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How passion to serve others birthed a lucrative catering business for former nurse

How passion to serve others birthed a lucrative catering business for former nurse

As a practising nurse in Australia with up to eight years of experience, Michel Alusiola had always felt rewarded when she would lift the spirits of both the sick and their family members by serving them.

During her service, she noticed that one of the things that lifted the spirits of her patients on some days was the type of food that was being served.

“The mood was always good for most of my patients on Tuesday especially when we served hot chocolate and there was always a dip in the mood on beef stew and mashed potatoes day. This pattern fascinated me a lot,” said Alusiola.

Her career took a turn when she had challenges balancing her time between work shifts and being a new mum, she then opted to be a full-time mum and relocated back to Kenya. 

As she took care of her children, she noticed a similar pattern to the one she had experienced with her patients in terms of their mood when it came to preparing meals for them. 

 “My children would get excited and in a good mood before and after some meals and in bad moods when it came to other foods,” said Alusiola.

With her nursing career behind her Ms. Alusiola still had the desire to achieve the same satisfaction she had in the past from serving others and this drove her to start her enterprise PinkPurple a catering service in 2016.

 “I started with no capital, all I had was my kitchen. I received one order and from the down payment made, I started growing my business. I started catering for weddings and private functions during the weekends and then expanded to breakfasts and lunch orders for offices during the week,” said Ms. Alusiola.

PinkPurple started with four to five orders a day and one additional member of staff making small wedding and private function food. As they introduced breakfasts and lunches, the business progressively grew its orders to 15. With its customization of meals and the introduction of dinners PinkPurple currently employs three additional members of staffs and receives 30 to 35 orders a day. 

“I do have a menu but I primarily focus on listening to customers request and tailor-making the meals according to their requests. Once, a customer requested an evening meal with specific servings and he made it a daily routine. From that order, I began doing weekly dinners for customers and it has made a major impact on my catering service,” said Ms. Alusiola.

She says her interest in making weekly dinners was driven by her assessment that most working-class people arrive late from work and find it difficult to prepare proper meals on a daily basis and the cost of eating at restaurants may be high for some people. 

“I had a challenge at the beginning with setting up the rates for the meals at a completive rate to the restaurants but still have the customers enjoy the meals at the comfort of their homes. I decided to range my dishes between Sh250 and Sh350,” she said.

She explains how she sets up her weekly dinners and how she contributes her expertise to the customers’ orders.

“I receive orders at the end of the week with customer specifications on the type of food, the number of servings, and when they want to eat the food in the course of the week. From my experience with patients, I have always believed there is a link between the type of diet someone has and their physical and mental health. There is no superfood for better health so we try to create a whole dietary pattern through the food preparation and inform the client of its importance “said Alusiola

“I make some deliveries on my own to give me an opportunity to engage and receive feedback from my customers. Sometimes I engage courier services such as SafeBoda Kenya and Glovo to make fast deliveries” she added.

Her biggest challenge has been to market her business. With major players seeking the expertise of marketing specialists to promote their food service she still relies on word of mouth and tried to progressively learn how to use some social media platforms.

“I get recommendations from my clients and I keep trying to put video tutorials of the food PinkPurple cooks on social media platforms like WhatsApp, Facebook, and Instagram but I hardly find the time to consistently do the marketing for myself.


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Villagers turns abandoned land into a money minting beekeeping and hay production enterprise

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In most places in Kenya, due to rural-urban migration, there are some places where arable lands are just left untilled as owners are lost in cities and towns looking for formal jobs.

With time these lands become very fertile due to lack of any activity in them and as a result, they become one of the best and attractive sites for agricultural productions.

This was the situation almost a decade ago with a 32-acre piece of land in Uasin Ngishu County along Eldoret-Kitale highway which the owner has used it to grow wheat and maize left it in 2006 for Mombasa City to look for other forms of income.

About four years later villagers started salivating for the land wanting to make it productive for the benefit of the youth in the area and they approached the owner through the Economic Projects Transformational Facility (EPTF).

EPTF which is a non-governmental organization that aims to spur enterprise development among the youth and eradicate poverty in society first had a beekeeping project for the community living in the area but there was no space for the project.

