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I learnt the skill for my uji venture from my grandmother

 Patricia Ndigwa. She is the Managing Director, Tritalel Enterprises (Courtesy)

Patricia Ndigwa is the Managing Director, Tritalel Enterprises which specialises in grinding and brewing traditional Meru porridge known as ‘kirurio’.

She talks to us about how she turned this hobby into a money making venture

My background

I was born in Garissa County to my great parents Kennedy Ndigwa and Diana Gacunku. However, I grew up in Thika where I currently reside. I am the first born of three siblings; I have two brothers, Oliver Ndigwa who is pursuing Law while Nelson Ndigwa is pursuing a course in Information Technology.

I pursued Counseling Psychology course at the Kenya Institute of Business Studies and Public Relations at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology.

The idea

I learnt to make traditional Meru uji (kirurio) from my grandmother. It was something she loved doing and, whenever I visited her, I would watch how she ground the flour and prepared it.

I took it up as a hobby and shared it with my friends who complimented me on the uji and asked many questions about it. At some point, I got the opportunity to volunteer at a certain hospital.

I saw a niche where people craved uji but couldn’t get the authentic, clean traditional uji. I immediately dived in and ran with the idea.


What happened next

I approached a friend and shared the idea. She gave me great insights and so, with Sh1,000 and no knowledge of where to buy the grains or the packaging material or how to brand, I started my research.

Thanks to YouTube, I was able to gain a lot of information online that helped me set up the business and actualise my idea.

Running a startup

It has not been easy, but I still choose to push on. Bridging the gap between modern and traditional requires a lot of patience, especially in this generation when a lot of young people prefer fast food and junk.

But slowly we are winning. I have had to carry out mass education on the importance of traditional meals, just to enlighten people on the benefits that come with consuming traditional foods or beverages.

Kirurio is made from carefully sorted, washed and ground whole grain cereals. Traditionally, I serve the uji just as our grandparents did. When out for events, I cook it in pots and serve in calabashes. I then store the uji in a gourd. This keeps and restores its natural taste.

The uji is packed in jerry cans of 2 litres, 5 litres, 10 litres and 20 litres. We have both the cooked and raw concentrate.

Our target clients include nursing mums, the elderly, children above two years, guests in wedding ceremonies or ruracios, circumcision ceremonies, hotels of all capacity, offices and cooperatives. Generally, everyone who is a lover of traditional uji.


Where I am now

I may not have achieved much for almost two years since I started commercial brewing of the traditional uji, but I thank God for the progress we have made.

I wanted to be self-dependent and create jobs for others. I have done this in a way as I get the cereals directly from farmers and the cleaning and sorting is done by mothers for them to also support their families.

I am looking for finances to expand the business so we can transport the uji to clients in various parts of the country. I want to invest in quality packaging materials that will be suitable for the kirurio especially when it is already cooked.

My memorable moments since I started the business are getting my patent certificate and winning an international award in the 2019 Black Food Festival.

I am happy when I get referrals from other clients who all have positive feedback about our product. It gives me the zeal to keep on working hard and scale to greater heights.

My tip

For every upcoming entrepreneur, follow your passion. Start somewhere and don’t give up along the way.

There will be good and bad days but if you want your idea to succeed, you have to be patient and press on no matter the challenges. Be authentic and give quality over quantity.

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