Diana Chebotibin, 30, tells Gardy Chacha how a friendly gesture of delivering honey to her friends in university turned into a company whose main clients are five-star hotels.
Between 2010 and 2014, I was a student in Kenyatta University, studying for a Bachelor’s degree in Hospitality and Tourism Management.
I come from Baringo – specifically around Lake Bogoria.
Earlier, I was a fashion model, and even competed in the 2008 Miss World Kenya. I was not the final winner though I made it to the group from which Miss Kenya for that year was picked. THE IDEA As a student, I would report to school with honey for personal use. Honey is to Baringo what tea is to Kericho. In other words, if you have been to Baringo and not tasted honey, you haven’t quite experienced the sweetness of the place.
My classmates would visit and I would welcome them with tea and honeyed bread. They would ask, ‘where is this honey from?’ because it tasted authentic: not as mundane as honey they had tasted before.
They loved the honey so much that one by one, they started asking me to bring them some whenever I travelled back home.
Baringo honey has a distinctive taste which kept them asking for more and telling their friends about it.
That is when it hit me: why can’t I start a honey business? That is how Bogoria Special Honey was born.
I began supplying to students in campus and making a small profit. Even after graduating in 2014, my clients kept calling and asking for orders.
WHAT HAPPENED NEXT
I sat down with my husband and proposed the idea of setting up a honey business. He loved the idea.
Having recently graduated, I had no money worth calling capital. My husband came to my rescue and provided the initial Sh75,000 that I needed as capital. He is my co-director in the company. Basically, it is a family business, we discuss how to improve at every juncture.
I began with packaging the honey from my kitchen counter at home. I couldn’t afford rent for a professional space.
RUNNING A STARTUP
I believe my experience is slightly different from others who have startups.
I didn’t find it cumbersome. My greatest challenge was the capital. And when my husband provided the money, it was all systems go.
I think it is because psychologically I was prepared to push through with the business. I had done it before as a small enterprise and going big only gave me delight.
Now we have professionally designed space where the packaging is done to ensure the highest standards of hygiene are observed.
WHERE I AM NOW
We registered Bogoria Special Honey in 2015 as a limited company.
Our aim of registering the company was so that we can transact professional business. We proceeded to apply for tenders – majority of which have been very successful.
Currently we supply honey to five star hotels in Nairobi and several other places.
But we also take personal orders for home use. We make deliveries around Kileleshwa, Runda, Lang’ata road, Lavington and other suburbs.
The next frontier for us is exporting to the US and EU markets. The only thing that is standing in our way is supply because honey is harvested after six months.
Demand currently outweighs the supply. And, we only want to sell to our clients honey from Bogoria – not any other sources. It matters to us because we don’t want to compromise quality.
I have installed hundreds of hives around Lake Bogoria – it is free range community land. And I am also working with about 30 bee farmers to get the raw material.
We want to be sure that once we begin exporting, we shall sustain it.
I am currently a Master’s student; studying International Tourism Management to prepare for the time the business will go global.
Whatever product (or service) you want to sell, make sure that its quality is never compromised. That way, the clients will always refer others to you and you will get more business. That is how Bogoria Special Honey grew. Beyond making money, let your enterprise be a reflection of genuine love and care for your clients.