In 2010, the organization, therefore, approached the owner who, after 2-3 years of talks, agreed that his land be used for such a ‘sweet’ venture which to him was more environmentally friendly and the land wasn’t going to be exhausted.

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After the deal, the villagers with support from EPTF set 15 beehives in 2015. These would soon start producing 75 kilograms of raw honey harvested per season and sold directly to consumers at Sh100 per kilo something that proved the viability of the project in the area.

In 2016 30 more beehives were added and a centrifugal honey extractor machine to improve honey quality and quantity was also purchased.

“In 2018 we had 60 hives and now we have about 100 hives fully occupied with bees from which we harvest over 1,000Kg of refined honey a season. This earns us over Sh100,000,” said Geoffrey Ng’etich, the project manager.

The packed beehives has been made possible by planting flowering plants such as sunflower, acacia, avocadoes and orange fruit trees among other trees that attract bees and provide nectar for honey production.

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So far, the project has yielded much fruit for the residents. From the proceeds of the honey venture, the beneficiaries have purchased another six acres of land which has been put under Boma Rhodes hay fodder production.

From the six acres, they produce 845-1,200 bales which they sell at between Sh250 and Sh150 depending on the distance to market and market demand at a given time.

“We do not harvest our grass before receiving market or sales orders as we prefer selling them when still fresh to enable us to decongest our small store which is one of the major challenges we are facing with hay farming at the moment,” said Ng’etich.

However, despite the challenges, the residents have established themselves. Within a portion of the six-acre piece of land, they have built their operation base which is called Nyaru Farm under which all their products and services are offered.

Today the farm nicely package and brand their honey products using the farm name something which has enabled them to attract more sales by breaking even into the formal markets.

“We buy our packaging bottles from Eldoret Town and Nairobi where a bottle costs Sh20. The bottles are then labelled ‘Nyaru Honey’ as the brand identification,” said Ng’etich.

Now with approval from the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS), they sell a 500g bottle of honey at Sh400 while that of 250g fetches Sh200 per bottle.

In order to be able to help even the young graduates, the farm operates under Graduate Internship Programme (GRIP) which gives the youth and women the opportunity and support to venture in various businesses to earn a living.

In this, the farm acts as a training ground for university students who are interested in agribusiness, especially during their long vacation and internship programmes.

“We receive students each season who come as farm helps to practically learn on-farm management,” said Ng’etich. 

According to him, this keeps alternating depending on the students’ holidays and industrial attachment periods.

Because most of the students and the youth benefiting from the farm are from the surrounding, there are plans to turn it into an institute that will absorb post-secondary school leavers who do not make it to the university.


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Kiambu youth group creates over Sh100,000 pawpaw production venture

Kiambu youth group creates over Sh100,000 pawpaw production venture

Starting off a serious agribusiness venture is still a challenge for many youth groups in Kenya due to lack of capital and the hustle to access loans from financial institutions has even made it harder as they lack collateral asked for by the institutions.

This has seen only the determined few who have members with passion in agriculture live to push through to realise their life dreams.

One such group is Vineyard Kilimo which comprises of 10 members who were previously into maize production, a venture which just earned them enough to feed their families with nothing left for trading.

“Maize has been a crop that our parents earned a living with but seemingly things have changed, an acre can no longer yield enough and probably it is because of the change in weather conditions caused by climate change,” said Jactone Mwaniki, the group chairperson.

In February 2018, they decided to come together, consolidate whatever capital they had to start producing something else. 

However, what they collected could not measure up to the pawpaw production project they had settled on as there was the setting of the nurseries, buying seeds, and registration fee required.

After looking for a financial boost from people and institutions they knew to no avail, finally, Juhudi Kilimo, a microfinance institution in Kenya granted them their loan request of Sh100,000 to begin the project.

They were then trained by two non-governmental organisations, Solidaridad and Heifer International which impart vital skills to various youth groups on seedlings production and other types of farming in general.

Today, the group has a nursery within a three-acre piece of land located 2km from Ishiara Centre where they have three big pawpaw seedling nurseries each with 2,000 seedlings at the moment.

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Beginning last year, they also decided to plant pawpaw fruits within the farm and currently, they have 500 plants in the remaining part of the farm that they have started harvesting.

