Category Archives: Entrepreneurial Stories

Entrepreneurial Stories

I Turned My Love For African Bags Into A Profitable Business – Drucilla Msinga

I Turned My Love For African Bags Into A Profitable Business - Drucilla Msinga

It is a well known fact that one’s appearance can tell quite a lot about the person. This is not just limited to their attire but also includes their accessories such as a handbag. Most ladies never leave the house without a handbag. They have so many things to carry ranging from phone, notebook, makeup kit, umbrella, snacks, keys, toiletries etc. A lady’s handbag has to match her outfit and most ladies have a variety of bags to go with their different outfits.

Drucilla Msinga is one such lady. The type of bags she carries can tell you she is a true African at heart as she carries Viondos – an African bag made out of sisal. She loves African bags and wherever she goes people seem to be in love with them so she decided to exploit this venture. At some point, she realized that she was getting multiple enquiries about her bags and an idea came to her,

“Why not buy these bags and sell them instead?”

That was the genesis of Drix Classic Viondos.

First, she had to figure out where she would get her merchandise from. African bags are quite expensive and if she bought them from the market, she would not be able to make substantial profit. She had to go to the source and that meant traveling to the rural parts of Kenya to find the women who specialised in making these bags. She did not want middlemen. Lucky for her, she found an older woman who made beautiful Viondos and a partnership developed.

“This lady makes the bags and I pick them once they are done. The bags come in different designs depending on the client’s preference.”

Sample Bags from the Drix Classic Viondos collection

Sample Bags from the Drix Classic Viondos collection

The partnership has been working well despite a few challenges that she faced at the beginning. For one, the lady who made the bags didn’t own a phone and so getting in touch with her used to be tricky. Drucilla would just visit her hoping the orders are ready but sometimes she would get there and the orders would not be ready and it became a waste of time and transport money. The woman, also being elderly didn’t understand the current trends and Drucilla did her best to explain the kind of designs she required her to make but sometimes it would get lost in translation. There has been improvement though and there is better communication in their partnership.

“I have come a long way even with the lady who makes the bags for me. I started with two bags but now as we speak I have sold so many. My greatest support is my friends and family. My sisters have all bought bags from me with one sister having bought up to eight bags! They have also done some marketing for me. I tell them for each bag they buy they should tell people about Drix classic viondos.’

Drucilla is very passionate about African bags among other artifacts. She says it fills her heart with pride to see ladies carrying them and that is what motivates her everyday to keep on doing what she does. “I thank God for my clients and the doors He has opened for me and for the other entrepreneurs out there, keep pressing on.”

Entrepreneurial Stories

We started Grub Donuts without a plan, without a fixed capital – Michael & Wilson

We started Grub Donuts without a plan, without a fixed capital - Michael & Wilson

It started out as two friends experimenting in the kitchen. One had the knack for doing things with his hands and the other was just trying to find something to fill up his schedule since he was relatively free during the week.

They prepared mandazis at first then they decided those were common in most households so they tried something else, Donuts. They thought their donuts tasted pretty good but then that view might have been biased so they tested them with their neighbour who loved the donuts. That was the validation they needed to turn that experiment into a business.

“Once our neighbor loved the donuts to a point of thinking that we had been doing this for awhile we knew it was time. We immediately opened an instagram page that evening and came up with Grub donuts. There was no time to waste. Grub is a term commonly used by high school students to refer to snacks.”

Michael Ndung’u and Wilson Mwaniki started Grub donuts without even the basic tools like a cooking pan and they would use utensils from their own kitchens. When asked about capital, the business partners can’t say for sure how much they started with. They were so excited to start a business they found a way to get whatever they needed without really keeping track of how much they spent.

“We actually started without a strategy. At that moment what mattered to us was making donuts and getting clients. We have learnt so much since then and we are working on so many details that we had overlooked in the first instance.”

It is an online based business therefore they mostly use their online platforms to market their business but the most effective form of marketing for them has been word of mouth. “Our donuts speak for themselves and that is what we wanted from the start so we do not use our personal online pages to market the business or to influence buyers. We want people to buy the donuts because they are good and not because they are our friends.”

If their appearance don’t grab your attention, their taste will Image Credit – Grub Donuts Instagram

If their appearance don’t grab your attention, their taste will
Image Credit – Grub Donuts Instagram

The partners state that what makes them different is that they do not compromise on the quality of their donuts. Their product is their representation and so they ensure their clients have a good image of them by providing a good product as well as good service in terms of delivery.

“For instance, if our delivery guy  gets into an accident when delivering an order we make sure to contact the client and inform them on what has happened then we deliver their order later with some complementaries to make it up to them.”

They have also had their fair share of challenges especially having started without a plan. Sometimes demand would outweigh supply. They had to figure a way to satisfy all their clients. Just when they thought they had handled that challenge another one emerged where clients were requesting for additional packaging on top of what they are already providing. They say they are still working on that one.

