What started as love for trees and flowers has blossomed into a booming business for William Gikunju.
Enterprise met him and his workers busy tending to the seedlings, watering and weeding them in Nakuru.
Mr Gikunju runs several flower and tree nurseries on a road reserve on the Nakuru-Nairobi highway where he has operated for over ten years.
The project was started by a group which later disintegrated for various reasons. Mr Gikunju, who was a member of the group, however stood firm and is now reaping the fruits. “I started this project ten years ago. Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui assisted us when we were a group, and it was meant to keep the environment clean,” he says, noting that then Mr Kinyanjui was an MP.
Mr Gikunju tells Enterprise that the group that started the venture was dissolved after most of the members left.
“Initially when we were a group, this tree and flower project was being funded by the Nakuru Town Constituency Development Funds (CDF but then my colleagues left one by one,” he says.
After the exit of his colleagues, CDF also pulled out of the project.
Mr Gikunju then changed it into a private venture and renamed it Prime Seedlings.
“I have since been growing flowers and trees. I started with some small trees, ventured into flowers and now we are doing beautification and landscaping,” he says, adding that he has customers from various counties including Baringo, Kericho, Narok and Nairobi.
He has now started to grow herbs at the nursery, another frontier for his entrepreneurial spirit.
His plants are mostly indigenous. “I have so many indigenous trees here from different parts of the country, some of which I get them from forests in Mombasa and Mount Kenya. There are also exotic trees that can beautify one’s compound,” he says.
The prices of indigenous trees, he explains, are between Sh100 and Sh1,000 each, depending on the species and size.
This fetches him about Sh100,000 a day when the business is good, and as low as Sh5,000 when during a rough patch.
“This job depends on seasons and most of our brisk sales are recoded during long rainy season from April to August. Thereafter, people no longer plant trees,” says Mr Gikunju.
The business, he says, has enabled him to fend for his families, including educating his children.
“I have been able to send my children to school, build houses, I am driving my own car and I have offered people jobs,” he says.
“I try to pay my workers the best wages. I have four permanent employees and some on temporary terms. I am contributing to the growth of the economy.”
Apart from growing flowers and tree seedlings, Mr Gikunju has ventured into selling flower pots. “I decided to start trading in flower pots when I embarked on the beautification project,” says Mr Gikunju, noting that he buys most of the pots in Kakamega and Kiambu.
“The pots prices differ depending on shape and sizes. For example, the smallest flower pot retails at Sh1,000 and a bigger one can go for as high as Sh10,000,” he says.
“These two businesses complement each other. A customer wants to buy flowers and pots to hold them.”
One of the major challenges is the lack of a place to expand their , and getting biodegradable flower and tree packing seedlings. “If the National Environmental Management Authority (Nema) can come up with the required biodegradable flower packing packets it will be a plus,” he says.
“We also don’t have a permanent land as this area is a road reserve and we can be evicted any time.”