Enterprise

Here is the sweet spot of my honey start-up

BDHoney3

Joan Chemutai (left) and Caroline Cheptoo display other products in her shop. PHOTO | PETER CHANGTOEK | NMG

Summary

  • After realising there was a huge demand for good quality honey in Nairobi, Joan Chemtai tapped the opportunity, and ventured into the business.
  • She spent about Sh2 million to set up the enterprise in 2018.

After realising there was a huge demand for good quality honey in Nairobi, Joan Chemtai tapped the opportunity, and ventured into the business.

She spent about Sh2 million to set up the enterprise in 2018.

“I started the business working with the help of my sister Caroline, but we currently have five employees.”

Her business, Nairobi Honey Shop Limited, is located at Cargen House, opposite Electricity House, Harambee Avenue, Nairobi.

Ms Chemtai, who was raised in Baringo County, sources raw honey from various farmers.

“We source 99 percent of our honey from Baringo. We also have Kitui honey and honey from neighbouring Tanzania,” says the holder of Bachelor of Commerce degree from Kabarak University.

Other than Baringo County, they are also in the process of getting beekeepers from Ukambani, who can supply them with honey directly. She says this eliminates the middlemen, “who mostly engage in the adulteration of honey”.

The enterprise has about 100 farmers from Baringo North, who supply them with honey.

“We buy honey in its raw form and process from the beginning to the final form ourselves,” she says.

“We’ve total control of our products, which has enabled us eliminate the risk of adulteration completely.”

Her business didn’t suffer much from Covid-19, thanks to the popularity of home remedy concoction of honey, ginger and lemon that helps in relieving the virus symptoms. However, she reveals that the cash flow was slow due to the effects of the pandemic.

To compete well in the market, quality is key, she says.

“Honey business is all about good quality and consistency. Our company has also partnered with the public laboratory, KIRDI, for purposes of ensuring quality of the products. This gives our company a cutting-edge against our competitors,” she says.

Before starting the business, she did research on operational cost, profit margins and acquisition logistics.

Nevertheless, there are challenges that she has encountered such as transportation as they source honey from remote areas of Baringo, where some roads are impassable.

Ms Chemtai says that Kenyan honey, mostly from Baringo, is seasonal.

“We’re forced to buy in bulk during harvesting season, not only to have enough stock, but also to take advantage of the low prices during that season before prices go up,” says the mother of two.

“We also encounter challenges in pricing since their is counterfeit honey in the market that’s cheap and most people prefer cheap things,” adds Chemtai, who also sells healthy granola, oats, peanuts, dried fruits, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, moringa powder and other organic products.

They have been doing their production at Kenya Industrial Research and Development Institute (KIRDI), until recently when they secured a place in Kitengela, Kajiado County.

They sell a kilo of honey at Sh950, 500g infused honey at Sh500. Also, they sell 375g propolis at Sh800, 500g stingless bee honey at Sh1,200 and five litres goes for Sh6,300.

“Our products are sourced directly from our contracted farmers and hygienically refined without added preservatives. Honey differ from location to location in viscosity, flavour and colour. This is due to different floral environments,” she says.

She advises those planning to venture into honey business, to keenly identity the source of supply, have in place testing facilities and map out their market and maintain consistency in provision of quality products.

Ms Chemtai says she is aspiring to expand, fully modernise her operations and hire more employees.