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Risk of leaving employment pays off for former chemist

FINANCIAL STANDARD
By By LILLIAN KIARIE | November 19th 2013

By LILLIAN KIARIE

KENYA: Leaving the comfort zone of employment to trudge the unsure, murky waters of self-employment is a risky venture. Especially so when you have to look into a new market, as peers and former clients don’t have faith in your little known company.

Peterson Gachago, CEO Benzochem Products recounts his first million experience and how he has built a business from scratch.

At what age did you start with Benzochem Products (K) Limited?

I was 44 years old

How did you get started?

I worked in the public sector in departments such as the Kenya Bureau of Statistics and top government chemists. I always eyed the private sector as I thought that it held more potential and in 1997, I moved to an international company dubbed as Eco Lab East Africa, Kenya limited.

I worked here for 10 years serving in the position of territory sales manager. My responsibilities included hygiene training in the market and quality control amongst others. A decade of my experience in the private sector was rewarding and I was able to save a lot more. However, when I tried to grow I realised that it was very limiting. I had accomplished many of my wants by working both in the public and private sector and all that was remaining was proving to me that I could create a dynasty in my area of specialisation.

What pushed you to start your own business?

I’m quite an ambitious man. I had saved a lot as I planned on opening my company without the need of visiting the bank for a loan. Having that financial muscle and contributing to job creation to curb the overwhelming unemployment bulge in the country was my chief motivating factor.

I registered Benzochem Products Kenya Limited in 2004 and only officially started giving it main focus in 2007 after I quit work at Eco Lab East Africa. My company deals with manufacturing cleaning products, normal multipurpose laundry, and house keeping products.

When did you make your first million and how was it like?

I was very determined to make this business work and pushed myself to the limit through marketing and even trying new markets. In the beginning, I only made a profit that made me stay afloat. However, after two years of hard work, I made a million by manufacturing a whole range of multipurpose cleaning products. The feeling was overwhelming and I got a lot of satisfaction.

How did you spend your first million?

As an investor, I used it to plough back the profits to strengthen my business. Although I knew that I had hit the ‘M’ mark, I knew that I was a long way to where I wanted to be. To date luxury spending has never been a priority since I spend the returns on expanding my business.

 

What are the challenges you go through in your job?

As a local entrepreneur, I experience apathy from many clients. Most Kenyans do not appreciate the fact that you can offer them good products since you are local and you are not well known.

The second challenge is micromanaging. It is not easy to run a business as an individual. You fear that any time you leave the business especially on holiday, it will not be able to stand on its own.

How are your weekdays like?

I wake up at 6:30 am, have a cup of tea and leave for my offices located at Kariobangi, Nairobi by 7:30. I start by sorting through my emails at 8:00am and checking the sales of the day. The rest of the day is spent in marketing my products and reaching out to clients.

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