There are thousands of businessmen in Kenya whose names are unfamiliar to many, but their acts have significantly transformed the lives of many through job creation and service delivery.
Joel Mwale is one of those entrepreneurs who tested the fruits of entrepreneurship at a very tender age. Mwale is the brain behind SkyDrop Enterprises, a rainwater harvesting and purification company he started at 16.
According to reports, Mwale grew up in Kitale, and access to clean water was a major challenge in the region. At some point in his teenage life, he contracted dysentery from contaminated water.
Dysentery is a bacteria or parasitic infection in the intestines that causes bloody diarrhea. While in a hospital bed recuperating from the serious illness, an idea that years later transformed the lives of more than 5,000 people in Kitale sparked.
With Savings of about Sh 8,000 physics knowledge acquired at Friends School Kamusinga and some help from volunteers, the then 16-year-old built a borehole on some community farmland to help residents to access clean water.
It was not long before his high school education came to a standstill after tuition fees challenges. Mwale had to drop out of school to look for ways to earn money for his tuition and supplement his parent’s income.
The idea for SkyDrop came to maturity when he was caught in a rainstorm.
“I remember it was in April during one of the heavy rain seasons in Kitale. I was just walking as the rain poured and happened to spot a closed yogurt shop.”
“Next to it was a water tank that was storing the rainwater from the gutters of the roof. I thought to myself: can’t I trap this rainwater, store it in a reservoir, purify it, and then sell it to the public?” he said in a past interview.
He convinced the owner of the yogurt shop to lease him the area. Mwale would later look for a water purifying machine which he found out was very expensive.
Efforts to acquire loans from banks and other financial institutions bore no fruits, as his request was turned down. He approached his parents and convinced them to sell a 20-acre piece of family land to get him the machine.
The money from the sale was partially used to pay for the cost of operation, while the rest was used to acquire the purification machine which Mwale bought at Sh430,000.
He started the project that later gave birth to SkyDrop Enterprises. It was not long before SkyDrop started making profits. Mwale sold Half a liter of his bottled water at Sh17 and a liter at Sh31.
“We used to harvest rainwater and focus on production during the wet season. During the dry spells, we would market our product.” He said.
His clientele grew too fast across western Kenya and into Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, and South Sudan. In 2012, Mwale sold SkyDrop Enterprises to an Israeli-owned firm in a deal worth Sh42.5 million.
The social enterprise earned him global recognition, including the 2012 Google Zeitgeist Young Minds award, for being among the Top 10 Brightest Young Minds in the World.