I started working on the idea of starting Stawi Foods in June 2010 when I was in my final year in University in Nairobi. Since I was young I had a keen interest to start a manufacturing business having seen my father work in a manufacturing company for over 15 years that started from scratch and became a multi-million dollar business with interests across several African countries. I wanted to start a unique manufacturing company that would not only generate money for me but have an impact in Kenya for many generations to come.
I walked into the office of the Ministry of Agriculture Agribusiness Department and sought advice on potential innovative ideas I could do in food processing. The lady I met gave me two ideas: dried mango for export or banana flour for local and export market. I picked on banana flour because it offered me a chance to assist banana farmers in Meru (my upcountry) to have a market for their produce and extend the shelf life of bananas which often go to waste before being purchased by middlemen at a throw away price.
The Ministry of Agriculture offered me assistance in product/prototype development at a Government Incubation Center. I got assistance to develop a prototype and had it tested and approved by the Kenyan Standards Body. This process ended in late 2011. The challenge was where to raise startup capital for the business. I applied and succeeded in two national business plan competitions in late 2011 where I raised $ 17,000 to start the business. I partnered with two farmers groups in Meru and began processing of banana flour.
I then hired a salesperson and we eventually got listed in the largest supermarket in East Africa (Nakumatt Supermarket) in March 2012 and later Uchumi Supermarket. In late 2013, I moved production to Nairobi where I leased a piece of land and set up a processing unit where the business is based today. I secured a loan of $ 9,000 to buy better processing equipment and hired production staff and a sales lady. We developed two new products (Nurture Junior and Nurture Family precooked porridge flour) to increase our product offering and introduced them in the market in late 2013.
In 2014, my goal was to transform the company from a family business to a professionally run company that can scale by forming a board of directors.
When I was making the choices that have got me to where I am, I experienced fear and doubt since I was taking a risk and was not sure if the decision would pay off. However I took the risk since I believed it was essential to grow the business. If I was back in 2010, I would make the same decision as I did. In fact I wish I made the decision earlier to start Stawi.
Before founding Stawi Foods, I worked at a non profit organization in Kenya where I was tasked with identifying ways of managing post-harvest losses among banana farmers in Meru and market linkage opportunities for small scale banana farmers in Meru, rural Kenya.
Clark Atlanta University, Business and Entrepreneurship
SE Forum, Social Enterprise
Catholic University of Eastern Africa Kenya, Bachelors degree in Law (Honors)