering a valuable service to the family sector.
Cynthia’s marketing strategy has largely been social media, and this has worked extremely well for her. Other conventional methods, has included radio and TV during talk show engagements.
In her free time, Cynthia loves to travel and spend time with her kids. She also loves to cook and having friends over. Her greatest female role model is her mother. Her mother never had an education and the opportunities we enjoy today, yet she worked hard to provide for Cynthia and her siblings. As a result they never once lacked in their home. Even though her mum is with the angels, it is her mother’s strength and her determination that keeps her going, even when she feels like giving up or throwing in the towel.
Five years from now, Cynthia envisions her business at a global scale. She sees Lamead Woman being a transformational household change agent that would influence and impact homes, lifestyles, communities and how they view their role, purpose and position in society. She also envisions having a TV show on relationships. Cynthia has chosen to play a significant part in the role of transformational coaching in relationships because, no relationship is sunshine, but two people can share one umbrella and survive the storm together.
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