How Karanja makes soap from onion, tomatoes

John Karanja
For 29-year-old John Karanja, farm produce has a very different meaning and use and enriches him in ways that shocks many.

Karanja makes soaps, both for washing and cleaning from tomatoes, cucumber, onions, and aloevera, which made him famous.

Many come from everywhere, including from foreign countries to learn from Karanja who is based in a little known village known as Kihiu Mwiri in Gatanga constituency.

Karanja says he started his business sin 2014 when he was only 24 years after struggling with unemployment for a long time.

His financial problems, he says, became his teacher and forced him to experiment with the farm produces. Before then, a yoghurt vendor who produced his own product but unfortunately closed down due to a constrained market had employed him.

While he helped supply the yoghurt, Karanja says he came across many people who told him that soap was a product that had an insatiable market.

So when he became unemployed, he considered making his own soap to take advantage of the high demand.

And knowing that many people were moving away from chemically produced products to organic ones, the young trader decided to use farmed materials.

He started off with Sh. 1,200 that he used as his capital to get a premise and acquire the required materials. He had no previous experience with making soaps but went ahead regardless, venturing in un-sailed waters. And with tomatoes worth Sh. 20, Onions worth Sh. 20, a jerrican of water, Karanja started off.

But his business hit off immediately with many people buying his products to experiment.

But when they did, they kept coming back for more. Karanja then realized he would not be able to handle both production and marketing and decided to engage local boda-boda operators.

The boda-boda operators earn a commission of Sh. 30 per piece and are able to sell up to 200 pieces each and earn an extra buck. Karanja is now working with over 50 people and has employed seven in his business.

He says he gets people from everywhere who express interests in his line of business and want to learn to make soap using the materials.

What amazes many is that he dropped out in class eight and was unable to join secondary school due to financial constraints. Some of his clients come all the way from Uganda, buy the soap then rebrand it.

Karanja makes bar soaps from used cooking oil, which he sells at Sh120 per 2kg bar.

The bathing soap costs Sh50 per piece and is the most popular among his buyers.

His products have been embraced locally and now he is able to get orders from companies that ask him to produce certain varieties of bathing soaps for their staff or corporate social responsibility activities.

He said the demand is overwhelming and expressed hopes that his business will grow to a fully-fledged industry in the near future.

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Gatanga constituencyunemployment