“We sell a seedling at Sh10 each to local farmers and other growers from other parts of the country who call for their orders before organising transport either through public or courier services for them,” said Mwaninki. 

The group also sells 1,000 kilos of pawpaw fruits of Malkia F1 variety after every two weeks with a kilo going at Sh50.

At the end of this rainy season and if all go well, they are expecting to earn about Sh60,000 from seedlings and at least Sh65,000 from the fruit sales.

This means that every member of the group will have over Sh10,000 in his or her account.

“Depending on our season proceeds, we always withdraw a portion of the money and give to the members for their daily needs while the rest are left in the group’s account for our farming expansions, members savings and our general welfare,”’ said Mwaniki.

The group is now planning to incorporate other fruit seedlings and crops such as mangoes, oranges and apples as they have realised the areas can support the fruits and that there is the ready market being close to Kiambu and Nairobi’s big markets.


Agripreneur Blog business Entrepreneurial Stories

Women groups growing their enterprises by cheap loans

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In Kenya, for many years women in business especially in the rural areas have had it hard accessing financial support from various financial institutions which see their businesses as more vulnerable to risks.

This, according to experts, has been attributed to women’s limited financial literacy, lack of clarity of bank terms of access and the inability to provide collateral or personal guarantees.

However, things are changing for the better for these women thanks to efforts to train rural women on bookkeeping skills to increase their financial literacy, facilitated workshops to link women-led businesses and financial institutions, such as national and county government affirmative funds, banks and microfinance institutions.

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Madaraka Self Help Group, for instance, is a group of over 10 women members from Kimutwa in Machakos County who came together after noticing that over-relying on their husbands who are casual workers to win daily bread and other family needs were becoming too much.

From their small casual engagements, the women decided to form joint saving and group (Chama) investments with the desire to improve the quality of life for their families.

“Our main objectives included pulling together financial resources for investments, non-collateral loans to members and to use the group as an opportunity to access government and non -governmental benefits which can only be channelled through a group,” said the group chairlady.

By 2013, the group had collectively saved Sh300,000 which at the beginning of 2014, they decided to spend part to purchase water tanks of 3,000-litre capacity for each member to end their water challenges. This left the group with Sh70,000.

When Konza sub-location Chama chairman called for the training of all the groups in the location in April that year, Madaraka Self Help Group which was also represented invited officers from Women Enterprise Fund (WEF) officer from Machakos Town to give them more training.

This would become the group’s connection to credit source for a project that would later lift their livelihoods.

At the end of the training, the group successfully applied for Sh100,000 from WEF which they used to lease an acre piece of land, buy some water pumps and pipes and began growing tomatoes.

 

Their first sale of the crop was in mid-2015 when the group sold tomatoes worth Sh400,000, with expenses of Sh159 000 thus making a profit of Sh241, 000 enabling them to repay the loan and apply for the second funding of Sh200,000.

This came in February 2016 which they used part to lease another acre of land and the rest in production as they had two acres so far.

As per their expectation, they were able to earn Sh800,000 making the group be worth Sh550,000 after repaying their second loan and other expenses which include some two farmhands and casual labourers.

78With the increasing income, the members have so far decided to use part of their savings to begin individual members businesses such as foodstuff shops, charcoal selling businesses and motorbike businesses.

They can now contribute to their family needs and Improve their livelihoods without necessarily depending on their husbands for financial support.

For Tushibe Mtama Women Group in Nakuru’s Rongai Constituency, they took their first loan of Sh50, 000 in 2010 to start in the bakery business.

The group which has been growing sweet potato seemed to have found a solution to their market woes because since they used the money to buy an oven, they have established their business of baking cookies, buns and cakes from the produce’s flour and tubers. 

As they repay their previous loans, they become more eligible for more loans and funding, which has enabled them to increase the acreage under sweet potato production and improve their value addition enterprise.

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Since registered with the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS), they have developed product labels and packaging that is now enabling them to reach their goods to formal markets and improve their incomes.

Interestingly, the group members livelihoods have also improved and they can support their families.


