Mr Erastus Gitau from Maragua Sub county Murang’a is no ordinary entrepreneur. He is an innovator par excellence.
The 25-year-old has manufactured the first result-oriented product that has changed many dairy farmers’ fortunes by increasing their dairy cows’ milk production.
Amidst the global recession, massive job losses and unemployment among the youth in the country, Gitau is an example of sheer determination, passion and relentless efforts that have finally paid off as he has managed to carve a niche for himself in the manufacturing industry by producing a dairy animal booster supplement.
The IT graduate from Multimedia University of Kenya who in 2020 won a grant of Sh3.6 million in the Governments Mbele na Biz business plan competition, reminisces on his challenging, yet rewarding manufacturing journey, which started by rearing rabbits in his parents’ compound, while still at the university.
“By the time I joined university, I had saved some money, which I used to purchase some rabbits. I later got contracted by one company to buy the rabbits and they required each rabbit to weigh at least 3 kilograms,” he says.
It was challenging to have a six month’s rabbit weighing three kilograms and so Gitau had to think fast and carry out research on products that can increase weight faster in rabbits.
“After doing a lot of research, I stumbled upon products used in other countries, but it still was not working for the rabbits, interestingly though, it was effective in cows, since their digestive system is different from that of rabbits,” observes Gitau.
He would mix oats, NPM, rumate, sulphur, bran and molasses which he would hand compress into blocks in a long and tiring process and put into huge bottles then wait for three days for the blocks to dry.
He would later send the sample blocks to a few people and the feedback was overwhelming.
“The people I sent to noted that their cows had increased milk production and requested more to feed them” divulged Gitau adding that is how the dairy cows’ booster product was born.
In 2019, Gitau got a temporary census job and used the proceeds to purchase a machine to ease the production since hand compressing was exhausting and time consuming.
“I borrowed some money from my aunt and went to a juakali artisan, where we modified a mixing machine at Sh 69,000 since a new machine would have cost me Sh 200,000” he discloses
At the same time, Gitau applied for the Mbelenabiz business plan competition which is an initiative of the government of Kenya that provides youth led enterprises with grants for funding their new or existing business plans.
The machine Gitau had made was making only Four blocks at once and making 100 kilograms would take a week, yet customers were calling with orders.
He realized that the blocks were very cumbersome to transport and modified them into powder of 1kg, 2kgs and 5kgs, which he would mix on a wheelbarrow.
In 2020 Gitau was notified that his business plan had won Sh 3.6 million grant from the government in conjunction with the World Bank.
“Using the grant, I purchased a horizontal mixer, machine and the raw materials and set a godown in a 50 by 100 piece of land at Kihiu Mwiri in Murang’a South and started mass production of the product,” he further expounds.
The young manufacturer goes to milk collection centres every morning, and visits women groups in the afternoon, where he meets dairy farmers, his largest market.
Initially he would produce 250kgs, but now he produces one ton per production, which he sells at Sh. 180 per Kg, Sh. 350 for 2kgs and Sh. 750 for five kilograms.
Gitau, who adheres to a strict POS system for record keeping has two permanent employees and envisions purchasing a car to aid in the distribution, which is currently done using motorbikes.
The product, he says, has ingredients that aid rumen functions by increasing a cow’s appetite. The said ingredients push a cow to eat more dry matter and drink more water and consequently increases milk production by 2-3 litres. It also adds weight to beef cows.
The young innovator advises the youth not to be scared of starting small and gradually grow their enterprises.
“Focus on the real self. Above all live within your means and if you have an idea, execute it immediately,” he said.
By Florence Kinyua