“What we have realized is that everyday we get a different kind of challenge and this business has been a learning process for us. For anyone out there who has a business idea and is waiting for everything to be perfect before they can start, you are already late! Start and work out some of the details as you go.”

In addition to that, they also advise entrepreneurs that whatever they do they should do it to their level best. It’s a monkey see monkey do world so if someone copies their idea they would not do it the same way so they should not let that discourage them as long as they give it their all. Finally the partners agree that business is not easy. Most of the things are not taught in school so it’s not a solace for people who are tired of their jobs. They urge people to start a business because they are passionate about it and not because they are running away from something.

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What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger – The Story of Ruth Mwanzia, Founder, Koola Waters

What doesn't kill you makes you stronger – The Story of Ruth Mwanzia, Founder, Koola Waters

Drought is a phenomenon that if not well addressed can be disastrous. Kevin Carter, a photojournalist, understood this all too well when he took the famous photo of ‘The vulture and the little girl’. In the picture taken in 1993 in Sudan, there is a little malnourished girl who is collapsed on the ground clearly starving and the vulture is seen hovering a few meters away anticipating its next meal! Being in such a harsh environment, taking pictures and not being able to help these people weighed so heavily on Carter’s conscious that he eventually took his own life despite his apparent success – as he won a Pulitzer award. So what would you do if you grew up in such an environment?

Ruth Mwanzia grew up in one of the driest parts of the country, Kitui. This is a part of the country that receives very little rainfall throughout the year. People in her village struggled to get water. She was determined not to let drought and famine hold her back. If anything, she would use that as motivation to build a solution around in an effort to contribute to the betterment of her region. She truly believed that it didn’t have to be a permanent situation if something was done about it. She was determined to make an impact and that is how she came up with Koola waters.

Starting out, she faced some challenges as expected with any startup. The market was already flooded with so many brands of water – some genuine and others fake. To handle this competition, she had to do a lot of research in terms of what her competitors were doing and what she would be required to do to stay in the game. Being new in the market also meant that her product was not well known. Most customers would say they couldn’t buy a product they had never heard of.

So she had to do a lot of marketing in the mainstream media as well as any medium she could get.

“Sharing my story in the mainstream media did not only help me with the publicity but many people have come up to me and expressed how my story has inspired them and this is very fulfilling as it makes me realize that am headed in the right direction and I can’t give up. People depend on me for inspiration and not just to quench their thirst.”

Ruth is more concerned with the impact that koola waters will create in her community and the world at large. She gives back to her community by partnering with non governmental organizations to plant trees back in Kitui because she knows trees will make a big difference by increasing the amount of rainfall they will receive. She emphasizes that she did not want Koola waters to be like any other other company.

“What sets me apart is that my water is really good. It does not leave an aftertaste in your mouth. I also sell to everyone from retailers to small shops because this ensures that my product is known by all from the high end clients to the ordinary citizen.”

Ruth Mwanzia at her packaging plant for Koola Waters in Karen

Ruth Mwanzia at her packaging plant for Koola Waters in Karen

The God-fearing lady has learnt that the world of entrepreneurship requires one to be disciplined and patient. The entrepreneur needs to understand that it takes time to start making money and the little that you make in the beginning may have to be ploughed back into the business. She also adds that one person can rarely succeed if they do everything on their own. “When you set out to be an entrepreneur, you think of all the work that will go into making the business a success. What you will need to do and how to do it. A smart entrepreneur needs to realize that they can’t do everything by themselves. For instance, I realized I had some areas I needed help with so I had to hire people with the right expertise in order to grow.”

Ruth attributes her success to God and her family. She has prayed for her business every step of the way and sees how far she has come as God’s doing. Her family has also been supportive from day one when she kept putting off the business and they would tell her to stop procrastinating.

The three pieces of advice the managing director of Koola Waters has for upcoming entrepreneurs is, “Trust in God and pray for your business idea. Put the idea on paper by making a vision board and putting it in a strategic place that will be visible at all times to serve as a reminder of what you want to achieve. Lastly start with the resources you have no matter how small they may seem!”

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The love for adventure and travelling did not start yesterday. In fact it started a long time ago. Take for example, the story of Lord Egerton, a man who enjoyed hunting and travelling. Those two activities saw him tour different countries in Africa. His travelling inspired romance so he decided to build a magnificent castle to impress his fiance in one of his destinations,Kenya. Unfortunately, the lady turned Lord Egerton down and went on to marry another Lord in Australia. Just like travelling can inspire romance (hopefully with a better ending than Lord Egerton’s), it can also inspire a business idea among other things as it is one of those hobbies that many people share. Through traveling, people get to see and learn a lot from different cultures, view beautiful sceneries, try out different food and so much more.