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Kisumu woman excelling in a male dominated automotive mechanic job

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The rate at which ladies are increasingly daring to venture into careers or jobs that traditionally have been dominated or meant to be men’s is really encouraging, after all, they say ‘what a man can do, a woman can do better.

In fact, according to a recent report by the International Finance Corporation, of the 462,000 jobs created annually since 2000 in Kenya, 445,000 jobs have come from the informal sector, where 85 per cent of women’s businesses are found. 

One of these women who have managed to create a thriving business in a male-dominated field is Josephine Akinyi.

When she completed her Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education at Nyabisawa Girls, Migori county in 2001, she never envisioned that working as a diesel mechanic, an occupation predominantly presumed to be a man’s domain could earn her Sh20,000 to 50,000 a day.

“I was hesitant to join the business because I never wanted to have greasy hands or wear the blue oily aprons. Both my parents being mechanics, it was inevitable that I would be involved in the culture as well,” said Josephine Akinyi co-owner Fedmar Garage and owner Lascope Spare Parts n Kisumu City.

Brought up in a family of mechanics, she had developed an interest in cars at a young age but the brute strength required for heavy lifting, and the gender stereotype discouraged her from following the family’s footsteps. Before technology advancements, mechanics involved a great deal of hands-on work.

After high school, she took a certificate course in Early Childhood Development and Education (ECDE) aspiring to be a pre-school teacher only to drop out after a month to learn how to earn a daily income.

“While in school, I had the mindset that white-collar jobs paid better but after attending the ECDE classes for a month, I got tired of sitting in for lecturers while my parents and brothers were making money every day – I had to get my hands dirty no matter the odds,” Akinyi said.

She later took a computer course and driving lessons but spent most of her free time lazing around the house until 2004 when she decided to make something of herself by joining his family business, Opiyo Garage located in Kisumu.

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Persistent to learn on the job, her father took her on as an apprentice, introduced her to the safety rules, tools, different engine parts, and trained her on how to perform manual diagnostic tests. 

Within a year, she had learned how to service the vehicles, gradually increasing her knowledge of car parts and mechanics.

Her passion to excel in the field exceeded when she serviced the first car, making Sh1,200 in less than an hour. Working with her four brothers and father, she would repair two to three cars in a week making Sh10,000 or more in a day depending on the problem.

In the past, traditional car repair techniques and gender stereotypes discouraged women from involvement in the mechanic’s field. However, today, the physical barriers women faced have reduced following technology advancements.

 New techniques have accelerated car diagnostics and repairs; the work has become light and less greasy- women are invading men’s domain.

Data from WhoCanFixMyCar.com shows that the number of female mechanics in the UK has risen by 125 per cent since 2011.

According to the Kenya Bureau of Statistics, the untapped potential of women has gained greater attention. The 2010 constitution of Kenya provides a framework for addressing gender equality, seeking to remedy the traditional exclusion of women and promote their full involvement in every aspect of growth and development.

“I believe that female mechanics can be successful as or even more successful than male auto mechanics. The gender stereotype deters women from exploring their full potential,” she said.

“I derive my livelihood from this job. It feeds my family, pays school fees for my children and even caters for unforeseen emergencies.”

In 2007, having acquired the skills for the job, including using the digital diagnostic machine, she joined his brother’s business, Fedmar Garage based in Migori to offer her expertise and help manage the business.

The only female in the group of seven- 4 permanent workers and three trainees, works tirelessly to earn a decent living and has created her customer base gaining repeat clients.

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On a good day, she fixes two to three cars earning Sh20,000 to 50,000 depending on the nature of the problem.

Team cohesion has enabled the trainees to learn fast -when one is working on the engine, another the interior of the car, and the other wheel alignment.

“After learning on the job, most male trainees leave to open their businesses. On the other hand, women admire my zeal, but once they join our team, they quit after two days. We don’t have female mechanics at the moment,” said the mother of three children, one graduating primary school this year.

Akinyi continuously empowers women who want to succeed in the male-dominated industry. Apart from repairing vehicles, Josephine invested Sh30,000 and opened Lascope Spare Parts in

March 2011 due to the high equipment demand at the garage. She makes a profit of Sh3,500 per day and anticipates opening another shop in Kisumu by January 2020.


