ANDREW SHONKO, FOUNDER, MY SHAMBA EXPRESS AND DIGITEK KENYA ON THE NEED TO SEIZE BUSINESS OPPORTUNITIES

ANDREW SHONKO, FOUNDER, MY SHAMBA EXPRESS AND DIGITEK KENYA
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Entrepreneurship is not for the faint-hearted.  Indeed, savvy entrepreneurs identify business opportunities, work relentlessly in order to benefit from them and create wealth in the process. However, every journey has its fair share of pitfalls.  Only those who are patient and resilient can emerge victorious. AsVince Lombardi once said: “Winners never quit and quitters never win.” Andrew Shonko, a thirty year old entrepreneur has made good use of these wise words. There are a lot of vital   lessons other young entrepreneurs can learn from his remarkable journey.

The ambitious entrepreneur was born in a family of ten in Narok County. Despite being raised in a humble background, deep down his heart, Shonko was confident that he was destined for great things in this world.  After secondary school, he took up a job in a land surveyor’s office, saved money and financed his university education.  This enabled him to join St. Paul’s University where he took a Certified Public Accountants (CPA) course. Fortunately, he   later got a sponsorship and switched his course to an undergraduate degree in communication and public relations. Upon graduating, he managed to get another sponsorship which opened doors for him to pursue a master’s degree in business administration (MBA), specializing in strategic management.

The journey

Shonko is the   founder of My Shamba Express, which offers farmers a platform to market their produce.  The firm focuses on Sustainable Development Goal (SDG)  2, Zero Hunger, by  ensuring that there is enough  quality and sustainable food production in the country and East Africa at large. My Shamba Express also provides small-scale farmers with seedlings and fertilizers and links them to ready markets.  Moreover, it links farmers with financial institutions in case they want to access credit. “The main goal of creating this organization was to make people’s lives and livelihoods more habitable and fulfilling,” says Shonko.

 Signing   up

My Shamba Express is an online platform that is simplified for use by rural farmers with an aim of digitizing agriculture. In order to sign up, one should visit the firm’s website. “You can sell or buy any farm produce on the website,” says Shonko adding  that  the  platform bridges  the gap of time , besides  helping    farmers  to market their produce without  going  through  middle men. My Shamba offers a training and development programme to   small-scale farmers that focuses mainly on agribusiness. This entails the importance of conducting   market research, testing soils and consulting agronomists on the best time to plant, bearing in mind the adverse effects   of climate change. In the near future, Shonko aspires to introduce farming technologies such as hydroponics and the importance of using drones for irrigation in the training programme.

Passion

Nine months ago, Shonko registered My Shamba Express officially. What inspired him to venture into this business was that he grew up in a family of farmers.  He therefore had a first hand experience of the challenges that farmers  face  and he made it his mission to try and change that. Creating employment for the youth was also his inspiration. “I believe that agriculture is a source of livelihood for many households. If you look at the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Kenya, more than 33% is generated by agriculture,” he says adding  that  he was   inspired to venture into entrepreneurship   by that fact .

Impact

My Shamba Express equips farmers with the right knowledge of the risks that come with different   types of farming. With the right training, farmers can avoid these roadblocks. One of the challenges that farmers face is    shortage of finance.  The firm   therefore   partners with several financial institutions that do not ask for logbooks or title deeds as collateral while advancing loans. On the contrary, the farmers’ produce is used as collateral which is a more flexible option. According to the data available in the market, more than 5,000 farmers actively use the App. It has attracted over 10,000 users in a period of one month.

Achievements

Typically, people measure satisfaction differently.  Shonko is not an exception. He says that his biggest achievement to date is hearing his customers’ testimonials regarding how his platform has transformed their lives.  Often, farmers make huge   losses due to exploitation by middle men – popularly known brokers.  However, with My Shamba Express, there is direct communication between farmers and their customers. As the owner manager of the nine month old organization, Shonko says that having more and more farmers signing up to their website and taking one step towards growth every day is an achievement.

“The vision of My ShambaExpress is to eventually become a one-stop shop for every farmer,” says Shonko. “We are planning   to   have a network of agronomists and veterinarians on call in order to offer the necessary  solutions  to farmers,”  he adds. 

He advises aspiring entrepreneurs not to be afraid of failing since that motivates them to work harder. “They should also have a lot of faith in their potential as they endeavour to succeed in their ventures,” he adds.

 Financial constraint is one of the challenges faced by the young firm. “We desired to hit the road running within the first year, but things have not gone as we planned,” says the entrepreneur. “To that end, we are hoping to get an investor who will partner with us in scaling up the business,” he adds.

Diversifying

Shonko has another company called Digitek Kenya which offers digital marketing solutions. “Right now, there is a big paradigm shift because traditional marketing has been disrupted by digitization,” he avers. One of the things that Digitek Kenya does for its clients is developing digital marketing strategic plans.  It also offers   graphic design, billboard advertisements, videography, website development   and   content creation. It targets hospitality, real estate and beauty industries.

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