When a group of 25 youth first bought plastic cups and plates to lease out during ceremonies, they were told they would ruin the culture of generosity. Residents of Kipkebe village in Bomet were used to donating their utensils when a neighbour was hosting a large group of people.

But the youth group was determined to become self-sustaining, so it stuck to its guns to make a business out of renting out plates and cups. Now, four years down the line, Kipkebe Precious Academy Welfare Group members are glad they held their ground.

The group’s organising secretary, Josphat Chelule, said the group started the business to eliminate the shortage of utensils during ceremonies, and the embarrassment hosts suffer when guests are forced to share plates or cups. “Our people in Bomet like celebrating, and we come in handy to ensure parties and other ceremonies are successful,” said Mr Chelule.

The group’s decision to lease out the cups and plates at Sh1 per piece also became a talking point, with detractors saying they were setting themselves up for failure. “Well, Sh1 may be little, but we have earned nearly Sh600,000 over the last four years leasing out cups and plates within Bomet,” Chelule said.

“The amount is affordable to everyone, and every other day we receive clients coming for plates and cups from us.” The group also did not want to scare off potential customers “with huge prices like Sh5”. As a result of the friendly pricing, the business has grown in popularity. The group started out as a merry-go-round in 2012 among the staff of Kipkebe Precious Academy in Bomet Central. The idea was to empower members financially and supplement their salaries.

A year later, the group decided to start a business that would generate more money. Using their contributions, they bought the first batch of 300 cups and 300 plates. But two short months later, on building demand, the group increased its stock to 6,000 pieces. Chelule said the group has also diversified by buying a 100-seater tent that is leased out at Sh4,000. However, competition for tent services during ceremonies is high, and Kipkebe rarely secures business, unlike with their plates and cups.

Chelule said the group’s next step is investing in land: “We are eyeing the dormant real estate industry in the county, and we want to buy a small plot and develop it before going big on real estate.”

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