Young entrepreneur spots and seizes opportunities in the poultry business
By Agnes Mbithi
Today, the spirit of entrepreneurship has gained credence globally. In this day and age of digitization, people are now confident of venturing into business and hitting the road to success. It is important to note that you don’t have to wait until you are advanced in age in order to put your business plans into action. Undoubtedly, life as an entrepreneur can be tough. Most of the tasks, ranging from securing and servicing orders to hiring people rest on the entrepreneur’s shoulders. Despite such challenges, this journey is amazing and fulfilling.
Pius Wekesa, the founder of Pius Poultry incubators is a young entrepreneur. He begun by selling poultry in his local village at Bumula, Bungoma county. Wekesa is currently an undergraduate student in law at the University Of Nairobi. Growing up, he used to observe how his grandmother reared her poultry and developed interest in the business. After finishing his high school education, he decided to venture into poultry farming. “The passion that I had for poultry farming since childhood gave me the push to take the risk of starting the business,” he says adding that he decided to specialize in Kienyeji chickens since their demand was high.
Usually, to set up a successful business, one requires a lot of capital. Wekesa explains that with the help of his cousin, he was able to finance his business. In poultry farming, one has to have a spacious facility that can accommodate the number of birds he is planning to keep. Despite facing some financial constraints, Wekesa was able to start with approximately fifty broiler chicks primarily for commercial purposes.
The financial returns that he realized after selling the chickens which were just two months old enabled him to buy a big number of broiler chicks and other necessary requirements. With time, his poultry enterprise grew and he was able to mobilise some savings to expand it. He also employed two workers. As luck would have it, he spotted a business opportunity: the need of incubators for hatching eggs artificially. “Today, most people are interested in keeping layers rather than kienyeji chickens hence the high demand for incubators,” Wekesa says.
Running the Pius poultry incubators business has been the most challenging part of Wekesa’s journey as an entrepreneur. For instance, one should know how and where to source for high quality incubators. Fortunately, through online tutorials, he was able to know how to use incubators and got detailed information of how to import them. Although he had saved some money from his poultry farming business, he was still not stable enough financially to import incubators. After realizing that he could purchase other equipment such as cages, automatic drinkers, pig feeders and other poultry accessories, he decided to source for more funds. His efforts still did not bore any fruits considering that the business was still a start-up. The situation got worse. At some point, he had to close down the shop. After experiencing a lot of challenges, he relocated his shop. Unfortunately in the process, he lost most of his customers. According to him, relocating to a new place was like starting afresh and this affected the growth of the business. Fortunately, he took these challenges in his stride and soldiered on. Through savings and financial support from a close friend, he was able to import a number of incubators for a start.
He says that at the beginning the business was slow. With time, it gradually picked.
His biggest break came during the pick of the Covid- 19 pandemic when most people opted to farm after losing their jobs. Despite having a large store in Nairobi that sells incubators, cages, pig feeders, automatic poultry drinkers and accessories he still sells poultry. “Most of my customers are interested in buying poultry but they later come for incubators. As an entrepreneur one has to diversify his product offering in order to get better returns. The more products you offer the more clients you attract,” he says. In order to reach many customers, he uses social media platform like Face book, WhatsApp and Instagram as his marketing tools.
To start with, he says that most clients don’t know how to use the incubators, hence negatively affecting the hatching process. “When clients are not able to hatch chicks, the blame falls on me, yet the problem is not on my side,” he laments. If the incubators continue malfunctioning, they are returned to him because they have a warranty. This negatively affects the business since a replacement is given to the client and a lot of cash is used to repair the incubator.
Wekesa’s woes all point at costly investment and running the store. “This is a challenge that the government can however tackle through reducing taxes on imported machines,” he avers. According to him, overcoming these challenges was not easy since he had to offer home training services to poultry farmers purchasing the incubators. This took a lot of his time. Later, he realized that the home training services that he was offering were still not sufficient to some clients since the machines ended up being used by other people or employees who tended to mishandle them.
Secondly, this kind of business is very competitive. However, Wekesa and his employees have been able to counter competition by offering his customers a delighting experience. He also ensures that he gives his customers quality and durable machines. “There are two types of customers – the broker and the direct user – and the services offered to both of them ought to be different,” says Wekesa. “For the brokers, you just have to give them a little training since they are not the end users, but for the direct customers, you have to be very careful,” he adds. The direct users should be given detailed information about the product. Additionally, they should provide their mobile phone contacts so that video clips with guidelines on how to use the incubators can be shared with them via WhatsApp. Wekesa also makes follow ups to ensure that the machines are working and that the clients are satisfied.
According to Wekesa, digitization has offered a lot of solutions to the agribusiness world. For instance, it has created job opportunities for the young. Identifying the gaps that are left out makes the agribusiness sector have more space and time to digitize the traditional practices. “By using different social media platforms, we are able to market our products which get to multiple people globally and therefore we are able to connect with different clients all over the country,” he says. He aspires to take his business to greater heights by adding more shops in different locations. “I intend to start a big factory that will be selling incubators locally and internationally, besides creating employment for the youth,” says Wekesa.
Advice to young entrepreneurs
Wekesa advises his fellow young people who are aspiring to be entrepreneurs to venture into businesses that they are passionate about. “Before venturing into any business, the young people should get mentors to help them gain more knowledge and understanding on how to run them,” he says. “Poultry farming is a good business that yields high profits and it doesn’t require a lot of capital to set up; it is therefore a good choice for the young people,” he adds. He also advises the young people to market their enterprises and to develop products which add value to the society.