Please provide examples of any previous entrepreneurial initiatives you have pioneered.
When I joined The Turning Point Trust, it had been reporting losses month after month since its establishment, I wrote a strategic plan on how to convert the land to self sustaining, among the things that I introduced was conservation farming which cut down labour cost by over 80%, I also pioneered the composting of the waste from the farm which cut down the input cost by 20%. Finally I adopted Open Pollinated Variety seeds which allowed us to produce our own seeds without having to go back to the shops. We then used staggered planting to ensure continued supply of food throughout the year. The results, by the end of six months the farm registered its first profits and was in a position to feed a total of 50 persons in the farm.
Furthermore, in starting this company, initially when I started working with rice farmers on their farm waste, I thought that producing green fuel was the way to go, and I invested all my time making the briquettes. When we tried the briquettes they were a total fail, because we did not anticipate rice husk is 20% ash, and as we burnt it, the fuel was quickly covered by ash. Despite spending 6 months trying to improve the product, I bowed down and conceded that briquetting was not the way. We did not give up but continued experimenting, and we learned that we could make a new form of low-toxin, low-cost mosquito coils from the waste. I convinced the largest mosquito coil company (KAPI) in Kenya to purchase the material from us. Over a few months, we supplied more than one million mosquito coils in Kenya. However, KAPI moved their facility far away, and it was no longer economical for us to supply the material. Instead of giving up, I realized the new potential of turning waste into soil amendment, and I never looked back.
Beyond your existing team, who else are you working with to achieve your objectives, eg partners, advisors, mentors?
On the board of advisors of the company, we have Eric Mwandia (Chairman, Kenya Airport Parking Services Ltd.; director, Azicon Kenya Ltd.) and Wycliffe Muga (Senior Editor, the Star). Eric is a successful businessman in Kenya, and has introduced us to key customers. Eric has been helping us obtain key product distribution partners through his personal network. Wycliffe is well connected in the social impact sector in Kenya, and has led us to secure the support of key authorities within Kenya. For example, Wycliffe introduced us to Dr. Judy Wakhungu, who was appointed by the President of Kenya to serve as the Cabinet Secretary for Environment. Our project has the expressed support of Dr. Wakhungu and her colleagues.
In terms of product development, we have partnered with two large commercial farms—AAA Growers and Beram Farm—that have been testing our product for their different crops at a large scale.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is a world- renowned school of engineering. We work closely with researchers from both D-Lab and the Reacting Gas Dynamics Group to maintain quality control and to improve our conversion technologies. Notably, in August 2015, our company was selected as a partner company by the MIT Sloan Entrepreneurs in International Development (SEID) group, which provides pro bono consulting service (by MIT MBA students) for selected companies with a clear social mission. In fact, two SEID consultants will be paying us a visit in January 2016. Over the next few months, we look forward to interacting with these students in mapping a detailed product distribution strategy.