How risk-taking paid big dividend for youthful entrepreneurs

These entrepreneurs made risk and reaped big dividends from their businesses. FILE PHOTOS| NMG
These entrepreneurs made risk and reaped big dividends from their businesses. FILE PHOTOS| NMG 

How I grew my side hustle into thriving import business

Every payday, 27-year-old Jacinta Mutoro would make allocations to her expenses as many employees do. The result for the lab technician was always the same – what she earned (Sh24,000) was far from enough to cater for her needs.

In May 2015, with Sh3,000 in capital, she decided to start a small business to supplement her income. She has not regretted her decision.

In a good month, she now makes about Sh800,000 from selling household items. She started by buying her goods from Eastleigh, Nairobi as ordered by her clients.

“My colleagues loved my products so much. I used to sell them the goods on credit. They would pay me after two months or so. In the process, I identified my market niche,” Ms Jacinta told the Enterprise during an interview in November.

She noticed there was a big demand for handbags and mosquito nets, which she sourced from wholesalers in Mombasa.

Every week, she said, she would sell around four handbags from which she made significant profit. She saved the money, intent on using it to start importing goods from abroad.

Today, Jacy’s Smart Collection deals with all households wares from inflatable beds, pull out sofa beds, carpets, utensils to handbags, plastic wardrobes and home decorations.  She sources them from Turkey, China and the wider European market.

“I linked with one of the suppliers in China and started importing goods. Back then majority of the items were handbags, but now I sell all types of household goods. I import all of them. A client just has to say what they need and I will get it,” she said.

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Jacinta Mutoro, Jacy’s Smart Collection

Jacinta Mutoro, Jacy’s Smart Collection. FILE PHOTO | NMG

IT expert reaps big from export beans agribusiness

After working as an IT expert in the United Kingdom for 15 years, Jane Mbau felt last December she had earned enough to sustain herself back in Kenya.

She had many investment plans, but settled on none. Farming was not among them until in February when a friend approached requesting her to partner in a venture.

Ms Mbau was in a fix, having not engaged in farming since her childhood.

“I have never been a farmer. Farming was normally done by my uncle and my father as I watched from a distance,” she explained. 

“I sought advice from my uncle. He encouraged me, but told me farming is a risky venture. However, he added that if I was up to taking the risk, I should farm on a large scale.”

With that advice, she injected Sh2 million of her savings into a three-acre farm at the remote Ndemi Village in Nyandarua County. The capital was used in land preparation, setting up irrigation systems, purchase of compost manure, crop supporters, labour, seeds and other farm inputs.

The IT expert did her research and settled on the crop that her friend had encouraged her to try out — lima beans pods which are also referred to as butter or runner beans. She signed a purchase agreement with an exporter who promised dedicated market in the UK where they are a delicacy.

The 45-year-old says that after nearly four months, she harvested an average of 20 tonnes every week over the six-week-long peak season. She sold a kilogramme of the beans for Sh50, earning her about Sh1 million a week.

“There is no comparison between what I used to earn as an IT expert and what I earn from farming. I am here to stay and farming is my choice,” she told Enterprise in an October interview.

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 Jane Mbau, a farmer. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Jane Mbau, a farmer. FILE PHOTO | NMG


Tech firm makes business cents for ‘mama mbogas’

Three years ago, small-scale vegetable vendors in Nairobi’s Kaloleni Estate were excited to learn that someone had come up with a solution that would potentially save them the hustle of jostling for produce at the wholesale market.

Grant Brooke, 31, had made a stop in the city estate to test the reception of a platform he was working on to help urban retailers save time and money in their operations. 

After few months, about 80 vendors signed up, with most of them making orders of at least Sh1,000 a day. But as the clientele base grew, so did the need to have a tech-backed platform to ease logistics.

He came up with Twiga Foods, a mobile-based supply platform which today services up to 6,000 orders a week in several estates including Kaloleni, Nairobi West, Lang’ata and Rongai as well as Syokimau and Mlolongo in Machakos.

“We will roll out in Runda in the next three months. We intend to get the whole of Nairobi covered in the next 12 months and move our clients up to 4,000 a day,” says Mr Brooke, a native of Texas, US.

