Boniface Wanjala almost gave up on life when he lost Sh150,000 to a business partner who ran away with proceeds from supplying a school with laboratory equipment and chemical reagents.
The person he considered his friend and mentor disappeared and switched off his phone after being paid the money.
But this has turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Mr Wanjala. While the setback was one of the toughest coming just months after he had opted to quit his job and try his luck in business, he dusted himself up and decided to forge ahead with renewed vigour and focus in building his company known as Rich Science World Ltd.
“I could not believe that someone I knew so well could mess me up just when I was about to realise the first major milestone in my new venture,” he says as he recalls the events of 2008.
With little experience in the enterprise, Mr Wanjala decided to take up a small office space on Kisumu City’s Oginga Odinga Street as he deliberated on how he would pay the loan he had borrowed from a commercial bank.
It did not take long, however, for his fortunes to turn around. He got orders from two schools to supply them with chemical reagents worth more than Sh50,000.
Due to his lack of collateral, he approached a friend who offered him the money which he promised to pay in a month.
After delivering the stock, he was paid instantly, and he immediately got other deals that he managed to supply before repaying the loan.
Mr Wanjala later sought more funds from financial institutions to cater for his growing demand. “The deals I got proved to be my breakthrough as I slowly started gaining confidence and the much needed financial muscle to enable me make progress in a long journey that has now taken me just over a decade,” he says.
His turning point, however, came in 2018 when the management of Cooperative Bank of Kenya selected him as one of the business people to travel to China on a sponsored trip meant to expose them to emerging business trends.
The Management University of Africa (MUA) graduate who was among 30 other Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) entrepreneurs attributes his selection to his clean financial management record with the lender that enabled him to develop a stable enterprise.
He points out that the opportunity gave him time to interact and establish critical network in the leading commercial Chinese cities of Guangzhou as well as Shanghai and Yiwu.
“We managed to meet manufacturers, suppliers, shipping agents and others involved in goods that find their way into Kenya,” he says.
“Through the network, I was able to make my first import of two consignments of goods worth millions of shillings in May this year,” he told Enterprise.
Through his determination and resilience, the 42-year old has today opened new offices in Bungoma and Busia while he looks to have a tighter grip of the entire western region market and expand from over 20 schools that he currently serves.
He has employed five people who help him to manage and supply his products to secondary schools and colleges in Nyanza, parts of Rift Valley and the former Western Province.
“I employ casuals on need basis to ensure that I serve my customers efficiently and without hitches,” he adds.
Some of his merchandise includes laboratory chemicals such as sulphuric acid and sodium hydroxide as well as laboratory equipment such as buret, pippete, microscopes, and flat-bottomed flasks for testing reactions. He also supplies analytical reagents for colleges.
In a good season, he makes up to Sh5 million while it can go as low as Sh100,000.
A season usually takes two to three months, a period which schools operate, with third term being the best as it is the time during which national exams are done in secondary schools and colleges.
Mr Wanjala advises new entrepreneurs that one needs to embrace a strict financial discipline to keep afloat during the low business period.
For a man who has worked under four employers and engaged in a variety of ventures before finding his footing in school equipment, Mr Wanjala believes he will soon make big strides and “become an inspiration to people who desire to be part of something bigger”.