High school best friends strike big in incubator agri-business

Friday June 17 2016

Peter Kimaru and Wilson Mwangi display chicks inside their hatchery business venture premises.

Peter Kimaru and Wilson Mwangi display chicks inside their hatchery business venture's premises. The two best friends since high school have gone against all odds to build a poultry hatchery business that rivals many such ventures in the country. PHOTO | JAMES KARIUKI | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

JAMES KARIUKI
By JAMES KARIUKI
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Best friends Peter Kimaru and Wilson Mwangi first interacted with poultry farming in an Agricultural practical lesson in Nanyuki High School, which they both admit they found boring as part of their duties was to tend chicken.
Little did they know that they would soon be tapping into knowledge from the “boring” lesson to launch a poultry hatching enterprise together.

Kimaru excelled in his the poultry farming lessons, despite finding it boring, which saw him attend a Young Agricultural Innovators symposium in Nigeria as an exhibitor, demonstrating how chick incubation is a cost-effective youth enterprise.

“I obtained an agri-business and management degree in university, while my bosom friend did a diploma course in electrical engineering, which came in handy in 2010 when we embarked on our first project outside school; making an incubator,” he recalls.

POPULAR WITH FARMERS

Using their pocket money, the two started off with the 110-egg incubator which was just a part-time project reminiscent of their high school days.

It proved popular since farmers wanted improved chicks which were usually sourced from Kenya Agricultural Livestock and Research Organisation’s Naivasha station.

“We could hardly meet the demand from poultry farmers and that helped us approach our parents for some capital. We used our savings to buy the first 2,300-egg incubator that helped us popularise our brand, which we had since created to identify ourselves within the market,” says Kimaru.

Mr Kimaru said competition in the chicks’ market from more established brands saw them sharpen their skills by offering farmers practical poultry keeping skills which proved popular with local farmers around Kiambu and Nairobi.

“We continue to engage farmers directly and monitor their chicks’ progress, and have also contracted some of them to sell us eggs. Farmers want a product coupled with a service which warrants they be trained on good poultry husbandry,” he noted.

ENGAGING FARMERS DIRECTLY

While Mr Kimaru sources for business, Mr Mwangi tends to the chicks leading to a well-coordinated approach, helping them expand their business to Nyeri, Murang’a, Meru, Nyandarua and Nakuru counties.

While each egg costs Sh15, a day old chick is sold at Sh 100 and every day, Chicksway has been increasing their sales from their initial 20 chicks daily, to today’s 300 chicks per day.

“On the first delivery to a new client we travel in person to give them tutorials and always remain on call, in case they need advice on any emerging issue. We encourage farmers to form local groups that share information on good poultry husbandry skills and they invite us once in a while for a question and answer session,” he added.

Peter Kimaru and Wilson Mwangi examine chicks hatched from their incubator.

Peter Kimaru and Wilson Mwangi examine chicks hatched from their incubator capable of holding 20,000 eggs at a time. PHOTO | JAMES KARIUKI | NATION MEDIA GROUP.

Mr Kimaru said he had also honed his skills on encouraging farmers to shun domestic chicken keeping as only a norm in the homestead, and instead keep poultry as a business venture too.

“There is no pride in keeping chicken just because they are part of a home definition,” he said, adding that he invested some money and when farmers hear that he is a degree holder in agri-business, they keenly listen and support his products.

BE VISIBLE TO BE SCALABLE

Upon his return from the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Project In December, 2015, Mr Kimaru immediately registered Chicksway Poultry, after he had received mentorship training, generally summed up as: business must be ‘visible’ to be scalable.

“Companies and public entities prefer doing business with companies not individuals. We also had to put our record books in order and have all items prepared, to enable us file our tax returns,” he said.

Chicksway Poultry farmer-to-farmer project saw them attract many county funded projects enabling them to raise money for purchase of a new electrical incubator that can accommodate 20,000 eggs at a time.

“Being a company also enabled us to attract funders and equity partners who would wish to see our books first, to gauge our performance,” he adds.

Mr Kimaru said their plans were to partner with agro-vets to source for customers and then expand their products’ distribution across the country.