Enterprise

How YouTube video sparked a thriving yoghurt venture

Makueni1

Joshua Muli poses next to yoghurt ready for the market at Makindu Township in Makueni County on May 3, 2021. PHOTO | PIUS MAUNDU | NMG

Summary

  • Two brothers, Victor Sila and Joshua Muli set up a dairy enterprise as a side hustle when they were still under employment.
  • Little did they know that this would lead them to a journey of entrepreneurship that mainly involves adding value to milk.
  • The dairy enterprise did so well that the duo’s constants headache was what to do with excess milk from the three Friesian cows they kept.

Two brothers, Victor Sila and Joshua Muli set up a dairy enterprise as a side hustle when they were still under employment. Little did they know that this would lead them to a journey of entrepreneurship that mainly involves adding value to milk.

The dairy enterprise did so well that the duo’s constants headache was what to do with excess milk from the three Friesian cows they kept.

A light-bulb moment hit Mr Sila after watching a YouTube video on a Ugandan peasant farmer who made a fortune, changed his life and positively impacted his neighbourhood by adding value to milk by using basic equipment.

This saw the birth of Eden Dairy Limited which now makes Uzima fresh yoghurt.

“I used my savings to buy the basic equipment needed to make yoghurt. This followed a lot of groundwork, which included experimentation on making unique yoghurt, conducting research on the availability of enough milk, and the registration of the yoghurt with the Kenya Bureau of Standards, the production took off with the processing of 40 litres of milk daily.

“A bicycle which we had borrowed from a friend helped us take the produce to the market,” Muli reminisces.

Situated at an unmarked apartment overlooking the sprawling Makindu livestock market in Makueni County, Eden Dairy Limited’s factory and office is largely unassuming. This belies the fact that its flagship product, Uzima is going places, giving more established brands a run for their money.

The company has since acquired a branded van to get the produce to markets faster.

“Today, we are processing between 450 litres and 600 litres daily,” Mr Sila adds.

The product comes in 100ml, 150ml, 250ml, 500ml packages, and two flavours; strawberry and vanilla.

An Enterprise team met Mr Muli as he was overseeing the branding of a new milk and yoghurt shop at the township.

“Our dream is to make Makueni a fresh yoghurt county,” he says at the onset of the interview at the company’s factory which also serves as the office.

Much of the day’s work at the factory entails manufacturing the yoghurt. This starts with receiving the milk from a cooperative society, testing it for antibiotics, bacteria, density and water before pasteurising, cooling, and incubating it to ferment.

The incubation process lasts for at most eight hours after which the yoghurt is broken and packed in cups of various sizes which are then sealed using a special mechanical machine, and taken to a cold room ready for market.

The company’s success is however hinged on marketing.

“There is only one boss, the customer, and he can fire everybody in the company simply by spending his money elsewhere,” says Mr Sila, paraphrasing Sam Walton, the American businessman and entrepreneur who founded Walmart.

The marketing mantra partly explains why the company has been successful. The two brothers also attribute their success in entrepreneurship to their smooth working relationship. They quit employment when their careers were budding and they plunged headlong into the deep waters of industrialisation.

They started as jacks of all trade. After setting up management structures during the second year, Mr Sila settled on administration and marketing as Mr Muli took on production. They have hired eight employees.

The specialisation is based on their career backgrounds. Mr Sila studied Bachelor of Commerce degree, specialising in Finance at the University of Nairobi. His younger brother holds a Food Science degree from the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology.

By the time Mr Sila resigned as the finance manager at the Garden City in Nairobi to focus on the nascent yoghurt business, his brother had resigned as a quality controller at Tropical Heat, a Nairobi-based company, to lay the groundwork for the new company in the countryside.

They pooled their strengths and experiences to prop the new company. To ensure constant supply of fresh milk, for instance, they deal with organised farmers.

“We have inked a deal with Kathonzweni Dairy Cooperative Society which supplies us with all the milk we need,” he says.

The chairman of the cooperative society, Stephen Kyonda says the Makindu yoghurt factory buys most of the milk delivered by the 728 members of the cooperative.

“This has afforded farmers steady income and stimulated the production of more milk,” notes Mr Kyonda who is a former Makueni MP.

To spread out their risks, the brothers are contemplating adding bottled water to their portfolio. They are about to complete a standard factory next to the rented premises.

“In about the next two months we shall relocate to the new premises. We have also entered into a deal with a second dairy farmer’s cooperative society who are ready to start supplying us with as much milk as we require. This means we are looking at significant expansion of our production,” says Mr Muli.

A spot check by Enterprise showed that many supermarkets across Makueni County stock the yoghurt. The 100 ml packages, which cost Sh20, are the fastest moving.