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Bamboozled: This man converts twigs to interior elegance

ENTERPRISE
By Mike Kihaki | December 18th 2020
A sample of the Bamboo products

Boniface Maina grew up in the midst of a bamboo plantation. His father owned a bamboo farm in Central Kenya, and used proceeds from the farm to fend for his family.

This early introduction to business and environmental conservation stuck with Maina from a tender age, as he used to assist his father in tending the farm.

It is no surprise, then, that when Maina completed his education, the first venture he could think of was to continue in his father’s footsteps. This marked the beginning of his company, Elegance Bamboo Ventures, which was founded in 2008.

“The idea was a long time experience I got back in life when I was growing up. I used to see my father grow the bamboo on his farm in Central Kenya where I hail from and I came to learn that bamboo trees were more hard and durable compared to the indigenious trees”, he said, adding that, “I realised that bamboo trees were versatile, sustainable and renewable natural resources.”

His company, Elegance Bamboo Ventures deals in creating and selling artistic interior and exterior products. These include furniture, handicrafts, shades, gazebos, fountains, fences and ceilings among others. He says the products are suitable for homes, offices, compounds and restaurants.

“We normally sell our products to local and online clients. Our products are meant to bring the presence of nature in indoor and outdoor environments,” he said.

 Maina later attended a workshop on climate change adaptation measures that identified bamboo plants as an alternative to timber from trees on furniture production. In this training, he learnt how to make furniture from bamboo. He then borrowed funds from a friend and started making bamboo products on a small scale.

Some of Mr Maina's work

Soon after, Maina applied to the Somo entrepreneurship bootcamp program and  went through a 12-weeks training which cumulated in an acceleration grant capital investment of up to Sh185,000.

The Somo accelerator program identifies, trains, funds and mentors entrepreneurs looking to drive social change by building enterprises in their own low-income urban communities.    

Maina says that his company relies on their bamboo plantation in the village as well as sourcing from other bamboo plantation growers for raw materials.

“I hire a truck to and from my native Kirinyaga home region where I harvest the bamboo trees and load to my truck back to Nairobi. I also source from some suppliers who supplement any shortage,” he said.

Since they mostly work with custom-made products, their costing depends on the agreement they have with customers considering aspects like product design and the materials to be used  for a complete product. Different qualities also determine the product prizing.

Besides household furniture, their clients also include hotels which are after a natural and serene ambience. And as the world turns towards environmental conservation and eco-friendly business, Maina’s enterprise has already set the pace for  startups. The only challenge he has to deal with is the lengthy process that goes into production from bamboo to final product.

He says, “Bamboo is not like normal wood. Sometimes a client needs a product within a short time, but we do not stock readymade items. That means we have to order, harvest, deliver, treat and wait for the tree to dry before we can use it. This increases the turn-around period.”

He is however optimistic that clients will embrace the business with time and find value in environmental-friendly products.

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