The following profile was first published on MediaMax’ PD journal.
Twenty-three-year old Dennis Kamau Kiarie does not cut the image of an accomplished entrepreneur. He is not dressed in a sharp suit and tie, neither does he carry around the latest phone model that belie a man with panache and class.
But then looks can be misleading. Kiarie is the owner of a budding leather shoe business and the creative design of his work speak of a man with an artistic flair and sharp business acumen.
The Strathmore University alumnus had never been fascinated with sitting in a big office, complete with swivelling chair and a good view. He had always purposed to create employment opportunities, having observed the soaring unemployment rates in the country. So, at 17 he designed his first pair of shoes when he was at Njambini High School.
He got the idea after attending a science congress. “I came up with the idea after I attended a science congress in South Kinangop. Here, hides are thrown away after the animal is slaughtered.
An opportunity to add value to the hides was there staring at me,” says the son of a single mother, Lucy Kiarie, who he says understood the value of hides because she worked with the ministry of agriculture as an extension officer. Kiarie then founded his company Juasco and meshed his creativity with the power of networking.
The young entrepreneur’s agility and tenacity has openeddoors for him. The Leather Council of Kenya shared vital tips about leather quality. At the Export Promotion Council, he got ideas on how to market the products at forums such as agricultural shows in addition to gaining from technical advice given on product development.
“I cashed on the good will of these institutions. I then set up base at Thika Training Centre,”explains Kiarie. He contracted youth in in Magamo, South Kinangop to stitch the shoes. The shoes have fur and are decorated with plastic. “They have a classic sole that is locally made. It is durable and lasts up to five years.
I’ve worn this one for the last fours years,” Kiarie says, lifting the left foot to display the shoe. He adds: “My products are unique in the sense that the colour is natural. Colour and texture is always different to ensure each shoe is unique. There cannot be two pair of shoes that look alike.” He gets the leather from Alpharama tannery in Athi River.
His most popular flagship product is the Juasco Jungle Boot designed for people working either in rugged terrain or factories, which sells at Sh400, to offer customers elegance and uniqueness. For those who want an office shoe, Sherehe Shoes come in handy at a cost of Sh6,000 while Sherehe boots that are ankle high cost Sh7,000.
Kiarie generates not less than Sh100,000 per month if he sells a minimum of 15 pairs of shoes. He has diversified and makes extra products such as leather seats, bags, belts, and jackets from pure hides. He invested Sh300,000 in the business and employs eight people.