Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Winfridah Mukhwaya: How I run my chapo, mandazi business as a stay-at-home mom

In Ongata Rongai Township, Winfridah Mukhwaya is popularly known as Mama Mandazi. This is a name she has earned from her mandazi and chapati business, which she has now been running for more than nine years.

Unlike many other similar businesses that are operated from a kibanda kiosk or hotel, Winfridah runs her business from her home kitchen.

“I had an urge to start a venture that would earn me some income. As a stay-at-home mom, I felt that I needed to start doing something that would make me some money and help improve my personal financial independence,” she says. “I also wanted to be able to raise my kids without a lot of pressure and supplement what my husband was bringing to the table.”

Choosing mandazi business was almost a natural choice for her. She loved cooking with dough. And she had all the items she would need to get started. “I had packets of wheat flour, cooking oil, charcoal, jiko, cooking pans and sufurias. What else was I waiting for?!” she says.

In early 2014, she started making mandazis from her home because she did not have a shop or kiosk where she could cook from.

“I would wake up at 3am to cook. From 5am, I would pack my mandazis into a hot pot and go out to sell to school going children and people heading to work from a friend’s kiosk. My day would usually end at around 10am in the morning. If I had some mandazis remaining in the hot pot, I would leave them with my friend who sold chips from the kiosk.”

From one packet of 2kg wheat flour, Winfridah would make about 80 mandazis. She would sell them at Sh. 5 each to gross Sh. 400. From this, she would make a profit of Sh. 150.

“My target was to grow my customer base. If I could move to five packets of 2k wheat flour, my profit would grow to more than Sh. 750 per day,” she says. This would then translate to Sh. 22,500 per month.

However, breaking even was not easy. The profit margins were not adequate enough to transform her venture into a fully self-reliant bakery.

“I was new in the market. Food businesses take a long time to gain customer confidence,” she says. In addition to this, Winfridah was a mother of two small babies. “I got my third born before my business broke even. I had to balance between motherhood and my small business. I couldn’t run the business on a full time basis,” she says.

As her business began to gain traction with customers, Winfridah started to cook chapatis as well. But it was not until 2017 that her venture began to break even.

Being the micro in the micro, small and medium enterprises, Winfridah had to learn the basics of running and managing a business on the job. She remembers that in her early business days, she struggled with management of the money she made.

“I thought the profit was too little and I wasn’t saving as much as I should have. This meant that I was not building any capital base for expansion. I was basically rotating around the same operating money,” she says. “At one point, my finances got so bad that I had to live hand to mouth. I almost shut down the business.”

Apart from financial management, she also struggled with networking, marketing, and growing her customer base.

“After I started, I knew that I did not want to be the mama kibanda stationed at the corner of the road. I wanted to grow. I wanted to take my mandazis to events and offices,” says the mother of three kids aged 10, 9 and 4 years.

Today, Winfridah sells on orders from her home. “I also do house cooking calls,” she says. “I cook from my house which has helped me save the money I would be paying on a business rental.”

Every day, she makes 75 chapatis from three packets of the 2kg wheat flour, and 160 mandazis from two packets of the 2kg wheat flour.

“I sell my chapos at Sh. 25 each and my mandazis at Sh. 5 each,” she says. “Business is a bit slow because of the costs of commodities that are exceeding customers’ purchasing power.”

She gets orders from offices, events, and retail shops. “My big break in supplying events came when a long-time friend proposed my name at an event they were hosting. I got the order to supply mandazis and chapatis. The feedback from the attendees encouraged me to network more and start pitching for orders,” she says.

From that event, Winfridah took home a profit, good reputation, and contacts from the attendees who referred her to more events, customers, and house call orders.

Although Winfridah runs her business from her home, she has not been operating without challenges. Currently, Winfridah is grappling with the rising cost of cooking oil and wheat flour.

“Some of my competitors have closed shop. Wheat flour is now almost Sh. 200 for the 2kg packet while the 3 litre cooking oil is going for almost Sh. 1,000,” she says. The rising prices are compounded by the prices people are willing to pay for mandazis and chapatis.

“These are two commodities that you can’t hike prices and expect customers to stay. Our target customers don’t earn much themselves. They are accustomed to buying mandazis at Sh. 5, and chapos at Sh. 25. If you hike chapos to Sh. 50 and mandazis to Sh. 25, your business will face certain death,” she says.

Despite the challenges her venture is going through with the rising cost of basic commodities, Winfridah says that she wouldn’t trade her business for anything.

“I was a clerk at a construction firm before I became a stay-at-home mom. Given a chance to go back into employment today, I would choose to stick to my business,” she says. “I love being my own boss, pushing myself to new challenges, and always finding a way to overcome obstacles. I am able to give my kids full attention while running a business on the side.”

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She has also improved her finances by joining a chama where she contributes fifty per cent of her profits in savings. The remainder of the money goes to her financial needs and business as a reinvestment.

Looking back at the nine years she has been running her business, Winfridah says that she has learnt that it is never too late to start something no matter what stage you are in.

“You don’t have to do a very big business or wait for the perfect timing to start making some coins. The space you occupy today is yours; you must take it and amplify it into the money-making venture you want,” she says.

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