An ordinary visit to her grandmother’s home was all it took Ms Easter Kojuang to embark on her business journey.
In August 2015, she was helping her grandmother harvest groundnuts at her farm in Lambwe Valley, Homa Bay County, when a business idea struck her.
“I thought to myself, why not add value to the groundnuts that we produce...and that’s how this business was born,” says the 24-year-old Master of Business Administration student at the University of Nairobi.
The venture, East Natural Foods has gone through a series of challenges that are common for most start-ups. But Ms Kojuang has stayed the course and now her enterprise is steadily making good progress. She now makes honey and ghee besides peanut butter, peanut powder and roasted nuts.
“My grandma has been making groundnuts products since I was a child so I just learned from her. She has also been making ghee for a very long time because that is what we use (for cooking) at home. As for honey I had to get training,” says Ms Kojuang.
Just as is the norm with budding entrepreneurs, raising capital was among the major challenges she encountered.
“I started my business with only Sh9,000. I bought groundnuts, took it to a miller close to my home, processed it, bought containers, and packed it,” she says, adding that the business currently earns her a minimum of Sh60,000 per month.
Today, she has a commercial grinder which she uses to produce peanut butter, but she still makes ghee and honey using traditional methods.
In order to beat marketing challenges and cut costs, the young entrepreneur utilises social media such as WhatsApp and Facebook, besides word of mouth. She also relies on referrals from her loyal customers to reach out to potential buyers. Besides, she hands out free samples.
HEALTH CONSCIOUS GROUPS
“Through my East Natural Foods page on Facebook, I have been able to reach very many people including those who are abroad. I normally depend on relatives and friends who travel to foreign countries to supply my products to my customers in those countries,” she said.
Most of her customers are women from health-conscious groups, but her goal is to supply supermarkets, hotels and other large institutions.
Ms Kojuang is unfazed by the competition. She banks on her “unique products” which she says are good for health.
“My products are 100 per cent natural and organic. They have no artificial additives or preservative. This is good for everyone’s health including children and the elderly,” she explains.
One of her biggest hurdles is getting raw materials, especially groundnuts.
Although groundnuts farming is common in western Kenya, it is usually done seasonally and in small scale.
At times, she imports the nuts from Uganda and Malawi at higher costs. This means her profit margins get thinner.
“I mostly get peanuts from Nyanza around Ndhiwa, Lambwe Valley and Rongo. I source honey from various beekeepers in Ukambani, Baringo and Samburu,” she says.
For ghee production, most dairy farmers are contracted by large firms that produce dairy products, making it hard fro her to get constant supply.
Ms Kojuang says lack of seed capital and access to necessary information are the key setbacks that potential entrepreneurs face. She added that the current education system is largely theoretical and does not impart practical business skills.
“The government should make it easier for youths who want to start businesses to access capital and also lower interest rates for them and provide them with training.
“Our education system does not train us on the practicality of business.”