“We self-funded Twiga during the first year. We had to put in a couple hundred thousand dollars.

“We are now are venture capital-backed. We have so far received Sh1.2 billion in seed funding.”

Twiga Foods, which was launched in November 2014, is essentially a marketplace that saves mama mbogas (vendors) the hustle of waking up at dawn to go to the wholesale market to buy supplies.

The firm has depots in several estates in Nairobi from where tuk-tuks (three-wheeler taxis), vans and canters pick the produce, for delivery to Twiga customers.

After this, the application collates the purchasing and ordering data from the vendors it serves and pushes it back to collection points across the country where farmers can book their stock.

“Essentially we work like any other commodities market, except it’s not a marketplace where people go and trade on the floor,” Mr Brooke told the Business Daily at his office in Westlands, Nairobi, in November.

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Grant Brooke, 31, Twiga Foods, a mobile-based supply platform. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Grant Brooke, 31, Twiga Foods, a mobile-based supply platform. FILE PHOTO | NMG


Ex-banker carves niche in crowded wedding industry

Wairimu Mwai is quickly building a name for herself as an entrepreneur in the wedding industry, a field known for its cut-throat competition as players bid to outdo one another and attract clients.

Hers is a daring story punctuated with lessons of hard work and determination.

The 31-year-old kicked off her career as a relationship manager at Commercial Bank of Africa about eight years after graduating with a master’s degree in business administration from the United States International University-Africa.

In June 2015, however, the desire to be her own boss made her quit her job to venture into entrepreneurship.

“Because of time constraints, I could not be able to work at the bank and do my side hustles. I had to let go of one. Above all, my business had great potential for growth,” she told Enterprise.

With Sh1.2 million in savings, she established Sidai Brides. Starting out was tough.

She did not have enough capital, a clientele base and, worse still, not many people were willing to support her idea. Today, she is the official regional distributor of international designer gowns such as Maggie Sottero, Rebecca Ingram and Sottero & Midgley from the US.

These are some of the most sought after brands in the industry, and they come at a cost.

According to the Maggie Sottero website, gowns cost between $800 (Sh82,400) and $4,000 (Sh412,000) — a tidy sum which they say is worth it to the last thread.

Wairimu Mwai is quickly building a name for herself as an entrepreneur in the wedding industry. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Wairimu Mwai is quickly building a name for herself as an entrepreneur in the wedding industry. FILE PHOTO | NMG


How online portals spurred growth of vehicle hire firm

Sometime in 2013, Dan Njoroge posted photos of himself in a brand new Range Rover on social media, announcing to the world that the vehicle was available for hire.

Mr Njoroge, who was jobless at the time, did so on instructions of a friend who had secured a job in Tanzania leaving him in charge of his car and palatial home.

“This photo secured my first wedding job from which I earned Sh30,000. I took home Sh3,000 and sent the rest to my friend,” Mr Njoroge told the Business Daily in an interview.

“I also posted the still-pictures album and video clips of the ceremony on social media.”

Soon thereafter, the bridegroom contracted him for a week-long assignment which prompted Mr Njoroge to register Lesus Executive Car Hire Services company as the business seemed set for take-off.

He earned Sh300,000 from this second job and started marketing his services on social media. He urged his friends and clients to like and broadcast this platform.

Mr Njoroge, who holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree from Jomo Kenyatta University for Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), quit his banking job in 2012.

In 2013, the business earned him Sh64,000, enabling him to move out of his friend’s house and settle in his own rented space. Last year, the business made Sh16 million.

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Jackie Chirchir's business, Jackie’s Jewels, markets itself as an outfit that is out to make personalised furniture and jewellery. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Jackie Chirchir's business, Jackie’s Jewels, markets itself as an outfit that is out to make personalised furniture and jewellery. FILE PHOTO | NMG


Furniture order for Chinese billionaire Jack Ma visit puts start-up on global map

If you have a keen eye for fashion, the one thing that must have stood out when Chinese tycoon Jack Ma visited business incubator Nailab this year was that he sat on an African-themed round armchair.

