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Agri-tech startup that won Safaricom’s heart

iProcure becomes the second agri-tech firm to receive an investment from the Safaricom Spark Fund

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An iProcure employee explains how the “last mile input distribution platform” works.

Safaricom’s Spark Venture Fund has announced its sixth and final Ksh100,000,000  investment in agri-tech startup iProcure.

iProcure is the largest agricultural inputs supply chain platform in Kenya, linking farmers and farmer cooperatives to manufacturers of agricultural inputs. Through accrued efficiency, iProcure offers farmers discounts of between 10% and 20% every time they purchase farming products.

“We started the Spark Fund with the aim of supporting emerging startups that use technology to transform lives. As it joins the outstanding crop of Spark Fund investees, iProcure will be instrumental in harnessing the power of technology to improve Kenya’s agri-business processes,” said Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore.

To access iProcure, farmers dial *283# and then select which input they would like to purchase. The farmer then receives a voucher which allows them to claim the inputs from an iProcure farm depot or collection point. The company currently covers several counties across Kenya mainly in Central and Rift Valley but has plans to scale to Western and Eastern Kenya this year.

The startup seeks to increase agricultural output in Kenya, which has remained comparatively low to other countries due to challenges including access to and use of quality inputs.

“At iProcure, we are all about optimising rural supply chains. We build both the supply chain technology in addition to ‘on-the-ground’ infrastructure to ensure small holder farming communities get the inputs they require on terms that are convenient and affordable. We share an underlying belief, with Safaricom, that small holder farmers are essential to our nation’s food security, and look forward to playing our part in improving the welfare of farmers across Kenya,” said Nicole Galletta, Chief Operations Officer, iProcure.

ALSO SEE: Firm makes a killing from internet-enabled kiosks

iProcure becomes the second agri-tech firm to receive an investment from the Safaricom Spark Fund. In February, the fund announced an investment in FarmDrive which has developed an alternative credit-scoring model based on mobile phones and machine learning, in turn enabling many farmers to have formal access to loans and financing.

Started in 2014, the Ksh100 million Safaricom Spark Venture Fund seeks to make late-seed to early-growth stage investments in startups using mobile technology as an enabler.

The Fund received more than 600 applications to date, out of which it has invested in six startups. In August 2015, Sendy – a marketplace for businesses and individuals to connect with drivers to make deliveries simple and transparent – became the first investee of the fund.

READ: Bamboo is the new road to riches in Kenya

mSurvey, a mobile-first research platform that leverages SMS and mobile messaging technology to simplify access to credible, on-demand data became the second investee of the fund.

Other startups backed by the fund include Eneza, a mobile based learning platform that targets students and adults in Kenya and other countries, and Lynk which connects customers with professionals and artisans from fields such as tailoring, carpentry, house helps, waiters, chefs and many others. iProcure becomes the fund’s last investee.

Editor and writer at BUSINESS TODAY, Muli has a passion for human interest stories that have a big impact on economic development. He holds a BSc in Communication and Journalism from Moi University and has worked for various organisations including Kenya Television Service. Email: [email protected] or [email protected]

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Entertainment

Going wild in waters and making money from it

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There is a reason why Mombasa’s Wild Waters is regarded as paradise. The entertainment spot located along Links Road in Nyali just next to Mamba Village Park has everything for everyone looking for happy times.

It has as many as 15 adult and kids’ water slides and enough water play stations. This huge paradise will have you and your kids enjoying yourselves hours on end. There are sports and dance bars for adults to enjoy as well as a video arcade that caters for those who wish to just sit back and relax.

Wild Waters also houses a conference center seminar room, both of which can be rented out for meetings. The venue is perfect for birthdays, school day outs, corporate day outs, team buildings and even weddings.

Taking you back to the beginning….

“The driving force of building the Wild Waters theme park was to build a state-of-the art Family Entertainment Centre to serve both local and international tourists,” stated Shaileen Shah, who is the marketing executive at the park.

Many a times, people would travel to various countries for the sake of the water theme parks hence the decision to construct one in order to attract the tourists back into the country. In order to build a theme park, one needs a huge amount of land as well as finances for it is not a cheap commodity.

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The land on which Wild Waters is built once used to be a quarry that has been abandoned for 40 years. The quarry was transformed from wasteland into the facility that it is right now.

Its construction saw the empowerment of the people of Mombasa as the locals were given the job to build the park as well as the fact that they sourced the staff from the coastal city when it begun operations.

A-kid-slide-300x169 Going wild in waters and making money from it

A kid sliding at the park. Wild Waters will have you and your kids enjoying yourselves hours on end. Credit: Courtesy

Building and maintaining the park did not come easy as there were several challenges from designing the Waterpark, importing parts to clearing the site. Setting up the slides and rides was not a walk in the park either due to lack of technical know-how locally. It seemed more like rocket science but they eventually got engineers who understood the basics. Hiring the right staff from the managerial positions all the way down to the life guards, waiters, cooks and gardeners was also quite a challenge when assessing their competency.

