Saturday, September 23, 2023

Grace Rie: What I learned after quitting my two-year job to start a business

Grace Rie is the founder of Greenleaf Renewable Energy Ltd, a renewable energy business involved in promotion and advocacy of eco-friendly biogas energy.

I was employed for 2 years before I quit to venture into entrepreneurship. Although I was content with the work I did and the salary I earned, I felt that I could achieve more individually if I pushed my limits.

In July 2014, when I felt it was the right time to go out and explore, I left employment to start a business. While still in formal employment, I had gotten some exposure on renewable energy but it was very limited.

So when I left employment, green energy was not what I ventured into immediately. I first named my business Gramax Investments and ventured into other different fields without a lot of success. In August 2017, I rebranded into Greenleaf and started providing green energy solutions.

I had very little technical knowledge on the installation of biogas digesters when I started. As a result, I started by selling the biogas appliances. I had saved up Sh. 50,000 which I used to secure an office space and with my official company documents, I approached one of the biogas appliances suppliers in town who I had engaged with previously.

The supplier agreed to lend me products worth Sh. 70,000 in exchange for a post-dated cheque which I deposited after 30 days.

My business is where it is today because I was willing to put my ego down and learn on the job. I had to approach my seniors in the sector to learn more about the technology and how the products I was selling operated.

This was not the only challenge. Penetrating into the market and ensuring that my company was also known and creating and retaining a clientele base was a huge challenge.

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For some months, I survived with no good marketing materials because I was short on finances. But I was persistent.  I pushed my sales by giving discounts and good commissions to my customers and this really helped me stay relevant in the market, even as I improved on my services.

Over the years, I’ve been able to find stability in my venture and bring on board permanent and on contract basis employees. I also have partners and investors that have seen great potential in my venture. We are able to meet our operational costs through offering consultancy services, conducting training on biogas technology, selling the biogas appliances and earning commissions on biogas digester installations.

In every business, loss is part of the show. In several cases, we have lost money through dishonest clients who pick items on credit only to cut the communication. This has however not hindered us from supporting our loyal clients and technicians as credit is also a critical component of business growth.

In the next 5 years, I see this venture being at the forefront of solving problems facing the off-grid communities. There is a lot of green energy potential within biogas products that is still untapped.

I have positioned this business to maximize on this potential and the opportunities therein, more so now that more people have come to understand that biogas is safer and cleaner.

A version of this profile feature on Grace Rie was also published in the Saturday Magazine. The Saturday Magazine is a publication of the Nation Media Group.

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