It is the desire to be her own boss that saw Lillian Akinyi Okwiri become one of the most successful poultry keepers in Kisumu.
Mrs Okwiri, 50, quit her job as an accountant after being in formal employment for only six months. To her friends, this was a risky gamble but she was convinced that time was ripe for her to go into self-employment.
“I always dreamt of being my own boss someday and I opted to hasten the process. What worried me most was whether I would still earn as much money as I did when I was employed,” she says.
After quitting her accounting job, she realised that she didn’t have enough money to go into poultry rearing, a market she had realised had few players.
She started with selling second-hand clothes to generate enough cash to venture into poultry keeping.
“I also started making ice-cream from my house and selling it to school-going children. I got a little cash and added it to what I was earning from the clothes business,” she says.
After a few months, she had raised Sh30,000 and was ready for take off. I had no formal training in poultry keeping, but had the urge to make money and that is what has seen me thrive, she says.
“I had done little research and realised that Kenyan traders import poultry products such as eggs from neighbouring counties. I knew that there was money in this venture,” she says.
She started with 150 day-old layer chicks costing Sh100 each and converted one of her bedrooms to house the birds.
After five weeks, the broilers were ready for the market while layers took between four to five months to start laying eggs. Soon she moved the chicken from her bedroom to a structure that could accommodate 600 chicks.
“I used local materials, wire mesh and iron sheets,” she says.
Counting her profits every day, Mrs Okwiri is doing booming business and is an envy of many in Kisumu’s Nyamasaria estate and has a total of 1,000 chicks—700 broilers and 300 layers.
She has turned into a beacon of success for many women who seek advise on poultry keeping.
Years later, does she regret quitting formal employment?
“I have no regrets because I made the right move. Had I clung onto my job then, I wouldn’t have made such impressive strides,” she says.
Mrs Okwiri says she gets at least Sh100,000 every five weeks from selling broilers which costs Sh400 each.
“ I collect close to 10 crates of eggs every day with a crate selling at Sh330,” she says.
When business is at its peak, she says she receive orders to supply up to 150 birds per day. ‘‘During such periods, I am forced to wake up as early as 4 am and to hire more casual labourers,” she says.
She mainly sell broilers to hotels and learning institutions in Kisumu.
Mrs Okwiri says to attain her success, a lot has to be put in taking care of the chicken.
“A lot has to be done like buying feeds and drugs and these must be obtained from accredited dealers to guarantee quality. In the five weeks of rearing, the broilers use around five bags of starter mash which goes at Sh2,250 a bag and 17 bags of finisher pellet, with a bag selling at Sh2,850,’’ she says.
“The layers also eat a lot of food.” She says the chicks also have to be vaccinated against New Castle disease and given multivitamins.
“Buying of feeds and drugs is a challenge because the prices go up but you have to feed the chicks to weigh more in order to fetch better prices,” she says. To those planning to go into business, she says: ‘‘Start-ups don’t pick up as fast as one may want but patience pays.”
She encourages women and youth to learn to be self-dependent.
“They should not just sit by waiting for miracles to happen; I challenge them to take their destiny into their own hands. I have a very supportive husband but that does not mean that I should not work,” she says.