When Brian Rono graduated with a degree in Actuarial Science from University of Eldoret in 2015, he assumed he would get a job immediately.
“I was hopeful and excited that with my papers, I would land a well-paying job in no time,” he says.
But he was wrong. The search for that good white-collar job was long and elusive.
“I applied for so many jobs that I lost track. I made hundreds of applications, but not a single job offer came through. It was just regrets after regrets,” he recalls that frustrating journey three years ago.
In that endless job search, he made several trips from his village in Kapsuswa-Tinet, Eldama Ravine, Baringo County to Nairobi.
That time, he fully depended on his mother, a struggling small-scale potato farmer.
“During that time, it was mum who would give me bus fare and upkeep. It reached a point she had to pay my rent. It was shameful,” Rono recalls.
When the journey became too tough and the job was not forthcoming, he gave up the chase and decided to join his mother in managing their three-acre potato farm.
Thousands of applications
“Instead of wasting time looking for a job, I decided to take my skills to the farm and help my mother run it professionally,” Rono says.
Armed with skills, grit and passion, he buried himself in potato-farming and learnt the ropes from his mother.
However, along the way, there was one major hurdle -- lack of money to expand the project.
“After being in the driver’s seat for a while, I realised there was a problem. Our production levels were low and our market was very small because of capacity issues. The business needed a major cash injection to go to the next level.”
In his quest for a loan, he approached various financial institutions, key among them the Uwezo Fund but he met so many hurdles and he gave up.
“I did everything right and met all requirements but there was a lot of bureaucracy,” he adds.
Rono’s sentiments are in line with reports that the youth shy away from embracing entrepreneurship, especially agribusiness because of their inability to access loans.
“Unemployed youth are normally told to apply for loans in State-run financial institutions, but the truth of the matter is that accessing those funds is not easy and the process is tedious,” he says.
Desperate for cash, Rono travelled to Eldoret to search for a job in order to raise capital. That was in 2016.
He did online jobs and other teaching jobs and saved the little he could get. But it was barely enough.
One day, the young farmer says, while applying for a job in a cyber café, he logged on to YouTube and learnt of a young woman who had earned Sh5million through an online competition.
That is how he came to learn of the Blaze Be Your Own Boss (BYOB) competition and gave it a try.
“Why not? I mean I needed capital and if I could get it through this route, so be it,” he says. He applied for Sh100, 000 business idea competition but did not succeed during auditioning in Eldoret.
“Though I did my best, it was not my lucky day as I was not among lucky winners,” he says.
Miracles still happen. Few years later, he learnt of BYOB TV competition, and applied.
The competition was intense, and after weeks of assignments, he was impressed the judges with his potato business plan and that’s how he got Sh5 million- Sh3million in cash and Sh2 million in business support.
“This cash is God-sent. It came at a time I was desperatefor expansion capital.”
Back to business
With the finance issue sorted, it is back to business.
“There is no time to waste; I have to prove to my sponsors that I deserved the win. There are also young people looking up to me. However, most importantly, my business needs the financial injection,” says the young farmer.
As part of his grand expansion, he plans to construct a borehole with a solar panel to practice irrigation during dry season.
The high altitude area records low production of potato during dry spell as locals depend on rain-fed agriculture, a practice that is not viable.
“Water shortage is the main challenge that affect farming, that is why I intend to sink a borehole so that I can practice farming in all seasons. This way I will supply adequate produce to the market,” he says.
On average, Rono harvests 120 bags that he sells for between Sh1, 000 and Sh1, 400 depending on demand. He wants more yields.
With this cash boost, he plans to increase potato acreage from current three to ten to meet the high demand for good quality Irish potatoes.
To the youth who envy his fortune he says: “Youth must think out of the box when it comes to searching for jobs.”