One reader called me last weekend with a lot of urgency in her voice. “Please write about cows,” she pleaded.
It crossed my mind about how ‘green’ I was about cows, rabbits, quails and other animals that Kenyans are keeping for business.
The caller was passionate about her request. Apparently, she has kept cows as a side hustle for ten years and she just discovered that she has been doing zero work.
As an entrepreneur, she said she had failed miserably and she knew this when she attended an entrepreneurship talk in Nakuru town. She did not have a book where she should have kept records of dates of birth, feeds, amount of milk, treatment schedules and, above all, a record of expenditure (medicines, feeds) and income (sale of calves and milk).
Apparently, she ‘discovered’ that she was a joke when it came to cattle keeping. She had left everything to the farmhand and her work was to ask how her two cows and their calves were doing and when the young man gave a list of what to buy the cows – salt, milking cream, vet – she just reached for her purse and pulled out the money.
So why was she keeping the animals? “Because everyone, all my friends, were doing it,” she said.
The returns she got from her farming was so miserable that when she compared to the money she pumped into the business she pitied herself.
Yet, if she had sought advice before buying the cows, she would have come up with a business plan, clearly stating why she wanted to go to such a business and her expectations. To start with, she should have bought quality cows that produced milk.
“Can you imagine one guy said his two cows gave him between 40 and 50 litres a day, yet my two huge cows hardly give me five litres?” she said with self-reproach. After that workshop, she said she was selling her animals and thinking of how to start anew.
Are you planning any new investment this year? Do not start off blindly and learn the hard way like this reader. Her advice is:
· Before you invest in anything, do some research.
Find out all you can about the investment. Go to the internet for that wide experience and if your investment is in animals, get to know diseases affecting them and how to tackle or prevent such. Talk to those already in the business and pick lessons that will guide you as you chart the waters.
· Get a clear business plan. If you invest Sh100,000 in the business – keeping poultry for eggs or meat, for example – how much do you expect to top up (in terms of feeds and medicines) and your benefits in say six months? What action plan will you follow in case your business roadmap explodes midway?
· Know your market. Where will you sell your products? You must not start any business unless you know who your consumers are. Remember the greatest failure of quail farming was lack of market. Farmers who were selling quail eggs at a fortune suddenly found themselves begging people to buy at almost nothing compared to the high prices that initially encouraged them to start the business.
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· Put money in your business. You cannot expect to reap from where you have not generously sowed. The more you put into an investment, the more you are likely to get in return.
· Do not settle for less. If you are going into cattle farming, ensure you get the best breeds; these will give you returns in no time. If you go for mediocre because ‘everyone is keeping cows or rabbits’, you are going to expend your energy with nothing much to write home about.
· Be involved. You cannot delegate your business. You must be hands-on. Remember you are the one with the vision of where you want your business to go; not your employee.
· Do not give up. If you fall along the way, dust yourself up, pick the pieces, learn from your mistakes and set out again, knowing the pitfalls to avoid as you make this second go at your enterprise.
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