ALSO SEE: How to generate business ideas that works for you

“We needed to hire people who understood the job and also those would work well with other staff. I was not about to hire a lifeguard who doesn’t know how to swim if you know what I mean”, said Mr Shah.

One of the biggest challenges was figuring out the right price point for entry tickets that would in turn bring in profits to the facility. The entry fee is Ksh1,400 per slider and Ksh300 for non-sliders which are a fair amount because people get value for it.

No competition

Being the largest Waterpark facility in Kenya is an advantage in that with no competition, many water lovers seek it out for entertainment. Wild Waters offers an attraction like no other focusing on high quality entertainment and customer service ensuring guests leave with memorable experiences.

But the park has also faced its share amount of hard times. After the 2007/08 post-election violence, piracy threats and terrorism threats, the total volume of tourism in Kenya, both local and international, dropped significantly. This was a serious blow because the park’s major source of income comes from tourists. With high operating expenses and high financing costs, the business was burning cash with no returns. When you spend more than you earn in your business, you end up experiencing huge losses.

A-kid-slide-300x169 Going wild in waters and making money from it

Customers having a good time at Wild Waters theme park in Mombasa. Credit: Courtesy

There is also the low season whereby there are not too many customers. During this period, the park diversifies its offerings to minimise losses during low season. The diversification includes offering corporate activities including conferencing, team building, and corporate dinners. This has the park staying active all year round.

 Helping hand

Wild Waters extends a helping hand to many charitable organisations free of charge, thus giving disadvantaged children access to an experience they would never otherwise have in their lives. An example of the Tumaini Children’s Home.

Mamba Village is often regarded as Wild Waters’s main competition by Mr Shah says they offer a differentiated product range that is complementary to Mamba Village’s offerings and not exactly a substitute.

Related: New Sh3 billion hotel opens in Kilifi

“Competition is also healthy and there still remains a cordial relationship between the two companies. We assist them whenever they require our assistance and vice versa,” stated Mr Shah.

“I love Wild Waters Park. I have been coming here since 2012.  It is a great place to chill. I go to the slides during the day, and ride the bumper cars at night. Their food is also good. My best time of the year is during New Year’s Eve because the slides are open at night,” gushed Philip Ngila, a Wild Waters Park fanatic.

Asking Mr Shah what next for Wild Waters, he responded by saying that they are working on more rides and better entertainment.

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Entrepreneurs

31-year-old who makes Sh20 million in a bad month

And at the age of 27 years, he built his first residential house, a two bedroom unit, which he sold at Sh1.6 million (SCROLL DOWN TO READ ARTICLE)

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Andrew Kamau: Founder and CEO of Dinara Developers Limited.

For 31-year-old Kenyan Andrew Kamau, selling building materials was all his day’s work diary would read a few years ago. The city’s high-end estates — Lavington, Kileleshwa and Runda — provided him with a reliable stream of customers.

“I used to supply sand, ballasts, stones from Ndarugu quarry and from the little earnings, I was able to raise Sh300,000 savings,” said Mr Kamau, adding that in 2009 a piece of stone was going for Sh36 and he would sell about 1,200 units in a good day.

Armed with his savings, Mr Kamau bought a two-and-a-quarter-acres at Makongeni, in Thika at Sh3.5 million. He paid Sh350,000 deposit and after sub dividing it, he sold the plots, paid the land owner the balance and made Sh3.5 million profit.

Buoyed by the impressive returns, he shifted gears and started buying land, constructing houses and selling them. His first housing project was near Kenyatta University where he bought half-an-acre and built 49 bed sitters on half of the plot and sold the other to finance the construction. The units sold at Sh250,000 each earning him over Sh12 million.

And at the age of 27 years, he built his first residential house, a two bedroom unit, which he sold at Sh1.6 million. Today, Mr Kamau, 31, is the brains behind Green View Apartments, Diamond Heights in Kikuyu, Mashariki Park Project, Mazuri site Apartments in Thika, Kajiado and a multi-million shillings 36 house units project at Thindigua on Kiambu Road.

SEE: Karen vs. Runda – which is the coolest place to live?

At Dinara Developers Limited, the real estate company he started in 2009 that he runs together with co-director Francis Wachira Muguku, he says, apartment prices range between Sh2.5 million for a one bedroom house and Sh12 million for a three bedroom unit.

“I make between Sh20 million and Sh25 million per month. Real estate is the place to be,” he says. His tale can be best described as dust to riches story that has seen him set Nairobi’s thriving real estate business alight.

