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How retired couple built a business empire in a Siaya village

ENTERPRISE
By Isaiah Gwengi | September 22nd 2021

Inside Alicia baking factory in Got-Agulu, Siaya County. The company produces between 30, 000 and 40, 000 loaves per day. [Isaiah Gwengi,Standard]

In 2006, Aggrey and Beatrice Ochieng decided to build a residential home in their rural village and enjoy a quiet retirement. 

They had no idea that settling in Got Alulu village, Siaya County would birth a baking empire. 

Aggrey, the proprietor of Alicia Bakers and Confectioners Limited, a bread-making firm, recalled that after building their residential home, the couple wanted something to keep them busy.

"In 2007, we started building a small room and given that my wife is a cooking enthusiast, she started baking,” he said, adding that two years later, they were open for business. The couple baked their first bread in 2009 after purchasing an oven and mixer.

“We didn’t have a vehicle and therefore relied on two bicycles to supply our bread in the neighbourhood. We hadn’t branded the bread and it wasn’t easy to penetrate the market outside the village,” Aggrey told Enterprise.

With only five employees and a daily production capacity of 120 loaves, the former accountant with the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) says they were still unable to sell the bread outside Got Agulu village.

After 2010, they had to increase their production capacity following the growing demand from their customers.

"Our growth was motivated by the demand of our product and this forced us to purchase a truck. We had no bank account for the business and it was therefore not easy to acquire a bank loan to expand the business,” said Aggrey. 

Beatrice, who explained that their factory now produces between 30,000 and 40,000 loaves of bread daily, pointed out that their greatest challenge at the beginning was sourcing for the raw materials.

“We used to get low quality flour that interfered with our operations and this gave us an idea of establishing our own milling plant in 2016,” she said, adding that they now sell excesses to other bakers.

The company currently manufactures flour and wheat brans among other by-products that are used by livestock, fish and poultry farmers. “We produce 1,500 bags of flour per day and consume at least 250 bags per day. We sell the surplus to other bakeries,” said Aggrey. 

Persistent electricity fluctuation in the region is also challenging due to the amount of money used in alternative sources of power. “The company spends at least Sh2 million on fuels for generators and Sh1.5 million on electricity. The power outage also destroys our equipment,” he added.

Being established in an island village, Beatrice says they are on the verge of being cut off due to the poor road and bridge linking the area with the mainland.

Covid-19 pandemic was also a major setback for the business since many of their clients defaulted in paying for the goods and services.

“Even though things have been very difficult as a result of the pandemic, we’ve not sent any of our employees home,” he said, adding that they have employed 290 people directly.

Despite these challenges, the couple who now own a supermarket, a restaurant and a guest house, says they remain passionate about the business.

“One gets to a certain age in life that you try and find a niche for yourself that obviously suits you and something you are passionate about at the same time,” he said. Aggrey advised other budding entrepreneurs to invest in things they enjoy doing.

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