Enterprise

How I built maize milling firm after retrenchment

unga-miller

Rachel Miami, Chief Executive Officer of Ramm Millers Limited at Malel in Eldoret, Uasin Gishu County. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA | NMG

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Summary

  • After working for 15 years as a junior staff at the Eldoret’s branch, Ms Miami started RAMM Millers Limited, a company that manufactures maize flour and animal feeds commercially in Kapseret Constituency, Eldoret County.
  • She injected about Sh5 million into the business. What worked for her was that she knew the market well.
  • Maize flour is also on high demand all-year-round and the raw materials such as maize grains were available in plenty.

Rachel Miami was working at the Telkom Kenya until 2013 when she was retrenched.

This came after majority owner of the firm, France Telecom began to trim down the workforce it inherited from Telkom upon its privatisation in 2007.

After working for 15 years as a junior staff at the Eldoret’s branch, Ms Miami started RAMM Millers Limited, a company that manufactures maize flour and animal feeds commercially in Kapseret Constituency, Eldoret County.

She injected about Sh5 million into the business. What worked for her was that she knew the market well. Maize flour is also on high demand all-year-round and the raw materials such as maize grains were available in plenty.

Initially, she did not have any background or skills in maize flour milling. She was, however later trained on the business by the Eastern Africa Grains council and Petron Fabricators Services, a company that manufactures maize flour machines.

“I did a benchmarking with a maize milling company in my region. I was also lucky to visit a milling company in Cairo, Egypt, where I acquired new set of skills in the field," the 53-year-old says, adding that she got additional skills from short courses offered by International Trade Center (ITC).

Ms Miami also conducted research on maize flour milling statutory requirements from the National Environment Management Authoruty (Nema), the Kenya Bureau of Statistics (Kebs), among others.

She started the firm with three employees, a number that has grown to about 30, which indicates how the firm has fast grown.

Their customers include wholesalers, retailers, distributors, schools, colleges and local residents. The firm’s prices keep fluctuating depending on demand and supply.

“We source our raw materials from local farmers such as women and youth groups, co-operatives as well as the National Cereals and Produce Bboard (NCPB),” She says.

"We also get maize from other counties that include Trans Nzoia, Nandi, Narok and neighbouring countries mainly Uganda and Tanzania.”

The maize flours are fortified with minerals such as vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B8, B12 as well as folic acid, iron and zinc.

Maize byproducts such as maize germ and maize bran are sold as animal feeds to local and outside dairy farmers.

The firm is looking to expand distribution across the country. It also plans to go into export market through a mentorship programme from the Kenya Export Promotion and Branding Agency (Keproba). The enterprise is working on meeting all the international standards for exports.

In February, ITC rolled out a new online platform that allows women traders to market products in the commonwealth countries.

The directory was produced under the 'She Trades project' and will be hosted by the Keproba .

It enables women-owned businesses to market their wares globally where ITC will facilitate networking of small and medium enterprieses.

"We hope to increasingly partner in similar initiative to expand our export pie in the global economy," Keproba said recently.

Mrs Miami company is set to benefit from the platform under the agribusiness sectors.

Other sectors that will benefit from the platform are information technology and business process outsourcing, textiles and apparel as well as tourism.

Raising capital is one of the major obstacles facing women-led enterprises since most of them do not have collateral to obtain loans from financial institutions. This prevents their companies from growing beyond micro and small medium enterprises (MSMEs).

Other challenges are poor management, balancing responsibilities, fear of failure, gender inequality, among others.

The pandemic has added to the burden of challenges women in business face.

“Covid-19 pandemic has greatly affected our business because most of our consumers like schools, hotels and colleges were closed affecting our cash flows," Ms Miami says.

But with the reopening of school, she expect sales to pick up again.