Blog business Entrepreneurial Stories

Love for Cooking Turns into A Lucrative Bakery Business for Graduate

Love for Cooking Turns into A Lucrative Bakery Business for Graduate

Turning what you love doing into a profitable venture can really be enjoyable given the excitement it comes with while operating it.

Sharon Sang is one such entrepreneur who has converted her cooking hobby into a bakery business which is now earning her some tidy sum of money.

The Bachelor of Commerce graduate from the University of Nairobi had learned how to bake cakes when she was a little girl from her mother and elder sisters.

And as she was waiting for her graduation in 2014, she realised she had some free time that she could utilise to earn her some pocket money.

“I did not want to continue asking for some cash from parents or siblings for my personal effects because I was through with my course and I could hustle as well,” said Sharon.

She, therefore, decided to spend Sh50,000 money she had won from a 2015 beauty competition where she became a runner-up to start off the business.

She used part of the money to buy baking equipment and the raw materials she had to start with.

Some of the equipment she bought include measuring cups and spoons, a weighing scale, baking tins, a blender, hand mixer, spatula, leveller, and mixing bowls, among other necessary items.

“My first product was a vanilla cake of two kilos which I sold to a friend at around Sh2,200 and that is how I got motivated,” said Sharon.

The more she continued baking good cakes and selling to people who were well known to her the more she got referrals until it reached a point her customers became her business ambassadors.

In addition, she invested in social media platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp groups and Instagram to reach her usual and prospective clients.

Soon she started getting orders online which she could deliver in time earning her more trusts.

In 2018 she decided to register the business at a cost of Sh3,000 as Dessert Palace where she now bakes a variety of cakes such as wedding cakes, cupcakes, and birthday cakes among other pastries.

Since baked goods such as cakes are perishable and thus the need for the ready market so that they are sold when they are still fresh, Sharon prefers baking on order.

“I have learnt to execute the business skills I acquired from college very well and I am able to manage the business when I am faced with challenges.

Other than vanilla, Sharon also make banana cakes and carrot cakes and her prices depend on the size and the level of decoration brought about by food colouration if need be.

Nevertheless, her prices per kilo of the cakes ranges between Sh1,600 and Sh2,200 two-kilogramme cakes go for Sh2,500 to Sh3,100 each.

She also sells a packet of cupcakes comprising six pieces at Sh550.

In a week she can receive up to 20 orders of cakes. In this, she is sure of Sh5,000 profit a week.

“My main challenge is the many orders I get per week which when working alone I find it difficult to meet hence I am thinking of employing at least two people in the near future to help in baking,” said Sharon.


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Former matatu driver finds comfort in agribusiness

Former matatu driver finds comfort in agribusiness

Not only in Kenya, across East Africa public transport popularly known as matatu sector remains synonymous with chaos and disarray with unpredictable operation system, poor handling of passengers, bad conditions and unreliability.

Especially in major towns and cities such as Nairobi, chaos, impunity and disorder in the sector reign supreme making the lives of commuters and operators daily encounters with the bad and ugly of the public transport.

This is the environment that Alex Macharia found himself in as a matatu driver in Nairobi from 2010 to 2012 earning Sh500 a day. 

Tired with the chaotic culture, he would leave the city to Nakuru Town to work as an employee in a retail shop for another two years. This too would not offer him the comfort he yearned for.

With his little savings from the two jobs, he would soon leave to his rural home at Elburgon in Nakuru County where he leased an acre of land for maize production.

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‘’I was lucky to get ready buyers with Njoro Millers but because I could not produce enough, I formed a group with five other farmers who would bring to me 10 90kg bags each then combine with my 15 90kg bags before supplying to the miller,’’ said Alex.

The group grew up slowly and they started venturing into other crops such as French beans and snow peas as they kept their traditional maize production.

After being trained on safe and effective use of pesticides, in 2017 Alex was chosen by Frigoken Ltd (FKL), a Nairobi-based export-oriented vegetable processing company and which they supplied the produce as a technical assistance (TA) to help farmers with agronomy practices.

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His first big challenges as trainer was how to convince farmers to work with him and transporting them to a place of training but persistence has seen him overcome.