Amassing wealth

“I want to remove this notion among young people and the old generation that one can only be a millionaire and own a house at a certain age,” he said at his 2,500-square-feet office at Sound Plaza on Woodvale Groove, in Westlands, Nairobi.

Last year, when he went searching for land in Kiambu County to put up houses, he bumped onto a landlord who was selling a three-quarter acre at Sh70 million. However, he was shocked when the seller refused to accept his fat pay cheque. “She looked at me and asked, ‘young man, when did you start working to amass such wealth?’ I was shocked,” said the alumni of Thika High School.

READ: Two guys who are squeezing cash from fruits

He says this is one of the most irritating question he keeps getting while transacting millions of shillings, especially with the old generation.
But where did he raise the Sh70 million? “The proceeds were raised from 169 apartments, which we constructed last year at Thika and sold at Sh2.5 million each. We raked in over Sh400 million,” said Mr Kamau. He said phase two of the project — where 250 units will be set up — is in the pipeline.

Mr Kamau attributes his success to having a stable family: “My wife, who was my client before I married her, has contributed immensely to the success of this firm. When I am faced with tricky business challenges she is always there to listen to me,” says Mr Kamau
Besides a strong family support, he says he has learnt that honesty is vital.

“If you say the size of the house is 100-square-feet, you must deliver that size because anything short of that is outright theft,” he said.

So what keeps him going?

“Doing a clean business. Without being honest, you won’t last long and this is what I strive to achieve every day. I value my customers and their feedback.”

His future plan is to develop his office block within the city. “Our monthly rent is Sh400,000 but this will be a thing of the past in the next two years as we shall put up our own office block,” he said.

The developer is targeting Thika, Kikuyu, Gitaru, Thindigua, Ruiru and Kajiado to put up housing units this year. As it seeks to cement its presence in the real estate sector, Dinara Developers has set its sight on listing in the Nairobi Securities Exchange by 2030.

READ: Kenyan techie develops his version of Facebook

House buyers at Dinara Developers are not required to pay any deposit and it is this unique business tactic that has seen the entrepreneur build an empire whose current estimate value is in excess of Sh1 billion.

“The dream of many people is to own a house but what they lack is deposit. At Dinara Developers, if we are constructing a house within 18 months or any period, we ask you to pay whatever amount within that period and this is what has attracted many customers.”

Surprisingly, Mr Kamau said that his company has never sought a bank loans.

Challenges

“We plough back our profits. We have deliberately avoided bank loans because of the high interest rates, which will obviously be passed on to the customers. In the past two years we have earned very little as a company because huge chunk of Sh300 million profits we make per year is invested back in our projects,” he added.

The firm whose name means rich in Russia also owns a fleet of lorries, which transport building materials from its quarries, further cutting down the cost of construction. Like other players, Dinara Developers is grappling with inadequate skilled manpower. The company started with three staff and now has employed 40.

SEE: Mtumba dealer who rose to become fashion designer

However, its biggest challenge has been impromptu change of policies by corrupt county government officials. “One day a county official tells you that your lorry should not carry more than 20 tonnes of stones beyond a certain point. The other issue is the re-zoning, which has disrupted our building plans, costing us millions of shillings,” he added.

The most unique hurdle, however, is the lack of trust from land owners, who dismiss him as a young person not worth conducting huge business. (Source: The Founder)

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Entrepreneurs

Emmah Amoni: Mtumba dealer turned fashion designer

From selling mitumba in college to making clothes at home, Emmah’s business expanded beyond Kenya’s shores to the United States and Brazil.

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Daystar University student Emmah Amoni Wambugu (left). She designs and produces her clothes from home but wants to expand it soon. Credit: Courtesy

For Emmah Amoni Wambugu, a self-made designer and image consultant who runs Touyet Fashions, passion, creativity and a go-getter spirit are part of her brand.  “I quit sodas and processed juices because they are unhealthy for me,” she kicked off what turned out to be a revealing interview as she poured the glass of fresh juice for me. Her story is one of a straight up hustler who found a way to make it on her own.

Her story is one of perseverance and endurance. Before she founded Touyet Fashions, Emmah, 24, started off by selling second-hand clothes to colleagues at Daystar University, where she is studying communication.

As a true go-getter, Emmah is known to walk around with copies of her Curriculum Vitae. One time, when she was in a bus heading to town, she noticed a queue at the Junction Mall. Following her instincts, she got out of the bus; asked around and was told that there was an interview going on at the Artcaffe. She immediately got a job as a waitress.

Because she was still in school, she registered for night classes. She used the salary she got from her new job to expand her business.

ALSO SEE: Uhuru’s stylist opens men’s fashion shop

Like most entrepreneurs, she thought ahead. The money she got would enable her invest in fabrics. Emmah asked her mum for her old sewing machine and with her previous efforts, she was half way to realising her dream. The only thing she was left to do was to learn how to stitch. In high school, she had majored in the arts and hence had no practical sewing skills.