Traveling has many perks, but it can also be costly and hectic. Since most people travel to places they have never been to before, finding the right mode of transport or just a nice hotel to stay in during their visit can be a hassle. This is the reason most people prefer to use tours and travel agencies when planning for a trip which makes work easier.

Jackline Cherop, the managing director of Densey tours and travel has always been passionate about the travel industry, so much that she studied tours and travels at Utalii College. Upon finishing college, she worked in the travel industry for 10 years before she decided she wanted some challenge in her career and that is how Densey Tours and Travel was born.

“Working in the industry I love was great, don’t get me wrong but I always felt that something was missing. I knew starting my own company would fill that void so I decided to register my company while still working and see what happens. That was back in 2013. The reason I registered my company and still kept my job was that I needed a safety net. I had to make sure that my company was doing well before taking that great risk of quitting my job. Eventually after a year I did quit my job so I could evaluate my life and see how I could focus on Densey Tours and Travel.”

The company offers two types of travel packages, inbound for those traveling to Kenya and outbound for those traveling out of Kenya. The young entrepreneur has also created employment for about twelve people in various departments of her company, both casual and permanent. When asked how she feels about competition, Ms Jackline says it’s healthy and shows that the economy is growing.

“Competition keeps you on your toes and makes you up your game. It also makes you want to learn new things. When more people are coming into the industry it means that more people are getting employment in this sector which is a good thing especially for our youth who are mostly affected by unemployment in the country.”

She may be doing well now but her life has not always been easy. Having been raised by her grandmother among 5 other children, Jacky managed to rise above the adversity she faced to start her tour company. Despite facing many struggles, she still never stopped dreaming and began her business with no networks. Since then, her vision has been to use Densey’ s story to motivate young people build their companies. Her life experience has led her to her current personal initiative where she  sponsors girls to school and mentors them through their school lives for career preparedness.

From a very humble beginning to the woman she is today, it has taken hard work and support from her family. Through this journey she has learnt that one needs to be patient, committed and trustworthy in order to be successful. She enjoys the world of entrepreneurship because it allows her more time to spend with her family. She doesn’t have to wait upto end of the month to get a salary and she has the freedom to make decisions in her company. The advice she has for potential entrepreneurs is “don’t quit your job without a plan!”

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Earlier this year, the government banned unlicensed logging and charcoal production, leaving millions of people without an important source of energy. The government did this to try curb increasing deforestation, droughts and human encroachment upon valuable forests and agricultural land. Research shows that 82% of the urban population uses charcoal in their homes. What was going to happen to all these people after the ban? Use the alternative sources of energy like kerosene and gas that most consider to be expensive?

Three entrepreneurs received the news of the ban with excitement. They knew a solution had to be found and so they embarked on doing research on an alternative source of energy. Having worked in a research institute before gave them an added advantage. Rose, Kennedy and David put their findings together and realized briquettes was the way to go. So they came up with Eco Makaa Solutions. They knew this would provide an environment friendly solution as well as be affordable to the consumers.

“We understood that the government had to do this in order to protect our environment, instead of sitting around and lamenting on how people would be greatly affected we decided it would be better to find a solution. Besides wouldn’t the world be a better place if we all took care of our environment? We may not be able to see it now but it goes without saying that the future generations will appreciate our efforts of leaving them a better world. We play our part by making briquettes and briquette making machines.”

image 1
Rose looking on as her employees mix raw materials for the briquettes

Theirs has been a difficult journey, so difficult that one of their partners dropped out. They had each contributed ksh. 7000 to begin with as capital. They didn’t have briquette making machines so they had to outsource but that was the easy part the difficult part was getting the people to buy their briquettes because they obviously needed to sale to recover their money and take care of the production cost.

“Convincing people that briquettes were as good as charcoal and even better was hard. Kenyans are generally not open to change, it took a while for us to start making sales. This became too overwhelming for one of our partners who opted out. This did not discourage us, we forged on put in the work, hoped for the best and eventually made progress.”

Their resilience has paid off since they now have their own machines. They have also gone into machine manufacturing to help other entrepreneurs who may want to go into the briquette making business. The great thing about this business is that the raw materials which include sawdust, coffee husks and charcoal dust can be obtained freely since they are considered to be waste products.

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Briquettes being extracted from the machine before going to the final stage which is drying

Most entrepreneurs have a trick or two when it comes to dealing with competition, not ECO Makaaa Solutions. On the other hand they encourage more people to take up briquette making. They train people at a small fee and if you buy their machine training is offered free of charge.

On anyone out there who wants to venture into the world of entrepreneurship the partners agree on one thing, “If you don’t have all the resources you can always outsource just like we did and with time get your own. The most important thing is to start!”


image 3
Rose Moses and Kennedy Omondi pose for a photo outside their establishment in Komarock Market

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