Esther Mburu Kituyi is proof that persistence, not capital, is what leads to entrepreneurial success. The Bungoma County entrepreneur started with just Sh1,000 and ventured into the fresh milk retail business two years ago. Today, Mrs Kituyi and her husband Andrew are the proprietors of Niresh Fresh Dairy Industries, headquartered in Bungoma town.
“When I was starting out, the Sh1,000 went into buying a bucket to hold milk, a one-litre ladle, a sieve and a stool on which I would place the bucket outside my house,” Kituyi told Business Beat. “These purchases left me with a balance of Sh400, which I used to buy 10 litres of fresh milk at Sh40 a litre. I was off the starting block in self-employment, and was determined never to look back.”
She recalls that in the beginning, she lacked facilities like access to bank loans, and it was not easy finding a market.
“I could see my husband on the verge of giving up, but I embraced resilience. The profit per litre of milk we sold was just Sh20, and we were not selling all our stock.” She would boil what was left over to ensure it stayed fresh enough to sell the following day. Slowly and patiently, Kituyi grew her customer base and was soon making enough money to afford to buy a 50-litre milk can from a relative of her husband’s to grow her earnings. “The milk can cost me Sh9,500. With time came patronage as people trusted me and the milk I sold. I had learnt early on that honesty and trust matter a lot in business,” she said. When she started selling fresh milk, though, Kituyi saw it as a step towards a bigger dream. She wanted to get into value addition. Her dream came true when her husband, a dairy technology expert, helped her achieve it.
“I had studied food technology at the Kiambu Institute of Technology, but did not have the technical knowledge necessary for the production of yoghurt. That is where my husband’s skills came in handy,” said Kituyi.
“His being by my side was fate at work, as was the coming GIZ [German Society for International Cooperation] that organised training sessions for small-scale yoghurt processors in this region. I was trained at Mabanga Agricultural Training Centre.” Kituyi was recently selected to represent small-scale yoghurt processors when the German minister for economic cooperation and development, Gerd Muller, visited Bukura Agricultural College in Kakamega County.
Mr Muller was in the country to launch a dairy processing plant built by GIZ, which specialises in sustainable development. She confidently walked the German delegation through the stages required in the production of quality yoghurt, from pasteurisation (controlled boiling to kill harmful organisms but retain nutritive content) to the additives required to add flavour. “It is hard work, but worth the trouble. A litre of milk earns me as much as Sh50 in profit when processed into yoghurt. This is the benefit of value addition,” she said.
Kituyi said the venture she started with Sh1,000 today supplies two supermarkets in Bungoma and one in Kakamega with more than 100 litres of yoghurt a day.
“Our dream is to have a foothold in the likes of Nakumatt, Naivas and Tuskys in the near future. Our production is largely manual, but my vision is to build a proper plant at a different site. The milk processing plant built by GIZ at Bukura is a blessing as it gives us a glimpse of the latest technology.”