Being a professional psychologist, I started by interning with Kenya Probation Services at Milimani High Court, Nairobi. I quit later to follow my desire of promoting entrepreneurial culture among youth as a tool to eradicate unemployment in Kenya.
This desire was given a big boost by my training at the YALI RLC East Africa. I have also been so fortunate as to attend the Mandela Washington Fellowship and reap the full benefits of the larger YALI initiative.
I am the founder and CEO of Cleanstar Limited, a soap manufacturing company. We manufacture soap from waste cooking oils collected from hotels. Previously these oils had been disposed of in the sewer system and to water streams and soil. Cleanstar has come in to preserve the environment by converting the waste oil into raw material for high-quality soap which has the ability to form lather easily with hard water. It is affordable to low-income earners and for multipurpose use. The company is incubated at the Chandaria Business Incubation and Innovation Center.
Before joining YALI Cleanstar was doing a cold process manufacturing by using steel made trays. I used to make 45 bars in a day, serving about 70 retail customers. I had no employees and not even a production site. Everything was happening in the office.
The YALI experience was terrific! Being in the business and entrepreneurship track, I gained skills in pitch development, market research, design thinking and establishing long-lasting partnerships. The experience opened my mind and changed my way of doing business. Five months after graduating from the YALI RLC, I successfully applied for the Mandela Washington Fellowship, with the sole reason of networking with even greater connections from outside East and Central Africa. I not only achieved my networking agenda, but I also learned how business is run from successful American companies.
YALI training wholesomely transformed my business. After the training, I appreciated the need for research in business and so I engaged in intense market research to clearly understand the needs of my customers and developed products meeting those needs.
I then used the YALI experience to polish my pitching skills which helped me to secure an investor in the business. Soon after, I managed to buy a soap plodder machine which has scaled production from 45 bars a day to 5 tons in 8 hrs. This has helped me to expand the business’ customer base to over 9000 customers, up from only 70! I have also been in a position to apply leadership skills to manage my team of six employees and accelerate growth.
Mandela Washington Foundation enabled me to make great networks putting me in a position to consult with leading experts from SEED SPOT in Washington DC. I have also secured a grant from USADF from D.C which I intend to use it in scaling production. It will be used to purchase packaging machine, doing the packaging of the products, branding, marketing, and advertising.
Cleanstar Ltd is now growing beyond Kenya. We are currently pursuing partnerships with YALI alumni from countries like Malawi, Tanzania, and Zanzibar to export our multipurpose soap. Thanks to the YALI program, I am more than determined to use Cleanstar Ltd to impact people’s lives as I grow the business to even greater heights.
This article was written by Joseph Ngugi Nyambura a member of Cohort 7.
To learn more about the YALI East Africa Regional Leadership Center click here.