Enterprise

My enterprise was born out of painful tragedy

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Bildad Kimutai Cheruiyot at his place of work at Cheboigong village on the outskirts of Bomet town. PHOTO | VITALIS KIMUTAI

When fracas broke out in Bomet town between two opposing political camps relating to the location of a university, Bildad Kimutai Cheruiyot was badly hurt. And it seemed his life would only go from bad to worse.

Before the tragedy hit him, he was a casual construction worker where his duties included digging up foundations, ferrying construction materials and water, as well as mixing sand and water. Before he landed this job, he had been employed as boda boda rider.

So when he was injured in the chaos, it only meant he would no longer be able to fend for himself or his family, at least for some time. His kind of job was physical and required his health to be in tip-top state. However, the fracas had seen him sustain injuries on the head, face, and leg, and was hospitalised for a couple of weeks.

Newly married, and now unable to work, Mr Cheruiyot was certain this would be the start of a deeper misery and biting financial tribulations. Little did he know that the injuries he had sustained would be the painful beginning of a journey in the business world.

“My friends, without my prior knowledge organised a fundraiser, collected Sh40,000 for my medication and upkeep,” said Mr Cheruiyot with a pause.

What his friends had done considerably inspired him. And as he recuperated at home, he reflected on his struggles and the injuries sustained. After a lot of soul-searching he decided to plunge into business although he didn’t know where he would get capital.

“After weighing several options, rolling them over and over in my head in the long nights I nursed my pain for two months, I finally settled on making bricks,” says Mr Cheruiyot.

“I invested Sh20,000 of my friends’ donation as capital and made 4,000 bricks.”

And just like that he was an entrepreneur.

He sold the bricks for Sh5 each, but made a loss of Sh6,000 in the first sale, but that did not kill his spirit. He re-invested the money and made 6,000 bricks which he sold for Sh30,000. He later raised the number of bricks to 33,000 out of which he sold 30,000 for Sh150,000.

“From the proceeds, I bought a plot for Sh230,000 making a down payment of Sh100,000 and used Sh50,000 to make 86,000 bricks out of which I sold 77,000 bricks after three months for Sh462,000,” says the entrepreneur.

From the proceeds, he cleared the balance of Sh130,000 for the plot and made a down payment of Sh150,000 for the second plot. And as they say, the rest is history.

When Enterprise caught up with him, he was supervising his workers at a site he has leased from a neighbour to conduct his business. We found him with 23,000 bricks ready to be offloaded to the market while another 65,000 were being moulded, dried and were due for burning – the last stage to season it for construction.

“When I started off the business, my wife, Faith used to fetch water from a nearby stream for use in making the bricks,” says Mr Cheruiyot as he reflects on the ups and downs he has encountered on his business journey.

His first hurdle was when he dropped out of school for lack of fees.

“I dropped out of Form Two at Gelegele Secondary School due to lack of fees. I was later employed as a boda boda rider where I earned an average of Sh150 daily before quitting to join construction as a labourer earning Sh170 a day,” says Mr Cheruiyot who has now risen from a narrative of gloom to one full of hope as his bricks business is briskly growing.

From the initial two workers, he now has six employees and his wife no longer fetches water from the river as he hires a vendor.

Although he has limited education, he knows the power of social media in marketing his products.

“I use social media a lot, especially Facebook and Whatsapp groups to market the bricks. Many orders also come through referrals from my clients who are impressed with the quality of our products,” says Mr Cheruiyot.

He has benefited from construction projects being undertake in Bomet County.

“The best thing that ever happened to Kenya in terms of economic development is the birth of devolved units,” says Mr Cheruiyot.

“County employees have created a market for us with most of them constructing not only their family houses but also rentals while businesspeople are building commercial units. This has a multiplying effect on economic development and job creation.”

Despite having made impressive strides in the business world, Mr Cheruiyot laments that commercial banks have not upgraded the rating of housing units made of bricks as they are still regarded as semi-permanent units which cannot be used as collateral to obtain loans.

“Brick houses should be upgraded to be permanent structures for it to be used as securities in obtaining business loans especially now that the government is pushing for construction of decent urban houses,” notes Mr Cheruiyot.

The youthful businessman has not taken a loan to expand his business as he says his cash flow is seasonal and thus cannot qualify him for a loan.

“It is important for the government to work with financial institutions to create avenues where youths can get loans to start enterprises,” says Mr Cheruiyot, who is also a member of a chama where they started contributing Sh500 a week on a merry go round in 2014.

The group now has 33 members and the weekly contribution has risen to Sh2,000 though some members are contributing Sh1,000 based on their financial ability.