Investor’s love for nature begets thriving jiko business

Teddy Kinyanjui shows off one of his green stoves at his workshop in Lower Kabete, Nairobi. Photo/Sarah Ooko

As a young boy, Teddy Kinyanjui, now in his late 20s, was fascinated by environmental conservation issues and a desire to provide sustainable energy solutions to meet the needs of various population segments.

The last born in a family of three children, Kinyanjui notes that he inherited the interest from his late father, Dr Maxwell Kinyanjui, who was instrumental in the design and uptake of the now popular Kenya Ceramic Jiko (stove) which is lauded for its durability, low fuel consumption and energy saving attributes.

To fulfill his passion, and eke a living out of it, Kinyanjui started an enterprise known as Cookswell Jikos in 2008 which makes and sells an array of energy efficient stoves for domestic and commercial use — both locally and abroad.

Instead of looking for jobs as most of his peers do, Kinyanjui opted for entrepreneurship. “I am my own boss here. And this gives me room to fully implement my ideas and work hard to grow my own business.”

He says that innovations behind his cook stoves are often influenced by existing market gaps. “I talk to potential customers such as women and restaurant chefs about challenges they face while cooking, then I try to find solutions for them.”

This approach, he states, ensures that his products meet market demands and he therefore never runs out of customers.

Kinyanjui notes that his business embraces a sustainable energy ideology dubbed ‘‘seed to ash’’ — here aside from just buying stoves, consumers also embrace tree growing to ensure that they do not run out of fuel.

As such, he states that Cookswell gives customers free sachets of acacia tree seeds.

“After seven years, when the trees are mature, they can begin harvesting branches and making their own charcoal and thus saving on fuel costs,” Kinyanjui says. He adds: “We all gain by conserving the environment because without trees in the future, these charcoal stoves will not serve any purpose to business enterprises as well as consumers.”

Kinyanjui has since developed charcoal ovens fitted with ceramic fire boxes that consume less energy and retain heat for long.

He says that they are cost effective for users and allow them to cook with ovens as much as they want without worrying about the ever rising electricity costs.
“With just about two handfuls of charcoal, they can bake, roast meat and warm food.”

Kinyanjui adds that since they use charcoal, the ovens are portable compared to electrical ones that need to be plugged into sockets.

He has also installed ceramic energy-saving fire boxes in varieties of charcoal stoves that have single or multiple burners, and are small or big depending on their intended use.

Kinyanjui notes that by recycling scrape metal which are good heat conductors, he gets raw material for manufacturing space heaters which warm rooms during cold seasons with minimal charcoal.

All his products, he says, come with different designs geared towards appealing to customers. “So you can get ostrich barbecue stoves or frog space heaters that are good to look at!”

Kinyanjui makes use of mobile and internet technologies to sell the stoves, receive orders and get payments from customers. He also uses word of mouth to market his products in restaurants and exhibitions.

He calls on more youths to embrace eco-friendly enterprises as they hold great opportunities for income generation. “I can comfortably sustain my family and still make good profits.”

The business employs 15 people on a part-time basis and supplies products to leading supermarket chains.

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