February 24, 2021, GMT 00:00:00 +0300
He is a simple person who leads a simple life in the blue-collar industry. Jua kali should be specific. But focus and vision have brought him to today. A simple move by Stephen Obewo to break into the fast-growing construction industry has begun to pay off for the jua kali artisans in Siaya County. Stephen did not expect that his small business producing nails, barbed wire, chains and fence wires would grow rapidly. The 43-year-old CEO of Nambole Traders Company with more than 30 employees changed the nails of the region once. He shared the journey that started a year ago.
Not only nails, but also barbed wire and chain links. We have a wire drawing machine to straighten and adjust the wires, and then take them to the machine to make nails. The wire nail machine that produces nails from 2 to 4 inches in length can produce a bag of 40 kilograms of nails within 24 hours. I also have a chain connecting machine that can make 80 fences and chains from 4 to 10 feet in 24 hours, and a barbed wire machine that can make two types of wires, 480 meters and 610 meters. Machines that are energized run day and night.
I started as a millionaire. This was raised when I was busy in Juakali in the past, where I was engaged in many businesses of scrap metal, manufacturing work and other mechanical work. I also acquired some tractors, which I leased to farmers during the farming season. In addition, I am engaged in manufacturing, and I get contracts from construction projects from time to time; for example, I have completed the production of chairs used by local universities. When I raised funds, all of this helped.
During Juakali, I became interested as a factory technician. I have longed for this opportunity for too long. Whenever I participate in a trade show, I will focus my energy on those exhibitions that have manufacturing projects. When I realized that there were real opportunities for nails, chain links, and barbed wire, I also visited several companies to learn more about manufacturing operations, and visited countries such as China and India for benchmarking.
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Getting a skilled labor force at the beginning is a huge challenge. Before increasing the number of people, I initially had only three workers because it was a huge challenge to find someone who could operate and maintain the machine. At the same time obtaining raw materials is also a challenge. In addition, when I started, I didn't have this key machine called a wire drawing machine to pull nails and make nails. But once I buy it, we can do the painting ourselves, and our work becomes easier. Now we are able to pull the nails to any size needed and then guide them to the nail-making machine. Now, we have two plotters.
The biggest challenge is the lack of raw materials and the inability to provide a stable supply of products for the growing market. The demand for our products continues to grow, and there is a huge market for development, but the number of our machines is also limited. Another problem is that some people think that the quality of local products is poor, so they would rather choose a big brand. They don't believe that local companies can give them quality. However, we produce high-quality nails, fence wires, chain links and barbed wire, and there is no difference between the products we produce and those produced by large companies. We may be better.
My workers work in two shifts day and night, and now as demand grows, in the next few months, I will have to expand my business, and what we need to increase is the number of employees.
I am only one year old, so I may not have made too many mistakes, but I can safely say that the biggest mistake I made was to start this business without getting the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEB) certification. This led them to seize our products. I have been working for two months without their certificate. Now that we are compliant, everything has become smoother since then.
I urge them to be bold enough that once they decide to do something, they should focus on it and go all out. They should not be afraid at all, but they must also be prepared to take risks and be patient. First, they must be prepared to redouble their efforts.
I have my own product markets in the county and neighboring Kakamega, Kisumu, Homa Bay and Bungoma. When you visit a nearby county, you will get our products. We are trying to compete with giants that already have brand names. I am very happy that I have achieved good results in the market due to quality in a short period of time.
I sell 1kg nails at a retail price of Sh150 and a wholesale price of Sh110. The wholesale price of the chain per foot is Sh450 and the retail price is Sh500. For barbed wire, 610 meters is suitable for Sh4,200. The barbed wire is 480 meters long, and the wholesale price is Sh3,200 (retail price) and Sh3,500 (retail price).
The price changes with the rise and fall of the US dollar.
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