NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 8 – Antony Kirori, 44, has never been employed, and it’s by choice. He is now the CEO and the founder of Green Pencils Limited, a company that manufacturers pencils from old newspapers.
From a garbage collector to the multi-million shilling pencil manufacturing firm, Kirori is not only an entrepreneur, but an innovator and an environmentalist.
“I always try to change trash into cash,” he says during an interview at his factory in Juja.
Kirori holds a diploma in Electronic Engineering from Technical University of Kenya formerly known as Kenya Polytechnic. He never wanted to become and engineer, but did the course for love of mathematics.
Green Pencils Limited started in 2012 after a lot of research about the market. The sector was perhaps forgotten in the 80s when the government banned the manufacturing of the product in the country using wood to reduce deforestation.
“From 2006, I researched about the market for pencils and I discovered that 14 billion pencils are used in the world and more than two million pencils are used on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange annually. In Kenya we use about 100 million pencils, all made from wood, painted and imported,” he tells me.
He saw this as an opportunity and went ahead to try the idea of making pencils, not using wood against the law, but using old newspaper which is one of the item that ‘expires’ in less than 24 hours.
Kirori is mostly working with people living with disability who collect the old newspapers and sell them to him.
“I just realised that I could indeed turn paper back to wood and make money. Let me ask you, what will you do with today’s newspaper, tomorrow? Today, what are you doing with yesterday’s newspaper, last week’s and so on? So I thought, if I can be able to convert that paper back to wood, there lies a market,” he says with an optimistic look.
Before the newspaper becomes a pencil, it goes through 18 stages. One thing that is so vivid about the final product is that the body – which is usually made of wood- now consists the papers wrapped tightly on top of each other on the usual pencil graphite up to the required size.
Manufacturing of paper pencils has been done and tried in many countries but challenge remains the hardening stage to prevent the final product from being destroyed especially when it get into contact with water.
But this did not prevent him. He made the hardening machine locally just to actualise his idea.”We have just made it here in Juja,” he tells me as we walk around his small factory.
Before venturing into pencil making, Kirori had done garbage collection for 15 years, a business that helped him get capital of the now Sh30million worth of a company.