A visit to her grandmother’s njugu farm in Kisumu county marked the beginning of Esther Kojwang’s entrepreneurship that has seen her move from just stocking peanuts and butter to dozens of other foods.
Ms Kojwang’, then a fresh graduate, took selfies of herself in the farm and shared online, only to get dozens of enquiries.
She then decided to add some value and used Sh9000 to make 75 jars of peanut butter that she sold on coming back to Nairobi.
The trained hotelier used her initial capital to hire a butter making machine and buy packaging jars and 2015 marked the birth of her company Eastnut Foods Limited.
The mother of one has since added honey, chia seeds, baobab powder, dill seeds, activated charcoal, sunflower oil, fenugreek seeds, Himalayan salt, shea butter, cocoa butter, hibiscus tea, molasses and many other products to her shop.
“We had been making peanut butter since I was a young girl my grandma literally made it using a mortar and pestle and we could apply on bread or make peanut sauce or for cooking our veggies so basically I was born into a peanut butter making family,” Ms Kojwang told Nairobi Hustle.
Her first group of customers had to meet her in town to pick their butter but later she struck a deal with relatives who stocked her butter for clients to pick up from their shops.
Ms Kojwang’ then added to her stock honey that she bought from a beekeeper she had gone to deliver peanut butter to.
“I had been looking for large scale honey beekeepers for so long so one day when I was delivering peanut butter I met a large scale farmer who gave me 10 litres and I sold them all in less than a week. Since then, honey has been my fastest moving product and I usually take my time to educate my customers on why for instance this month honey is dark and the other month its lighter and that way they keep coming back,” she explained.
Eastnut has four permanent employees and casuals whose number varies depending on the demand.
Ms Kojwang’ manages her workforce and Nairobi and Kisumu shops through constant communication with her employees to ensure they understand the products and pass on the information to consumers.
“My biggest challenge is that people want non-processed foods like honey but do not know what raw honey looks like so they come to us and ask why it is not as smooth as the one stocked on supermarket shelves. The other challenge is seasonality as sometimes you find there is honey in Baringo, another time its not there and I have to get it from Arua,” she said.
The entrepreneur tests all her honey for moisture content so as to ensure its not honey that will ferment and checks for any additives to ensure her clients get the most natural product.
Her operations feature a lot of food exhibitions that she enjoys setting up for and interacting with customers who eventually get hooked to her honey and peanut butter.
Ms Kojwang’s advice to budding entrepreneurs; “business is not easy but it works out eventually just be consistent and be brave and you will find more efficient ways of operating.”