Five months ago, John Mburu posted pictures of his luminous green table, which he had crafted from recycled car tyres, on Facebook.
For him, this was an extension of the childhood days that he spent toying around in his father’s garage in Webuye and later as a construction site foreman.
The social media post elicited tens of comments with one person offering to buy the coffee table. Mr Mburu initially declined, saying it was a personal item, but the interested customer upped his bid and order to two tables.
“The buyer insisted and offered to pay Sh20,000 for two tables. As I was making the delivery, a motorist saw me and placed a similar order, asking for it to be delivered in three days,” Mr Mburu told the Enterprise.
It was at this point that the 27-year-old realised he could make some decent money from the old tyres.
He turned his living room into a workshop and convinced one of his neighbours to partner with him in the new venture.
Just like the first post, he shared the pictures of the second order online and watched his fan base grow, with an increasing number of people enquiring about the cost of the tables.
As sales grew, Mr Mburu decided to lease a small room at the shopping centre in Kitengela though he says a majority of his orders were still coming in through his social media posts.
The furniture maker says he first washes the tyres sourced from second-hand shops and sprays bright paints before weaving a sisal’ cloth on some parts to make it look attractive.
Holes are drilled through the clean tyres where nylon strings are weaved through the holes creating an attractive pattern that will act as a base for the transparent glass top.
For a coffee table one needs three tyres atop one another for the preferred height while for a poof, one requires two tyres with the spongy top made to lie on the nylon strings giving one a springy base for their feet.
Each table fetches between Sh9,000 and Sh18,000 while a sofa set, complete with tyre arms, will cost you Sh25,000.
He also makes cloth baskets, dustbins, wall mirror frames, pit latrine seats and outdoor landscaping material.
“New tyres are used for motor vehicles and motor cycles. Once they end their outdoor life, I give them a relaxing and functional second life as household furniture,” says Mr Mburu.
To keep costs low, the entrepreneur and his wife while away their evening weaving sisal mats which are used to spruce up the tyres. On a good month, Mr Mburu earns about Sh150,000, some of which he spends on his three employees’ pay.
He continues to exploit social media to drive sales. He runs the Facebook page titled ‘Stemo Tires Furniture Place’. Mr Mburu has, however, maintained his showroom-cum-workshop in Kitengela.
Mr Mburu is now looking to get into a deal with supermarkets where he could showcase his unique furniture.
“I am ready to engage any supermarket owners on a revenue sharing deal...for every item sold by them,” he says.
“We need not dispose of tyres by burning them. They can be turned into comfortable house furniture.”