“Farmers always have their reasons to doubt new organisations, Alex says, ‘’But all depends on how you treat both old and new comers to slowly build their trust.’’

He has since increased the number of farmers he is working with from just the five he started with to 3,000 currently.

As a great boost in his business, last year when he first interacted with FarmtoMarket Alliance program by Kuza Biashara and Cereal Growers Association (CGA) where he was further taught on managing farmers and customers, understanding markets, managing income and expenses, making farm budgets and records and savings through SACCOs among others.

The program has turned him into a community agribusiness advisor (AA) by giving farmers proper trainings on the areas that are key in their production such as accessing affordable farm inputs, proper use of the farm inputs, harvesting and marketing of their produce.

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‘’The program has linked us to may agribusiness stakeholders including financiers and buyers through capacity building. Personally, I now own a motorized sprayer courtesy of the connections brought about by the program,’’ said Alex. 

Today, Alex and his team are harvesting 2,000 kilos of French beans twice a week and the same for snow peas. 

He says that at the beginning of the first harvest they can only realise 700 kilos of French beans but as it approaches the peak, they can harvest up to seven tonnes twice a week.

Besides maize, French beans and snow peas, they also grow potatoes. The group sells French beans at Sh50 per kilo, snow peas at Sh65 a kilo while potatoes go at Sh30 per kilo.

Alex’s immediate future plan is to own an agrovet through which he can stock farm inputs such as fertiliser, herbicide and pesticides and supply them to farmers at a subsidised cost.


Entrepreneurial Stories

From Hawking to a CEO

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From Hawking to a CEO; Fred Mugo is Proof that Dreams are Valid.
What makes a living room homely? Is it the carpet, the entertainment system, the seats, the art on the wall or a combination of all these things? The CEO of Eslis Furniture will tell you a good comfortable seat is everything. It will make you look forward to going home at any time of the day and give you the confidence you need to host friends and family.

Fred Mugo started out selling clothes at Gikomba. Although it gave him the income he needed, he did not love it as much as he loves what he does today. Designing and making seats for sale. A business idea that he got from a friend who was also willing to hold his hand and show him the ropes. They started out as partners and worked together for a while. The young entrepreneur was determined to succeed so he gave it his all. After working together for some time he gained the confidence he thought he needed to start his own venture and so
they went their separate ways.

afur “Working with a partner was easier, you have someone to brainstorm your ideas with and help you in making difficult decisions. But I had to think about my future and I knew it would not be easy; I was ready to take on the challenge. Little did I know just how stressful it would get and that is how Eslis Furniture was born.”

When setting out there are so many things he had not considered. One of those things was the employees. He understands just how important a good carpenter can be for his kind of business. For a while he kept getting carpenters who did not understand his vision. Some would even go as far as getting drunk on the job. At some point he had to take a break, and travelled to Nakuru for some serious prayers.

“I had to commit to prayers for two days because things were getting so stressful for me. I am a believer and I know that prayers work because when I got back things started looking up. I got very good carpenters as well as tailors. You need employees who get your vision to succeed at your venture.”

Fred may be having employees but for the three years that he has been running his business he has been a hands-on entrepreneur. He goes to Gikomba himself to source for the raw materials he designs the seats and also works on social media to promote his hassle. He uses mostly Facebook and instagram as well as referrals. He says most of the people who show up at his workshop along Thika Road just a few kilometers from Roysambu do so because they have heard about the good product that they sell. He strives to offer the best, especially in the competitive market. He has to make sure he gives the best.

Things are looking good. He has achieved financial freedom doing something he loves. But the journey has not been without challenges and fears. One of the fears he grapples with is the fear of making seats and they don’t sell, what then? He has bills to pay regardless of whether he makes money or not. Although that rarely happens but as an entrepreneur it gets thinking of ways you can better yourself and your product.

When asked if he would get into employment he says No

“Being an entrepreneur is so fulfilling especially if you deal with something you are passionate about. I urge the youth to embrace entrepreneurship but they should know it is not that simple. It takes a lot of work, dedication and prayers if you believe in God.


