What started as a tiny business enterprise worth Sh. 3,000 almost 20 years ago, with two employees has now extended into a giant venture worth more than one million, offering employment to many people who are now able to support themselves as well as their families.
The business mainly deals in floor carpets, traditional baskets, lamp shades, and fire less cookers among many more. This are entirely made using papyrus reeds, grass and parts of trees. The finished products can be used in interior design, decoration among other uses.
The business has attracted many people across the nation and beyond because of its uniqueness in the modern day world turned around by technological advancement.
“I like my business because it is unique. So far, since I started it alongside my wife, we’ve not seen it anywhere else,” Said Mr. Musa Obondo Owiti who runs the business alongside his wife Mrs. Pamela Anyango Obondo and together they have been blessed with four children.
Many of their customers are people wishing to venture into the hotel and tourism business. They buy the wares for decoration and food preservation. Others include, wedding planners who use the baskets for carrying flowers and gifts. The business has also created job opportunities to tens of people across parts of Western and Nyanza regions who the Owiti have assigned to make the wares for them.
The workers are mainly old men because they have the skills and experience needed in crafting the wares. The wares are made in this West Kenya regions because the raw materials are readily available there and there is enough manpower to carry out the work according to Mr. Owiti.
Once they are ready for market, Mr. Owiti travels all the way from Nairobi to Kisumu where he picks the finished wares and transports them back to the city using public means.
“These wares are made in parts of Nyanza and Western regions because that is where the materials are readily available and I have personally assigned different people there to make them for me. I pay them whenever I go there to pick them. I ferry them to the city using buses,” said Mr. Owiti displaying some of his products that range from Sh100 to Sh.1, 500 according to the type of the product.
After dropping out of secondary school in form two due to lack of fees, Mr. Owiti landed a five-year contract job with the World Vision. After the contract expired, he was forced to turn to casual jobs. Here, he started selling water using a donkey in his rural home of Karachuonyo in Homabay County.
After sometime, he realized that the proceeds he earned could not cater for his family upkeep. So he decided to travel to the Kenyan capital, Nairobi in search of greener pastures. “With only Sh.3, 000 that I had saved from the water business, I opened a small Jua kali kiosk at Maasai Lodge in Rongai which is a satellite town of Nairobi city. Here I started selling a few wares that we had come with from Nyanza.
At this particular juncture, we were living in a one-bedroom house around Rongai town,” said Mr. Owiti.
Mr. Owiti and Mrs. Owiti are parents to four children, the first born being, Gupta Ong’weng’o who has
also decided to venture into the Jua kali business. The second born is 20 year old Troon Omondi a 3rd year law student at the University of Nairobi. The Owiti are a happy lot because recently, Troon won a
Scholarship to join Oxford University in the United Kingdom after he came fourth in the Inter-African Universities contest held in South Africa last year. This had come barely a week after he
topped in the East African inter-universities debate contest held at the Dar-es-Salaam University in Tanzania.
The third born is Isaiah Owiti, a KCPE candidate and finally the only girl in the family, Phoebe Atieno in class 7. Mr. Owiti says that he was inspired to venture into this business by his late father, Cornelio Owiti a former primary school teacher who taught the late great politician, Tom Mboya during his early years in the Rusinga islands.
The senior Owiti was an Art and Craft teacher and it is through his lessons and basically the love of art that the junior Owiti acquired the skills of making the wares. Despite the everyday challenges he faces in his business like harassment from city council askaris and a times lack of raw materials or even ready market, he believes that hard work and determination steers anyone who understands and knows what he wants to achieve in life at the end of the day.
“During dry seasons, raw materials are scarce and the wares take long to dry during cold seasons. The city council askaris have always demolished my makeshift shops forcing me to operate in an open area. When night falls, I leave the wares here, I rely on security guards who man the nearly premises to keep an eye on them.”
He believes that, after fives years he’ll be running his own showroom, fully equipped with modern equipment that will help him develop and grow his enterprise. Mr. Owiti who operates his business along Lang’ata Road near NPC Karen in Karen believes that the Kenyan government is not doing enough to help Jua kali artisans like him.
“The government has not helped me nor my fellow colleagues I know because, in case you want to apply a personal loan to improve your business, it takes a very long process and you have to do that as a
group. So I have always enjoyed working alone because I hate depending on anyone but God almighty alone,” lamented Owiti who also said that he likes hanging out with his kids whenever they are around.
The 51-year old, says that the proceeds from the business has helped him cater the school fees for his children and family upkeep with his wife being of much help. Mr. Owiti and his soft spoken wife, Mrs. Owiti urge Kenyans out there without jobs not to idle around but get something they can do in a bid to improve the dilapidated state of the national economy.
For those wishing to join this venture, the Owiti urge them to work hard and exercise
“In this particular business, one is expected to be hardworking. You should also be patient always because a times, you can spend a week without selling any ware. We have been in this business for almost 20 years now and as a result of my hard work and patience, we’re where we are today,”