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Meet Mr 'Nguo',Dennis Mochama who makes sh2 million every year from a laundry business

My Man

When Dennis Mochama dropped out of high school, he was a desperate young man in search of money to treat a childhood illness. Now he is a successful entrepreneur, who builds his own washing machines and earns Sh2 million every year from a laundry business. JOAN BARSULAI had a chat with him.

When 27-year-old Dennis Mochama fell ill in his teen years, suffering from an unknown illness, his life came to a stand-still.

“I was in Aga Khan Academy, Nairobi, thriving in my schooling. Suddenly, I started to feel extremely tired all the time. Nobody could tell what was wrong with me.” Dennis visited numerous hospitals for years on end, trying to establish his illness to no avail. Eventually plagued with frustration, he dropped out of school.

“I decided I was going to make enough money to treat this illness, once and for all,” he says.

But he didn’t anticipate how challenging life would become. “I found myself struggling a great deal, taking up odd jobs that paid me barely Sh100 a day. By the time I bought lunch and paid for transport, I was often left with only Sh20 in my pocket,” Dennis says. Meanwhile, his illness continued to flourish, further weakening his muscles.

With time, he got employed working 12 hour-day shifts and spending extra time after hours teaching himself programming, often times late into the night. “Electronic gadgetry always interested me since childhood. I remember as a child, I would take my father’s motherboard to school and attempt to decrypt it. Now, as an adult, I wanted to learn everything I could about software and programming, because I knew my financial opportunities would eventually come from this,” Dennis says.

He made use of his new-found skills, and started providing IT services. With the money at hand, he started searching aggressively for the root of his illness, and by 2006, he established he had complex partial seisures - a condition that causes his muscles to weaken abnormally. “I got it treated eventually, just as I had aspired,” he says.

But perhaps the most unexpected venture for Dennis was the Mama Nguo project, which he has now become renown for. “A cleaning lady would come in and clean my dirty laundry every week for a fee of Sh300. One day, it suddenly occurred to me how much she was making daily. If she washed clothes for 10 people every day, then surely she must have been making at least Sh3,000 a day.”

An idea was implanted in Dennis’ entrepreneurial mind, and he immediately set up a laundry service in his neighbourhood dubbed Mama Nguo. “I made brochures and distributed them in the neighbourhood, offering services that charged Sh150 per person for their laundry.”

As more people dropped off their clothes at Dennis’ house, from where he was running the service, demand outran supply, even with three cleaning ladies servicing the venture.

Dennis resorted to purchasing a washing machine, but he soon discovered that the Sh50,000 he had in his pocket could barely cover the cost. A commercial machine at a major supermarket went for Sh200,000.

“I decided to make my own washing machine from scratch. I had the programming skills, anyway, and I was sure that with the Internet as my aid, I could assemble one successfully,” he says.

Three months later, thanks to YouTube and various Internet sites, Dennis had fully assembled a washing machine, ready for use.

“In the beginning, there were blunders. I would put in my white shirts for testing and they would come out just as filthy as they had gone in. But with time, I learned about detergents, and I made adjustments,” he says.

To date, Dennis has successfully assembled four washing machines. He has now opened two outlets in South B and Imara Daima, hiring agents located at different points of the estate to collect dirty laundry from residents. Dennis also made an astounding invention recently, making the only existing washing machine in the world that recycles dirty water by filtering it for several washes.

The challenge Dennis faces now is providing services to more people. “Every machine has different configurations, which means I cannot replicate the production process; it takes me months to make each machine. Therefore I cannot wash as many clothes as I would wish to,” he says.

Regardless, he hopes to eventually import used parts, which will enable him to assemble more machines, some of which can even be sold to the masses.

He is now in the process of putting together a milk vending machine from scratch, to service his neighbourhood. “I want to go nationwide someday, because majority of young people use our services. I am currently making Sh2 million a year in profits, by reaching barely ten per cent of the city, so imagine how much more we could do if we could capture just 50 per cent more of the city’s population!”

Photo: David Gichuru


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