Right next to him, comfortable in a similar seat, was United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) secretary-general Mukhisa Kituyi. The two dignitaries also used matching ottomans.

The furniture was the handiwork of Jackie Chirchir, external relations principal marketing and communications co-ordinator at the United States International University Africa (USIU-Africa).

Her enterprise, Jackie’s Jewels, markets itself as an outfit that is out to make personalised furniture and jewellery, with the latter being primarily from recycled materials like buttons, buckles and plastics.

“Nailab ordered two seats and I had no clue it was for the two high profile guests. It only hit me after I saw photos on Twitter,” the 27-year-old said, adding that it was a great pleasure to have been picked.

Her business saw a marked improvement in the number of orders after Mr Ma’s visit in July, placing her enterprise on the global map.

Ms Chirchir started Jackie’s Jewels as a hobby in 2010 when she was pursuing her undergraduate degree in communications at Daystar University.

“The orders started coming in and this is when I started making jewelry using beads and plastics before introducing metals and wires as raw materials,” she said.

This motivated her to expand her creativity to the furniture niche and today, her workshop on Ngong Road makes and sells at least 10 dining seats, four round seats and three ottomans in a month.

A dining seat goes for Sh5,000 while an ottoman, which mostly serves as a table goes for Sh13,000 to earn the startup a net income of at least Sh80,000 monthly.

Dan Njoroge. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Dan Njoroge. FILE PHOTO | NMG


Lawyer sets sights on making Nanyuki hub of camel milk production

Almost a year after the owner of a giant camel milk processor Vital died in Nanyuki, hurting its operations, another plant has been set up in the same town.

The entrepreneur, Jama Warsame, has teamed up with John Oguk, a former employee of Vital, once a thriving processor owned by German Holger Marbach who died in December 2016.

Mr Oguk is the general manager of the new milk firm WhiteGold.

Mr Warsame, who has been living outside the country for a long time, says he wants to turn around the lives of the herders and ranchers who supplied camel milk to Vital, a leading company in East, central and Southern Africa, but were yet to find alternatives after the collapse of Vital.

“We are unlocking the cash potential of camel milk to benefit people in the semi-arid communities as we endeavour to make Nanyuki a hub for camel milk countrywide,” said Mr Warsame, the CEO, in an interview earlier this month.

Mr Warsame, a sole proprietor, says he poured his Sh20 million savings into the camel milk business that he says should break even before mid-2018.

He is banking on health benefits of the milk and the vagaries of climate change that is decimating other livestock that the pastoral communities rely on to predict a thriving future of the venture.

WhiteGold processes approximately 500 litres of milk daily, but targets more than 3,000 litres from next year.

The company opened its doors in August. They have branded 500ml bottles of the product that retail for Sh125.

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Entrepreneur Jama Warsame. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Entrepreneur Jama Warsame. FILE PHOTO | NMG


Animal feeds business changes young entrepreneur’s fortunes

Simon Ngugi confesses that when he ventured into the animal feeds business about four years ago, he knew very little about the industry.

Today, he has carved a niche in the feeds business and is making it big. Ngugi’s Nile Feeds and Cereals Limited, based in Busia County, supplies companies and farmers with the raw ingredients they need to make their own animal feeds.

In a good week, he sells up to 100 tonnes of products making about Sh1.6 million per month.

Ngugi’s journey into the feeds business took several turns. Initially, he wanted to be a dairy farmer in his native Nakuru County. In 2011, he gathered his savings and bought two grade cows.

But once he had the cows he faced a big challenge: feeding them.

“It’s during this time that I faced the challenge of feeding two hungry heads. While I spent a lot on feeds, milk production was not worth the effort.

"Profits were dwindling. In short I was making losses,” the 35-year-old father of two said in a September interview.

He quit the dairy business after about a year. He headed to Busia to try his hand at a completely new venture; selling mitumba. But the business had its own challenges and he quit.

One day, a friend introduced him to the animal feeds business. He took to the business like a duck to water, he says.

Simon Ngugi, who has carved a niche in the feeds business and is making it big. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Simon Ngugi, who has carved a niche in the feeds business and is making it big. FILE PHOTO | NMG