“I was born to do sales,” Emmy Soy-Butaki chuckles. “I took to sales the way a fish takes to water.” Emmy is 35 and married, with four children.

She is the head of business development (sales, really) and a co-director at Daspros Industries, a company that manufacturers building and construction materials. Daspros launched in March 2015.

Emmy says, “We’re only manufacturing two products now but we’re in the process of expanding our portfolio to include two other products.

The products we manufacture are Easi Filler Coat and Daspros Gypcoat.

“Easi Filler is a skimming compound; it’s used on the rough cast of naked walls, before they’re painted. Easi Filler gives the wall a smooth white finish. You don’t have to plaster the walls when you use our product; this saves on paint and cuts the total costs down by 30 per cent.”

Emmy adds,

“The Gypcoat is a joint compound. When partitioning a large hall, you partition it with white gypsum boards. The boards are screwed together using a metal profile but the joints on these profiles are usually visible, so you cover them up and smoothen them down using our compound. It’s also used on ceilings, to put in decorations and lights.”

The company’s manufacturing plant on Mombasa Road is a warehouse with a high ceiling and heavy machinery that’s ran by a workforce of four men. It smells of gypsum.

Emmy’s office sits in a cosy corner in one of the back rooms. “I’m rarely here, though,” she says. “I’m usually out at construction sites talking to the fundis, selling our products and doing real jua kali work. Even these red heels,” she points at her shoes, “I only wore them for this interview.”

Emmy has an undergraduate in chemical and process engineering from Moi University. “I was drawn into the sciences because of my mum. She used to be a chemistry teacher. My father worked as a engineering manager at a tea factory. During the long holidays while at university, I interned in the tea and sugar industry, and I knew I wanted to work in such a job after graduating. The process of how raw materials were turned into a finished product thrilled me.”

Emmy graduated in December 2006 and got a permanent position as a cosmetologist with a local hair and skincare company. She worked in the lab, formulating products. “I liked the job because of the chemical process but I didn’t enjoy being in the lab,” she says. “I worked with them for a year and half then moved to a company that manufactures paint.”

It’s at the paint company that Emmy went into technical sales and found her passion. “I loved talking to people. I also loved the challenge of pursuing a client and the adrenaline rush that comes with closing the sale. It never gets old!” Emmy giggles. She continues, “I relocated to Kisumu in 2010 and was based there for two years before leaving the job, and moving to Eldoret to work as a projects administrator with Moi University. It was a desk job – I was about to have my second child and wanted to be in an environment that had less pressure and was less demanding. I had a side-hustle consulting as a cosmetics formulator.”

Emmy had her twin boys in 2013 then joined the sales team of a company that sold chemical raw materials for all industries. “The head office was based in South Africa, we were housed by their sister company here in Nairobi. This sister company was bought out a year later. I couldn’t see a future there so I took it as an opportunity to become my own person.”

Emmy had met her business partner in 2014, when she sold him raw materials. “He was running a logistics company, and was selling technology and building materials.

He was also importing the construction materials we would later start manufacturing ourselves, from Egypt and South Africa. What he had was a business idea and a ready customer base; he knew there was a gap in the market. He needed someone for technical sales. That’s where I came in.”

Emmy left her job in October 2015 and went into the business with her co-founder; her family supported her fully in the transition. “The construction and manufacturing industry is capital intensive,” she continues. “I took a bank loan to finance my share of our starting capital.

When I got deep into the business, the new challenge we faced was competing with the imports from China, because most people that are constructing import everything from China. I also learned there are Chinese companies based in Kenya that are manufacturing these products and are selling them at a fraction of what we do.”

Despite this, Emmy was able to get several repeat customers and the business turned sustainable after a year. “We offer our clients a superior product that lasts longer.”

She adds, “My target is to sell 4,000 bags and buckets of each product a month. Right now, we’re doing 2,500 bags and buckets. We’re also supplying to the market in Nairobi only but we’re looking for stockists across the country.”

First published here