Why I quit military to run posho mill

Nelson Chege

NAIROBI, KENYA: Nelson Chege, owner of Hekima Posho mill in Kimabu County, says he nearly died during his days as a jet fighter for the military.  

“After escaping death by a whisker in the battlefield, I didn’t think twice about quitting,” he said. “The scar on my face is a sign that anything can happen in a war zone.  I was always on the look out because the enemy could strike any moment.”

But the ex-soldier who served in the military from 1993 to 2003 claims that he was not cut out for the military, no wonder hequit 15 years ago.

“Whenever I went back to the village, I realised that most farmers produced maize and fancy posho maize meal, but the nearest posho mill from our village was about seven kilometers away,” he said.

After quitting work, a friend introduced him to the milling business and more than 15 years later, he is enjoying the roller-coaster ride. 

“I started in the village with part of my savings worth Sh700,000 which I used to purchase the milling machine. At first the business was not doing well and I had to transfer my machine to various places in Nairobi. I made countless losses before realizing that a posho mill can do well in an open air market,” Chege said, adding that, “I also noted how the cost of maize goes up just before next harvest and most villagers frequent the market on Tuesdays and Fridays. I captured this opportunity and the business has become more profitable.”

The 41-year-old  started milling in Githiga village in 2011 but high demand especially from clients who live in Kiambu town and its environs pushed him to move  to his hometown market in Kiambu town.

Today, Chege is at work every single day but on busy market days he manages the huge traffic with the help of two assistants.

“I saw an opportunity in offering milling services and it became my source of livelihood,” he told Citybiz.

Chege produces maize from his farm located in Githiga village which he supplements with ten bags of maize he buys from other farmers each month at Sh2,600.

He sells a pack of 2kg of maize at Sh80, which gives him a profit of Sh550 profit from every 90kg bag sold.

Meanwhile, clients pay Sh15 per kilo of maize milled. The single-phase machine, which he bought in Nairobi, costs him about Sh3,000 in electricity bills per month.

“This business helps people who cannot afford the costly packed maize meal; besides, most households prefer the posho maize meal because it’s more affordable and nutritious,” says the father-of-two.

The uptake has been so fruitful that sometimes he gets orders from outside his hometown market and in a good month he can make anything between Sh80,000-Sh90,000.

 Chege adds that the business has challenges as, “sometimes rats, weevils and moths attack the maize in the store and I’m forced to do airing. Power outages has also been a hindrance because sometimes they have power black outs even for two days.”

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