Entrepreneurial Stories

Edward Kariuki Is Proof That Grass Is Greener Where You Water It

Eliud Kariuki Is Proof That Grass Is Greener Where You Water It

Have times ever been so hard that you considered going to another country to seek a better opportunity? It is highly likely that your answer is a yes. With the many job opportunities advertised in the Middle East and even adjacent countries such as South Sudan, many have packed up and left for these nations only to realize that grass is not always greener on the other side.

This is the story of Edward Kariuki a young man who started by selling Newspapers then left Kenya for South Sudan with big dreams. His plan was to sell his merchandise which included cosmetics and other beauty products until he could break even. Little did he know that the challenges would be too much to bear.

“There were so many hurdles in South Sudan that it no longer made sense for me to continue doing business there. From the insecurity to harassment from the authorities, not forgetting the language barrier so I decided to come back to my Country”

Upon arriving Edward continued with his business of hawking anything he could get his hands on in the streets. He would wake up very early in the morning to get his merchandise from Gikomba and sell them in the streets of Nairobi. Due to his dedication a good Samaritan spotted him and offered him a shop along Tom Mboya street at a small monthly fee. This relieved him of some challenges like the constant chase from county police and the weather conditions because he now had shelter for him and his merchandise. With time he learnt what products did well and where to source for them . It has been a struggle but he knows he made the right call by coming back.

“There are still challenges here but I wouldn’t compare it to how it was back in South sudan. Besides this is my passion so I wouldn’t let any hurdle get me down. I like being my own boss and cannot picture myself doing anything else. I keep pushing on because this is also my source of livelihood and I even plan to open bigger shops in the near future”

The three skills that the entrepreneur believes one needs to be successful is resilience, people’s skills and discipline, especially for young people he encourages them not to live beyond their means instead they should invest back into their business.


Entrepreneurial Stories

Shadepro’s journey to ensuring you are covered and your car is protected from the Sun

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A little vitamin D is good for the body but what about a lot of it? Sunlight can cause your dashboard, seats and paint to fade over a long period of time. It is important to protect your car as you spent a lot to buy it, so why spend more on unnecessary fixes when you can avoid it. Shadepro Solutions ensures you never have to experience how that feels like. They provide car shades and tents to ensure your comfort and even trampolines for some entertainment for the kids.

Alex Kinyua, one of the founders of Shadepro Solutions came up with the idea after seeing that there was a great need for shades from the county governments, relatives and other private institutions. He decided to join forces with a partner who had already started venturing into the shades business. This partnership has been going so well that they are also investing in other different businesses.

They make the shades and upon placing an order they install them for you. The business that was started using their savings and a loan did not have a smooth start Alex says,but working with a friend has its perks such as understanding each other’s strength and leveraging on them.

“The first challenge we encountered was delay in payment and high capital requirements. We did not let that deter us we found a way around it and forged ahead. If the river can bypass an obstacle, why not us?”

Shadepro uses social media and referrals to market their business. This are great platforms since they are relatively free but Alex emphasizes the only way to make them work for you is if you provide great products as well as services.

A sample of Shadepro shade

A sample of Shadepro shade

“Social media has created a global village and you wouldn’t want to be known as the worst service provider in the village because once the damage is done it takes a lot of time and resources to do damage control so to be on the safe side we make sure to provide quality shades and give timely services at reasonable charges. “

As most entrepreneurs will agree the path to self-employment is not easy it takes a lot of effort and sacrifices. Nevertheless it has its good moments. Alex and his partner for instance have been able to build strong bonds with great clientele and meet people from all walks of life.

When asked what advice he would give to college students who want to become entrepreneurs Alex had this to say,

“They should not only leave campus with the vision of being employed but also save up and aim at starting a business despite the size of the business.”


Entrepreneurial Stories

Francis Ochieng The young Entrepreneur Using what he has to get where he wants to be.

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Most students when in college take up an activity that helps them make an extra coin. Most of these activities stem from their passion in the various fields, it could be drama club, participating in beauty pageants or sports. These activities come in handy after graduation since it is a well-known fact that getting a job after school can be a bit hectic and so having some form of income generating activity as you wait for that dream job can be very helpful. Sometimes the part time activity ends up becoming the full time career path for some.

