Armed with an idea and clear vision, Sarolyne Mwendia set out to make her dreams come true.
Last year she decided to quit her job as a marketing manager in an iron sheet manufacturing firm and venture into business in the same field she had been working in.
She launched Mabati Bora Limited, which manufactures iron sheets.
At her premises, located on the Nakuru-Nairobi highway on the outskirts of Nakuru town, one can hardly believe she only started this company last year in April. It is a bustle of activity with 19 staff busy performing their various roles at the firm currently estimated at more than Sh50 million.
Ms Mwendia, 40, tells Enterprise of her tough journey to setting the business on a firm footing.
“I decided to go into iron sheets because I understood its dynamics. I started as a distribution point in pipeline estate on the outskirts of Nakuru town,” she notes adding that “Even as I started as a distributor, I knew one day I would own a manufacturing company.”
She was a distributer for two months before launching into manufacturing with her co-director Peter Wainaina.
Ms Mwendia says her entrance into the iron sheets manufacturing was also to prove that even women can prosper in ventures that have for decades been associated with men.
“I found that most of the manufacturing industries are dominated by men. So I also wanted to challenge certain gender myths. We can also do what men can do,” she says, adding that her business is also helping the government meet the goals of Agenda Four, whose key focus are manufacturing and housing.
Many women, she says, would go to businesses that are easier to handle, “but I wanted something that would challenge me”.
Ms Mwendia says when starting, she did not have money but was equipped with a unshakable vision she sold to financial institutions for credit.
“Such a business is definitely capital intensive. But I realised business is not about capital but a workable idea,” says the mother of two who studied administration at the National Youth Service.
“I knew I had a good idea.”
Despite having a clear idea of what she wanted to do, financial institutions still needed a lot of persuasion to buy into her idea.
“It was challenging because here I was, just telling bank managers what I am capable of doing but at the end of the day you have nothing to show. You are just telling them what is on your mind. I found it very challenging but they eventually believed in me,” she says.
Having clinched the capital which was about Sh60 million, she set off on her business journey and Within a short time the business has grown rapidly, and Ms Mwendia is even looking at expanding across borders.
“We have 19 employees who include the managers, sales and marketing team, drivers, and the production team. We are targeting the end users in the affordable housing sector. In five years, we want to have made inroads into the East African Community member states,” she says.
“We are doing different types of corrugated iron sheets and we customise according to the clients’ request,” she says, adding that she is looking to diversify her product offerings.
Although the future looks bright for her firm, there has been several challenges.
“It has not been easy. The first problem we had was capital as I earlier said. At the moment, we really need a lot of money to be able to bring enough materials,” says Ms Mwendia who was born in Rumuruti, Laikipia County .
“Again we are a new factory and we are competing with established companies in the sector. It is not easy to penetrate the market.”
Nonetheless, Ms Mwendia says actualisation of the business has fulfilled her childhood dreams.
“I feel so good because I am an inspiration to that village girl. When they see you make it, considering wherever you have come from, you really encourage them,” she says.
“Before I started this company, I went to the village, looked at the young girls and talked to myself that I should have a success story for them to emulate. That you can start from nowhere and then be someone in life.”
Ms Mwendia advises entrepreneurs to have a sound and viable idea before putting money into a business.