How I did it: I started a food business with (almost) no money : Evewoman - The Standard
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How I did it: I started a food business with (almost) no money

 

When 28-year-old Winnie Angaya quit her job at a bank a year ago, she had her eyes set on starting her own business. At the time, however, she had no idea how difficult it would be to start out.

Winnie, a graduate of Actuarial Science from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), had grown tired of employment and craved a bigger challenge: she wanted to start a fashion line.

“When you are young and ambitious, you think everything is easy,” Winnie says.

“After I quit my bank job, I invested all my savings in a fashion business, but it failed miserably. I had chosen a bad business model and made very bad decisions.”

These bad decisions included contracting tailors to make made-to-measure outfits, rather than hiring permanent workers. The business’ failure almost left Winnie depressed.

“The day my fashion business went down the drain, I was so broke and I had no will to do anything. But I was sure that I was not going back to employment,” Winnie says.

By a stroke of good fortune, a few days later, she got a call from a friend who had resigned from her job at the same time as Winnie. Her friend had a business idea: there was good money to be made in buying and selling tomatoes, and all they had to do was identify a good market for their product.

Second chance

“We bought our first batch of tomatoes and onions in Kagio market in Kirinyaga County, and started selling them along the Eastern Bypass, especially to the numerous nyama choma joints along that road. We also had an outlet in Kitengela,” Winnie says.

“Business was good and our margins were widening. However, after some time, my friend decided to quit and I was left alone.”

The exit of Winnie’s friend from the business crippled the venture since her friend owned the car they were using for transportation. The margins grew smaller as Winnie’s movement got limited, and eventually, she could no longer keep the business running.

For a second time, she quit and a sense of defeat set in again.

“To fight the horrible feeling that comes with failure, I started cooking. I love cooking. I have been cooking since I was eight years old,” Winnie says.

“One day in October last year, I made a chilli sauce with onions, tomatoes and basic spices. I was impressed with the result. As I sat eating it, an idea hit me: why not make more of the sauce, package it and then sell it?”

Winnie had just Sh1,000 at the time. She went to shops in downtown Nairobi and bought 40 plastic containers to use for packaging, which set her back Sh800. She then went to the market and bought tomatoes and onions worth Sh150 and set about making her first three jars of chilli sauce. These she sold to her family at Sh350 a jar.

She continued reinvesting the money she was making to process more sauces, which she sold to a network of friends and former colleagues.

And then another friend came through, this time to advice her to register with the Kenya Industrial Research and Development Institute (Kirdi) where she could be trained on modern methods of sauce making.

“At Kirdi, I learnt how to process sauces and package them more professionally,” Winnie explains.

Her sauces undergo pasteurisation, where they are exposed to high heat to kill bacteria. After this, she says, they have a shelf life of 12 months when unopened, and six weeks once they are opened.

After her Kirdi training in January — where for Sh10,000 she got two weeks of business support, guidance on ingredients to use and market advice — Winnie registered Her Kitchn. She is now waiting for certification from the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs), which she anticipates to get next month, to stock her range of pasta, chilli and tomato sauces on supermarket shelves.

Business incubation

“There is a whole process involving chemical testing that Kebs has to carry out before I get my official standards mark. After I get the mark, I will be giving established food processing brands a run for their money,” Winnie says.

Despite not going retail yet, Winnie’s products have found a loyal customer base, especially in Ruiru, Thika, and Kitengela, with her company employing two salespeople and three others to help with production.

Her Kitchn sells between 40 and 60 jars a week of the range of eight sauces that contain no oils or starch.

She adds that with the Kebs certification, she can go back to Kirdi for incubation to better define her product. Incubation will cost her Sh10 per jar she sells.

“My pasta sauce, which is in a 350ml jar, costs Sh300, my marinade Sh400, the tomato relish Sh300 and the chili paste Sh350,” Winnie says, adding that in a month, Her Kitchn can rake in upwards of Sh100,000.

In the near future, she says, she hopes to set up a manufacturing plant to boost production.

Lee Mwiti

[email protected]

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