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Sunday, September 20, 2020

I was fired from my job, now I’m thriving in business

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Natural Organics in Kenya: “My name is Mkamboi Mwakale. I am the founder and CEO of Saru Organics, a beauty care company that deals with natural organics in Kenya. I have not always been an entrepreneur. In fact, I was an employee for a couple of years before I ventured into business.

My life in employment was full of upheavals. Straight out of college like any other young graduate, I had dreams and ambitions to grow a great career in the corporate world.

My employment stint started in 2008 shortly after graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Information Systems degree from USIU. I got an internship at Kenya Airports Authority in 2008 where it soon dawned on me how boring my tasks were. I would do print jobs, type work, assist elderly staff on how to use Ms-Office and install software. I was just not happy. I searched deep within me and rediscovered my love for writing.

I decided to see how I could turn it into an income-generating hobby and penned two novels. The first one, ‘Journey of Dreamer’ was published in 2010 while the second one dubbed ‘Lost and Found’ was never published.

The publishing process opened me up to a world of possibilities, such as graphic design. It also became a catalyst to the Varsity Phunk bi-monthly lifestyle magazine which I formed in conjunction with other artistes in my circle of friends.

Natural Organics in Kenya

Unfortunately, it closed shop after one year due to high operating expenses and debts that didn’t match the income it generated. In 2012, I managed to get a job as a personal assistant in a PR firm where I earned Sh. 10,000 monthly. Although I was desperate, I couldn’t hold on to it for long, especially when it became apparent that I had to borrow money for my bus fare. Six months down the line, I quit.

It did not take long before I got a job as a research assistant in some executive office. This job did not last either. I wanted to cruise at 100 km/hr but the speed of my career was at 20 km/hr. Also, I soon found out that it would be too hard for me to switch to another department or get promotion. I began to look for a fresh job and in 2014, an opening for a programs manager popped up in an NGO and I quit.

Here, I earned Sh. 120,000 per month. I thought I had hit the jackpot. But three months down the line, I was handed a termination letter. Apparently, my colleagues felt that I was not equal to the task and instigated my sacking.

After losing this job, I didn’t feel like I had the energy to look for another employment opportunity. My previous employers all recorded very short stints in my CV that did not create a very appealing career build up.

Also, after holding too many short jobs, my faith in employment had plummeted down. With the little savings I had, I opened Sheerah Agencies in Nairobi, dealing in printing and merchandising items such as handbag desk holders, lapel pins and cuff links that I could brand with company logos. Three months into the business, I started receiving orders to brand golf accessories, calendars, and corporate bags.

As my business gained steam, I began to contemplate how I could spread out and diversify. Incidentally, during this time, the Moringa herbal plant had just been discovered. I saw this as a green field that I could exploit and did research on which angle I could take. I found out that creating highly moisturizing products and hair growth serums was the most unique business to launch.

But I couldn’t do it alone. I looked for a partner and together, we launched Saru Organics in June 2017, and set up its workshop in Kiambu. I started with Sh. 50,000 which I hived from my merchandising company. I used part of the money to purchase Moringa seeds and buy a cold-pressing machinery to extract oils from the seeds. But to get the business flying, I needed a bigger operating capital. Fortunately, my mother and uncle agreed to partner up with me and injected Sh. 300,000. This amount still fell short and it was soon consumed by the oil formulation and design process.

I approached one of my friends who agreed to join me in exchange for equity. He brought in an additional Sh. 300,000 capital. We also borrowed Sh. 200,000 from a chama. This enabled us to buy more raw materials and packaging of our first batch of products. Since then, we have been re-investing all profits and revenue that the business makes back into the company. It is now one year since Saru Organics started.

Currently, we have grown to a stage where we are considering applying for foreign investments into the business. We have also set base in Uganda.

We calculate our break even points every end of month and from the results, we form our benchmark goals for the following month. We also get a figure of how much we should sell within a month in order to cover our costs. This has not been without losses. Over the first few months of running this business, we encountered major losses.

Things went terribly wrong while transiting from doing small volumes for sample prototypes to large batches for commercial use. But we have learned from these mistakes, and within the next five years, we are looking to expand our brand beyond the East African region.

Although my personal journey in business has not been easy, I would not go back to employment. There are times when it gets so hard. I deplete my savings chasing the dream in months when the income we get is only enough to cater for the following month’s costs. But the longer I have held on, the more I have learned how to keep my entrepreneurial dream alive, one day at a time.”

Tips

  • Business is not for the faint-hearted. Forget the glamour that is portrayed out there. Success in business is only captured from years borne of hard work.
  • Do not always expect ‘over-pay’ from the business for the extra miles you will need to go to make things work.
  • If you can’t do it alone, look for like-minded partners who will add valuable capital to your venture. Two will always go further than one.
  • The world is going e-commerce. Take your products online and grow a reputable e-brand.

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