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Daily Nation : February 22nd 2014
12 SEEDS OF GOLD February 22, 2014 SATURDAY NATION value addition ENTREPRENEURSHIP» WHAT STARTED AS A DREAM IS NOW A FLOUR MILL WITH 200 CONTRACTED FARMERS Lawyer who turns banana into flour How young graduate’s decision to opt for a career in business as a banana flour mill owner is now paying off BY KENFREY KIBERENGE @KenKiberenge A Kkiberenge@ke.nationmedia.com the beginning of this journey,” he says. Shortly after, he walked into the ministry of Agriculture offices in Nairobi to validate his finding. “I was referred to the ministry’s agribusiness department, where I met Ms Elizabeth Kamau who not only confirmed that this was possible but also guided me on how to go about it,” he says. Back at home, he borrowed some s a child, Eric Muthomi’s par- ents would take the entire family to their upcountry home in Meru during school holidays. This is a strategy employed by many Nairobi parents to date. It is meant to show their children the other side of life — no cars, tilling land and walking bare foot. But as a young adult, Mr Muthomi, now 27, noticed something that would see him make it into the Forbes’ 2013 list of 30 Under 30: Africa’s Best Young Entrepreneurs and featured on CNN as the owner of the few upcoming African businesses. Due to its favourable climatic condi- tion, Meru is agriculturally rich. One of the crops produced by majority of the farmers is plantain, or bananas, as they are popularly known in Kenya. But there was a hitch: the small- holder farmers were losing a lot of bananas due to glut and lack of storage facilities. “Due to forces of supply and de- mand, they would at times sell their bananas at a throw-away price,” says Muthomi. As a third year law student at Cath- olic University in 2011, he racked his brain on how he could save the farmers from the huge losses from the glut. His first stop was the Internet. “I es- tablished that I could process bananas into flour, crisps and wine. That was money from his parents to develop a prototype, which was certified by the Kenya Bureau of Standards. “My parents want all their children to succeed in a field they are passionate about. But they were a bit skeptical about my business idea but I managed to convince them that it would work out and they agreed,” Muthomi says. At this point, he borrowed more money from his parents and went back to Mitunguu village in Meru, where he partnered with two farmers’ groups to supply him with bananas. Back in Nairobi, Muthomi registered Stawi Foods and Fruits and came up with a professional business plan which he entered for the Enablis competition that sought to award young entrepreneurs. He won the award and used the Sh500,000 prize as his startup capital. “Whatever ideas you want to pursue make sure you put down a professional plan. You have to be neat and orderly,” he says. He used some of the prize money to employ a salesperson while the rest was used to transport bananas from Meru to Nairobi and to set up a basic processing factory. At the small factory situated in Nairobi’s Roysambu, he started manufacturing Nature Junior flour, a product enriched with banana flour. It is used to make porridge for children between six months and five months. It also contains amaranth and maize. His big break, though, came in 2012 when he engaged Uchumi and Nakumatt supermarkets, who after three months of rigorous vetting, listed him as one of their suppliers. “That was a major breakthrough for us,” he says, adding they are currently awaiting a response from Tuskys and Naivas. He also supplies to Cleanshelf supermarket and two schools. The same year, Mr Muthomi, the third-born in a family of four, entered the Jitihada competition organised by Kenya Institute of Management that sought to honour best start up or early manufacturing ideas in value addition. His company emerged the overall winner, beating 300 other entrants to the Sh1 million prize. He also registered Stawi Foods and Fruits as a limited company and had to get a second MY BUSINESS IS DOING WELL AND I AM HOPING TO VENTURE INTO EXPORTING BANANA FLOUR IN THE NEAR FUTURE.” Entrepreneur Eric Muthomi of Stawi Foods investor as a legal requirement. “With my internal investment and the other investor’s capital, we leased a piece of land at Roysambu and set up our factory. It cost us a total of Sh5 million,” he says. Mr Mutomi studied enterprise man- agement at USIU in 2012 and agribusiness management last year and uses his law background to handle the legal requirements of the company. Mr Muthomi, who has never been employed, now has six employees and hopes to increase the number soon. He outsources other functions like accounting. “It’s a humbling experience because I get inundated with calls from university graduates looking for jobs. I feel happy that I am playing a part in Vision 2030 by creating jobs, however few,” he says. His company has since diversified into making an adults’ flour dubbed Nature Family, which is enriched with sweet potatoes — sourced from Western Kenya — instead of bananas. The company has so far contracted 200 farmers for raw material. Selling at Sh150 per kilo, Mr Mutho- mi’s factory has an operating capacity of 20,000kg of flour a month. “To make 1,000kg of flour, we need 10,000kg of bananas, so you can see farmers are benefitting a lot,” he says. Mr Muthomi also sells pure banana flour on order to bakeries and schools at Sh180 per kilo. He does not regret venturing into agribusiness, even thought his learned friends appear to have more money. “I’d not have felt as fulfilled I am now. Besides, my business is doing well and I am hoping to venture into exporting banana flour in the near future,” he says. SEASON | BRIEFS CONCERT JULIANI TAKES OFF THE MIC FOR AGRIBUSINESS TOUR An initiative to drive more youths to embrace farming as a business has been launched. The drive is led by gospel artiste Julius Owino aka Jualiani, and is supported by Kenya Red Cross Society, the Youth Enterprise Develop- ment Fund, Amiran Kenya and Nation Media Group. The campaign is geared at raising funds to subsidise small drip irrigation kits through the AgriVijana Loan of up to Sh358,000 and is being piloted in six counties. The rapper has been trained in drip irrigation, greenhouse farming, proper selection of seed varieties and applications of advanced fertilizers and pesticides, skills he is expected to impart to fellow youths. - BY OUMA WANZALA NYANDARUA Dairy farmers delivering milk to Kenya’s leading processor Brookside dairies in Nyandarua County have earned Sh5billion since the processor opened its first cooling station in 2005. Supplies have risen from 7,000kg to an average of COUNTY REAPS MILK DIVIDEND 160,000kg daily over the same period. Brookside Dairy General Manager in charge of milk procurement and extension services, Mr John Gethi, said that when the processor set up the first cooling station in 2005, a paltry 500kg was collected daily.
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