For the last decade, Peter Mwangi has been working hard to put his shoe business in a firm footing.
When Enterprise visited his workshop tucked in the heart of Jua Kali area, about a kilometre from the Nyahururu town centre, Laikipia County, Mr Mwangi was busy armed with his sharp pair of scissors cutting through his raw materials.
Mr Mwangi, who dropped out of school in Class Eight, has built a promising enterprise which has caught the eye of the County Government of Laikipia, which recently bought boots from him.
“After completing my primary school education in 1990 I joined a local cobbler in Nyahururu town who taught me the art of shoemaking,” says Mr Mwangi.
Later on, the father of two set up his shoe repairing shop in Nyahururu town before graduating into making new shoes. In 2015, he started by making police and security guards boots.
“I decided to concentrate mostly on making boots after realising that there was a ready market due to the increasing number of security firms. Most boda boda riders also like wearing boots,” he says.
Apart from boots, Mr Mwangi also makes ordinary leather shoes. He however says the boots are the mainstay of his venture.
“I prefer making boots to shoes as the market, especially for school shoes, is seasonal,” he says.
He notes that a pair of boots branded ‘Laikipia Nyati’ goes for Sh2,500 and he can get about ten orders in a month. Recently Laikipia County purchased about 50 boots for its askaris. This was a huge boost to him, making him to realise that his enterprise has a big promise for growth if he can expand his market.
At his factory, Mr Mwangi works alongside his wife, Irene, who has also learned the art of shoe-making.
The couple currently has two interns from the Nyahururu Polytechnic.
He gets his raw materials, which include pure leather, canvas and sponge, among others, from Nairobi.
Although the business is doing well, the businessman says he faces some challenges.
“Every business has its own challenges and mine include lack of enough capital and market,” he says.
“Lack of modern machineries to cut and shape leather is also a main challenge as we are forced to use our hands in most of our work.”
He notes that with proper machines and sufficient capital he can make enough products for the wholesale market. Mr Mwangi has big dreams for his business. In the next five years he hopes to set up a factory and explore markets beyond Nyandarua and Laikipia counties. He also desires to create more employment for young people.
Irene says women should not shy away from undertaking such jobs that are considered a man’s domain.
“I have fully learned the art of shoe-making from my husband and I have fully embraced the trade. I am challenging other women to take up such initiatives instead of waiting for employment or to depend on their husbands for everything,” she says.