In September 2016, Meshack Mwau started East Meat Supplies Ltd, specialising in the production of pure indigenous chicken, beef, goat and lamb meat.
Initially, his main focus was to increase poultry production while working and empowering smallholder farmers within Makueni County.
His inspiration to venture into chicken meat dates back to his childhood days when he saw his mother provide them with food and pay school fees through rearing and selling kienyeji (indigenous) chicken and their eggs.
“As a smallholder farmer, our mother who had just a handful of indigenous chickens was able to take care of us. That is when I noticed that if one taps into commercial poultry business with the latest agronomical skills, they can make good money,” Mwau says.
To actualise his poultry dream, Mwau quit employment and used Sh700,000 of his savings, to start the business.
He started by buying chicken from markets, slaughtering, wrapping and putting them in baskets and transporting them using public means to various markets.
Mwau used handcarts to deliver to various individual buyers and outlets like kiosks, hotels and shops.
“I used to sell a lot of chicken but for some reason, the returns were not so good. l wanted to sell to supermarkets but they were reluctant to buy because l didn’t have refrigerated trucks to transport the chicken.”
But he never gave up. Today, he has 17 refrigerated trucks, transporting chicken and meat to various places.
Slowly with focus and determination, he has grown the business from Makueni to Machakos, Kitui and Taita Taveta counties, attracting a partnership with Kenya Commercial Bank that gave him his first asset finance, a pick-up with an in-built refrigerated system.
Another partnership came through the Kenya Crops and Dairy Market Systems (KCDMS), a USAid project, that supports small businesses.
His business model involves aggregating chicken from farmers, processing and finding a market for it.
As part of the deal with USAid, Mwau received various equipment, among them a cold room, 40 40-foot container for a slaughterhouse, freezers, a weigh scale, a vacuum sealer, crates for transporting chicken and ICT equipment that increased efficiency in the business operations.
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The equipment was a game changer as it defined a fresh way the company produced and processed finished products for the market.
For instance, the vacuum sealers and cold facilities increased the chicken’s shelf life, guaranteeing the quality and freshness of meat products for 45 days.
Initially, he slaughtered and delivered the meat immediately to the market lest it went bad and resulted in losses.
In Makueni, he says there’s a slaughterhouse where aggregated chickens are slaughtered, transported to Kitengela for vacuum-sealing, packaged and stored in a cold room awaiting the market.
Apart from chicken production, Mwau has also ventured into beef, goat and lamb meat production, currently serving and meeting the demands of Carrefour, Quickmatt, and Naivas supermarkets.
Today, East Meat which has 25 employees, has a turnover of Sh10 million in a month, up from Sh4 million.
Consistency is key
Mwau says his secret to success has been focus, patience and consistency.
“If you want to succeed in such a business, you need to have a customer-focused experience that offers affordable and quality products.”
As a way to give back to the community, East Meat has invested in farmers’ training and is keen on product development and efficient delivery methods that meet clients’ expectations.
On capacity, East Meat processes 1,500kg of capons, 500-600kg of improved kienyeji and 300kg of pure kienyeji per day.
To maintain and attract more clients, he says they never compromise on quality and hygiene of their products.
“We offer quality and that is why our products are always in demand and many a times we run out of stock. Stockouts is our main challenge because the numbers we are getting from farmers is not enough to meet market needs. We are however engaging more farmers in different regions to ensure that we close the gap,” he says.
To meet growing demand, he has partnered with Jolly Footprints which specialises in supplying farmers with chicks and mature birds.
Tapping on E-commerce
While Covid-19 was a threat to many entrepreneurs, to East Meat it was a blessing in disguise.
He says during the pandemic, they introduced Emeat app, which enabled customers to pick meat products of their choice, place orders, enter their delivery details and make payments through a till number.
“These orders are received by the central butchery, processed and delivered at the customers’ doorstep, without them having to go out. This saw the rise in orders, even to date,” says Mwau.
Another big challenge they are grappling with is prolonged drought linked to climate change that has impacted negatively on the production of chicken.
He also says the increase in fuel is another challenge that affects farmers who are his main suppliers of chicken.
For his future plan, Mwau plans to establish East Meat butcheries across the country to help in the processing of meat.
“These are modern equipped butcheries completely different from local and normal butcheries. I started these butcheries because not everyone can afford chicken at the supermarkets, therefore I want to bridge that gap, where every one of us can access affordable and quality meat with ease.”