Empowering local entrepreneurship

It is 5 AM…

The day is dawning. Soon enough, darkness will be giving way to light and the sun will be gracing the earth with its warmth if we get lucky again. The alarm clock is at it again sending that reminder that it is time to part ways with the warm blanket. This is needful and must be done. Time awaits no man!

It is at that moment that Peter Mwangi reaches out and turns off his alarm. He then quickly jumps out of bed and heads straight to the shower. In two minutes, he is done. He dresses up in a pair of jeans and a checked shirt. ‘It was warm yesterday so probably I will be sun-kissed today as well’, he thinks to himself.  Peter hurriedly shipshape his bed before heading to the kitchen to prepare some breakfast.

Half past 5 AM…

The young man is now ready to embrace the day. He reaches for the door, gives it a determined twist, it opens before him, he signals the gatekeeper ‘see you later’ and off he goes.

As he walks to his work station just 200 metres from where he lives, he reaches for his phone stashed in the left side pocket of his blue jeans. After a few seconds of struggling to get it out, he finally holds it up and goes to his favourite contact- Michael Kuria. (Michael is the stockist for Farmers Choice Ltd (FCL) products in Ruiru town, Kimbo area). His phone battery is low yet he needs to make the most important call of the day. He must hurry! “Good morning Michael. Are you at the shop yet? … I am headed there for my day’s supply… oooh ok… thank you” he smiles, hangs up then puts the phone back to his pocket.

He gets to his work station and heads straight to his neighbour who owns a shop where he keeps his trolley. As it has been his norm, the 25-year-old gets his cleaning items each morning grabs his trolley and meticulously cleans it up.  He then lights up his jiko and places it in the compartment underneath the trolley. He then rushes over to Michael’s shop, his ‘main man’ and finds his supply ready, “Thanks man. Let’s catch up later. Let me head back”, Peter tells Michael as he collects his smokie products then goes back to his work station.

Peter is a final year student at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Agriculture, Food and Beverage. He has been a smokie vendor with FCL for two years. He takes online classes Monday to Thursday and Friday through the weekend, he attends the one on one class. He has one employee who runs his business while he is at school on weekends.

Peter invested capital of Kes. 2,000 in the smokie vending business. Lucky for him, he already had a trolley which he has since given a facelift to meet the market standards. He started by selling one packet of smokie as a trial. But two years later, he sells over eight packets and makes an approximate profit of Kes.2, 000 per day.

“I am happy that with this business, I am able to support myself and also support my parents in paying school fees for my younger siblings. It is a good business as it allows me to study as well”, Peter says.

6 AM…

The ‘early bird’ customers are already flocking.

“Please wash your hands here first”, he points them to his handwashing station next to his trolley and provides them with paper towels to dry their hands and a trash can to avoid littering. At his trolley display, Peter has a separate shelf where he places other smokie accompaniments- tomato sauces/chillies and salt, to discourage customers from touching them. This he says is part of the measures he put in place to maintain hygiene and cleanliness as it allows just him to access and touch the sauce bottles. He also has a pay bill number for his customers to encourage digital transaction rather than touching money.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, FCL has worked closely with smokie vendors who play an important role in the supply chain of one of their key products-smokies. And to ensure that they remain in business, FCL organised educational training for the vendors in various locations. They were trained on proper hygiene and sanitation, how to wear masks and the importance of social distancing in addition to other safety guidelines as directed by the Government for food vendors. Moreover, FCL donated hand sanitisers and masks to the vendors and also subsidised the smokie prices for them.

A few metres from Peter’s trolley is another smokie vendor, Edwin Kamau, a 29-year-old young man. After a long time of trying to get a job, a friend encouraged him to try his luck in smokie business. Five years gone by, Edwin is happy that he is his own boss and is able to support himself and his parents.

About 200 metres from Edwin, is yet another vendor, Elizabeth Wangari, a mother of two children. She was a hawker before becoming a smokie vendor. Hawking did not work out due to health issues that forced her to stay at home for some time which meant no source of income. Through a friend’s request to run her business while she was on maternity break, Elizabeth decided to start her own business afterwards. It is now one year into the business and she is pleased.

“I don’t need to move a lot. I just prepare my smokies and wait for customers to come. I am now comfortably saving up to buy a piece of land as part of my retirement plan and also take my youngest son to college”.

Smokie vending in the eyes of many may not seem like a lucrative business, yet it has created employment for many people especially the youths. With an investment of about Kes.10, 000 to buy the smokie trolley and the smokies alongside the accompaniments, one is ready to get started. The vendors are always encouraged to identify busy streets like bus stops where customers are easily accessible. From a 5kg smokie pack, a vendor is able to make an average of between Kes.2000 to Kes.3000 profit per day. FCL is proud to be among the leading companies in Kenya that are tackling unemployment through smokie vending business.