Christine Kanana Mukira is a young entrepreneur with an academic background in law, business administration, and office management. Kanana quit her NGO job to start a yogurt-making business in Nairobi, Kenya. Maureen Murori, our SLA contributor paid a visit to an enthusiastic Kanana who shared her dream of having a one-stop shop for fresh, natural, products straight from the farm to her clients’ kitchens.
It’s early Saturday morning. After beating the Nairobi traffic, I head to meet a lady whose yogurt business is gaining roots. She had promised to let me in on what keeps her going even when business goes south.
Christine Kanana Mukira meets me at the entrance to an estate in Ngara. It is situated on the outskirts of Nairobi central business district.
We sit outside her shop, which she co-owns with another business owner. While Kanana’s specialty is the production of natural yogurt, her friend makes fresh fruit juice.
“I don’t think I’m an entrepreneur,” Kanana worriedly tells me as she settles into a chair opposite mine. After pleasantries and small talk to break the ice, she relaxes and takes me through her entrepreneurial journey.
Kanana had always had an entrepreneurial spirit, way before her current yogurt business. Back in 2013, she used to own a poultry business but had to leave Nairobi when she got a job with an NGO. She worked in the social development world and enjoyed helping community members. But this was not to be for long, she wanted something different. “I needed a new challenge”, Kanana told me.
After three years, she had had enough of being an employee. She quit and went back into running her own business. This time, it was yogurt making.
“After some research, I was concerned about the ingredients used in making yogurt, things easily found in supermarkets like milk powder, lots of sugars and flavours,” Kanana says. “I wanted to create a product that used purely natural milk and natural sugars.” According to Kanana, her yogurt is made of pure milk, natural vanilla plant, strawberries, and natural sugars.
Her six-month-old business which started with just three litres of milk has since grown to over forty liters a week, and demand is still growing. ”To get to forty liters a week was not easy”, Kanana admits. She said were it not for her passion, she would have given up a long time ago.
When she first started out, she was fortunate to not only find a reliable and affordable fresh milk vendor but also customers who believed in her new product. Without prior knowledge or skills, Kanana says she had to practically do everything from sourcing for milk, collection, producing yogurt, and even sales.
However, she learned quickly how to get some of the workloads off her shoulders. With the increasing yogurt demands, she was able to convince her vendor to deliver milk at her shop once a week, or as demand increased.
The challenges so far
No sooner had she tackled the delivery challenge than another popped up. She realized that sometimes, customers did not drink as much yogurt as she had produced. Because she didn’t use preservatives, by the end of a week, she had to give out yogurt for free before it could go bad.
The weather can also be a challenge for her business.
“When it is cold, as it is now, not many customers drink yogurt. They prefer hot beverages,” Kanana said. She has since reduced the number of litres she makes per week especially during the rainy season in Nairobi.
Is she seeking to become wealthy from the business?
Although she acknowledges that capital can be a challenge for some entrepreneurs, she quips “a business idea is capital in itself.”
“Wealth is the ultimate goal for every entrepreneur,” Kanana states, “but passion is the driving force, and love for the business makes it even easier and more enjoyable!”
She cautions entrepreneurs not to be in haste to make profit from a startup. Business is a risk and stability usually begins between the sixth month and the first year, and for some, even longer. Eventually, only the passionate and patient remain strong enough to watch their business take shape.
Kanana wants to expand to the sale of more natural products so she can encourage people to adopt healthy lifestyles. Since her business is located within an estate, she hopes to be the source of all natural products for homes within the locality.
“My dream is to have a one-stop shop where I can sell fresh, natural, products straight from the farm to my client’s kitchen,” says the enthusiastic entrepreneur whose inspiration comes from her entrepreneurial parents. Kanana believes that natural products will help fight some of the nutrition-related chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, among others.
Kanana says that customers often ask for fresh milk, and she is thinking of diversifying into that direction. Although many supermarkets have introduced milk dispensers, Kanana says this is not a challenge for her. After all, the stores specialize in skimmed milk, while she will go for whole milk which she says has more nutritional values for children, pregnant women and the elderly.
Advice for other entrepreneurs
Kanana urges upcoming entrepreneurs to ensure the right location for their businesses. This way, customers can easily access your product. And also, you’d enjoy proximity to raw materials needed for production.
As for friends, the young entrepreneur says, “in business, you will lose or gain friends. Some will support you, and others will not even want to be associated with you.”
How it all ended
One good thing about interviewing entrepreneurs is that you get to taste their products or to take souvenirs home. I was in luck today. I was served some natural strawberry yogurt. It was thick, smooth, fruity and delicious!
Tell us what amazing entrepreneurial things women are doing in your communities here.