“As a dedicated learner, I would go to my tailor’s place of work in Kawangware every single day, sit with him the entire day so that he could teach me how to stitch,” she said with such fire in her eyes. YouTube was also part of her learning because she would watch DIY videos online.

With her new set of skills, she got to work. Emmah would make her own outfits and wear them to occasions such as church functions and weddings. Literally, she became a walking advertisement. With time, Emmah’s clothes business expanded beyond Kenya’s shores to the United States and Brazil thanks to networking with a couple of her foreign friends. Her pastor also helped her out along the way.

emmah-amoni Emmah Amoni: Mtumba dealer turned fashion designer

Emmah Amoni Wambugu:  Plans to start a fashion magazine company in future.

Her business helped her pay university fees for herself and her sister as well as take care of various domestic needs. She was getting her way out of the reliance lane and she vowed not to ask her parents for even a single cent.

Related: Kenyan fashionistas to sell goods on eBay

There have been some challenges along the way such as customers not paying for products bought on credit, people complaining about her products’ price tag as well as pressure to meet deadlines with no express charges. “Some customers always want unique products but get heavy-hearted when it comes to paying the price!” she exclaimed.

Emmah’s uniquely designed outfits vary from a price tag of Ksh1,500 to Ksh6,000. Currently, she works from home but has plans to move to an office space in order to expand her business. By doing so, she will also have to hire personnel to increase on her productivity numbers. “At the moment, I am learning embroidery because I want to make modern outfits with an African feel,” she added.

READ: Monkey: Male fashion house known by a nickname

With the interview almost over, she headed out to the kitchen to serve us some food. “By the way, I am a food fanatic. I love to cook and bake. I used to sell my pastries a while back. I told you I have the spirit of a hustler,” she happily stated. What can’t this lady do? When I asked her what advice she can give to people who want to follow her footsteps, Emmah said that one has to be patient, have the drive and the hustle power. In terms of finances, she stated that one should plan for the money they don’t have; think of what to do with the money before it comes.

What most successful business people start with is the plan, and then the money comes after. Emmah plans to start a fashion magazine company in future. She told this writer that she has so many plans ahead of her. “I am not fit for the office job. As I graduate next year, I want to be my own boss and run things my way. Watch out for me”, she stated. There is nothing as powerful as a person knowing what they are doing.

You can reach her on Facebook at Emmah Amoni Wambugu.
NEXT: PATRICIA KINGORI: Africa’s hope lies in entrepreneurship

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Entrepreneurs

Trendy internet-enabled kiosks make a hit

It costs one Ksh 400, 000 to purchase a kiosk from the holding company and own the franchise business

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The Trendy Franchise kiosks in Nakuru town.

A company in Nakuru has started an innovative franchise business which designs and distributes classic kiosks that were connected with internet.

Trendy Kiosks Operations Manager Nelson Mutegi said the franchise has made business easier, since the entrepreneurs do not require paying goodwill and rent once they have been issued with the kiosk.

Mutegi added that it cost Ksh400,000 to purchase a kiosk from the holding company and own the franchise business. Apart from the prototype kiosk, he said entrepreneurs are assisted to get a strategic site within the town.

Speaking to KNA in Nakuru, Mutegi said franchising give one the right to use a firm’s business model and brand for a prescribed period of time, adding it  is an alternative to building chain stores to distribute goods.

Mutegi said they wanted to introduce a model of franchise business to the Kenyan market because it has a greater incentive than a direct employee, since the entrepreneur has a direct stake in the business.

READ: Entrepreneur who makes Sh20 million in a bad month

He gave an example of Uchumi and Nakumatt Supermarkets which have struggled with their business because of holding on to the outdated model of building chain stores, which have proved to be cumbersome to manage.

The Manager added that had the two supermarkets adopted the franchise system, they would be thriving countrywide, instead of the current situation where they were all at the brink of collapse.

He said they have partnered with the County Government and have already been allocated with strategic sites where their franchisee would mount the Trendy Kiosks.

ALSO SEE: Secrets of becoming a top notch marketer

“We want to introduce and encourage business people, including hawkers, to perceive the County Governments as partners and vise-vasa, for business to thrive. The strained relationship between the County and business people is not healthy for a thriving economy. However, once the attitude was changed, the two will work as partners,’’ said Mutegi.

Mutegi said the Trendy Kiosks would also be introduced to other counties. He added that the kiosks could be used in selling fast moving goods such as newspapers, sodas, airtime-scratch-cards, sugar, rice cooking fat and a variety of snacks.

Unlike the conventional kiosks, they are colorful, fresh, neat, and they are likely to change the eye-sore mabati kiosks, which are popular in many towns.

 

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