“My name is Mkamboi Mwakale. I am the founder and CEO of Saru Organics, a beauty care company that deals with natural organics.
“I have not always been an entrepreneur. My employment stint started in 2008 shortly after graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Information Systems from USIU. I got an internship at Kenya Airports Authority where it soon dawned on me how boring my tasks were.
“I would do print jobs, typing, assist elderly staff on how to use Ms-Office and install software. I was 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 ‘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.
“Unfortunately, we closed shop after one year due to high operating expenses and debts that didn’t match the income it generated. In 2012, I got a job as a personal assistant in a PR firm where I earned Sh10,000 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 later, I quit.
“Then I got a job as a research assistant in some executive office. This job did not last either. It took too long to rise up the ranks. Also, I found out that it would be very hard for me to switch to another department.
“I began to look for a fresh job and in 2014, an opening for a programmes manager popped up in an NGO. Here, I earned Sh120,000 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 employment. My previous employers all recorded very short stints on 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.
“I took my savings and I opened Sheerah Agencies, 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 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 moisturising 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 Sh50,000 which I hived off my merchandising company. I used part of the money to purchase Moringa seeds and buy a cold-pressing machine to extract oils from the seeds. But to get the business flying, I needed more operating capital.
“Fortunately, my mother and uncle agreed to partner up with me and injected Sh300,000. 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 Sh300,000 capital. We also borrowed Sh200,000 from a chama. This enabled us to buy more raw materials and packaging.
“Since then, we have been re-investing all profits and revenue that the business makes into the company. It is now one year since Saru Organics started. We are now 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, 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.”
Mkamboi Mwakale’s takeaways
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 ‘bonus 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.