Francis Ochieng discovered that there is an opportunity in the fashion industry after participating in the college beauty pageant and assisting his fellow contestants to dress up. He left the competition not only with a crown but also with a business idea to sell clothes since during the competition he was able to observe which clothes trends were most loved. With the money he had been awarded as the winner he was good to go.

“Having the capital and an idea were not enough. I had to find a suitable location that would guarantee me clients. So the search for the perfect location begun. I visited my brothers who were studying at Kenyatta University and lived near the university. I observed how the many students liked keeping up with the latest fashion. I knew that was the market I needed.”

Francis Ochieng at his shop

Francis Ochieng at his shop

The money was not enough to secure a shop and so Francis was off to a humble beginning of selling his merchandise alongside the road. Specializing in men’s wear most of his clients are the university students but still he gets clients from other areas other than the university. To get that many clients he has to rely on social Media.

“I mostly use whatsapp to market my business. I keep my clients coming back through communication. I make sure to update them on all the media platforms that is facebook, twitter and instagram about new stock and respond to their queries instantly.”

The business has its challenges just as it has benefits. Some challenges he has faced include petty theft at his shop and some clothes staying in the shop for too long without being bought. For the former he tries to be as vigilant as possible to avoid losing some of his clothes. As for the later, he gives out the overstayed clothes out to charity and for clients who buy clothes exceeding a stipulated amount of money he gives them the overstayed clothes as complementary goods.

Francis  hopes to open his designer shop in future “I went into the clothes business with the aim of one day  getting to design my own clothes and its because of that that I am undergoing some training in tailoring so I can be able to design and make the men’s suites. I anticipate a brighter future because am putting in the hard work, am committed and I trust in God.”  


Entrepreneurial Stories

Myths About Entrepreneurs

Myths About Entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurs are not always big shot millionaires with high end connections. Most times they face normal challenges like you and I. Here are some popular myths about entrepreneurs.

1. If you come from a family of successful entrepreneurs, you will be successful

This is a popular myth as many of us believe that children from entrepreneurship backgrounds will automatically grow to take over the business. Children can indeed pick up certain traits and qualities that can position them to become entrepreneurs but this is not always the case. Entrepreneurship is more about passion and an inner drive to make things happen.

2. You must innovate something to become an entrepreneur

Entrepreneurship is not really about coming up with something new and innovative but it’s more about identifying a problem in society and coming up with a sustainable solution. Your solution doesn’t have to be new, it should however be a solution that brings in a fresh perspective and adds value.

3. Having an innovative product = Business success

If you have this great idea that is cool and innovative, having only that is not enough. There are a couple of critical issues that you need to deal with like marketing, budgeting, networks, seeking investment, etc. A good place to start is finding your way into start up accelerator functions where you can meet potential investors and pitch your idea.

4. Entrepreneurship takes a lot of your time

Entrepreneurship is all about striking a balance and setting your priorities right. Yes, it takes a lot of commitment to run a business, but if you are able to balance your personal and business life, you will be just fine.

5. You need a clear business plan/strategy

Of course banks and certain investors will ask to see a business plan before lending you money, but this does not mean you need to have it all figured out with a plan before you take off. You can always start with your small savings to set up and start your operations and get customers before seeking the help of the bank or an investor.

6. You have to start young to be a successful entrepreneur

There is no age limit to being an entrepreneur! You can be 60 and still start a business and be successful. A good example is KFC founder, Colonel Sanders who started KFC at age 65.

7. Entrepreneurs are well connected

When you see a seemingly successful entrepreneur, it’s easy to assume that they have connections in high places. However, it takes work to go out, network and establish connections and even then, most connections do not even lead to anything.

8. Entrepreneurs Overwork

Entrepreneurs may work weekends and during personal time but they also have time to rest and nurture their relationships.

9. Entrepreneurs have a lot of money

When someone ventures out to start a business, we tend to think that they make more money that in reality they don’t make. On the flip side, most entrepreneurs have to wait a couple of months before profits start flowing in.

10. Entrepreneurs have no boss

The term ‘be your own boss’ is most times misunderstood as entrepreneurship relieving you from the stress of having a boss. However, starting a business makes all your client’s or customers your bosses.

Final Word

Do you have any myths we haven’t shared? Share them with us in the comment section…