Enterprise

Baking firm born out of desire for healthy living

kajuju

Healthy Kajuju, founder and managing director Kajuju Kiogora. NMG PHOTO

Summary

  • Kajuju Kiogora has been baking ever since she was old enough to play with flour.
  • Her love for flour products saw her bake and sell cakes as well as pastries to friends and family right up to when she was in university.

Kajuju Kiogora has been baking ever since she was old enough to play with flour. Her love for flour products saw her bake and sell cakes as well as pastries to friends and family right up to when she was in university.

While pursuing a degree in law and business management in the UK, she decided to adopt a healthier lifestyle.

“I committed to eating more wholesome foods and drinks,” she says. “Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a healthy alternative for my go-to lunch beverage - juice.”

This drove her to start making juice for her own consumption. The fruits were organically sourced and the resulting drink had no water nor added sugar. The change in diet came with benefits such as increased levels of energy and a smoother skin devoid of the scars she had suffered from chronic acne.

And this how she set up her enterprise in 2016.

“To be honest, I wasn’t planning to be an entrepreneur. Yes, I was excited about business but I didn’t think it would be a long term career for me,” says Ms Kiogora, the founder and Managing Director of Healthy Kajuju.

Ms Kiogora fondly remembers the first order that plunged her into business.

“I made some flyers where I’d advertised my juice and even bought a new business phone. Somebody called while I was in class and ordered some. In fact, it took me long to realise that it was my business phone ringing,” she recalls.

After delivering that one order, she went on to deliver others, while still doing this as a hobby.

After coming back to Kenya, her healthy eating lifestyle was hampered by the lack of healthy snacks. As with the juice, she started making snacks for herself. At the same time, she began documenting her eating habits in a blog known as Healthy Kajuju.

Research into the business revealed that there was a market for premium, healthy snacks. To test the waters, she began selling her products in local organic markets.

The response was unexpected, she says. As word spread, demand grew. Every weekend consumers purchased the snack bars whose flavours she had been developing during the week.

After confirming there was a gap in the market, Ms Kiogora launched the company, Healthy Kajuju, named after the blog.

“People were looking for healthy alternative snacks. I had the knowledge, the skills and the passion. Why not add volume to what I was making for myself and share the extra with them,” She tells Enterprise.

Starting out at her parent’s backyard and selling in local markets, small shops and gyms, Healthy Kajuju has been consistently looking for alternatives to healthy snacking, creating a product portfolio that includes granola cereals, snack bars, energy bites, falafels and frozen burgers all retailing in local supermarkets such as Chandarana and On-the-Way. Snack bars and energy bites are the most popular.

“The products are 100 percent plant-based, vegan friendly, wheat-free with no refined sugar giving us a competitive edge,” says Ms Kiogora.

The products are made from oats, dates, nuts, sunflower seeds, and honey with flavours drawn from coconut, ginger, spices and sea salt, among others. The falafels and frozen burgers are made from chickpeas and other vegetables.

Most raw materials are sourced locally. However, some ingredients such as the almonds and potato starch are imported from the US.

From selling a handful of units per weekend, Healthy Kajuju sales have grown to 3,000 units monthly, with most sales coming from retail stores.

From one employee, the firm currently employs 10 people, aged between 26 and 33 years old. The entrepreneur who holds a master’s degree in African Development believes that empowering people is the ticket out of financial dependence.

Social media has played a huge role in the growth of the business. Since January, they have witnessed a 70 percent growth in revenue as more people become aware of their offerings.

“Gone are the days where people just bought what was available. Today’s consumer picks up a products and reads the ingredients and researches the company to see what they stand for. This is reflected in their buying decisions. They’re also willing to pay more for value,” Ms Kiogora says.

For the five-year–old business, it’s been a journey of many challenges especially access to market and raw materials.

“Supermarkets remain the golden ticket to customers of food-based companies. However, securing a vending space is not easy. The lack of a ‘name’, so to speak, delays the launching of small businesses,” she says.

“Additionally, producers of raw materials such as packaging bags are not SME-friendly. Minimum orders required are unaffordable for upcoming businesses,” she says, adding that “having not intended to go down this path for the long-haul, I’ve had to learn fast”.

Bootstrapped until now, the company is striving to expand to more outlets and in varieties offered in the next twelve months. The chief creator of the recipes says that the best part about her work is that Healthy Kajuju products are passion products.

“From my heart to the consumers’. The excitement never grows old.”