Speaking to this week’s ‘African Start-Up’ on CNN International, the two, who are GrowthAfrica alumni reveal how their company, Green Pencils Ltd, began in 2012.
Kirori tells the segment: “In Kenya, you are not allowed to cut a tree to make pencils. There used to be a company in the 80s that manufactured pencils, but they stopped. So from that time towards the end of the 1980s…we imported all the pencils. There was a gap there, and that’s part of the gap we wanted to fill.”
They knew what type of product they should make: “A product that would create employment, save the environment, and be something very basic that almost everybody would use. The pencil was the best candidate out of everything else we could think of,” Ochieng says to ‘African Start-Up’.
Using their own savings to start the company, the duo took their pencils to businesses across the city until they made a sale.
Kirori tells ‘African Start-Up’: “Our first client, Nairobi International School, we approached them, they loved the idea immediately. … from there, we were able to branch off to other schools and also business organisations”
Green Pencils make their pencils from recycled newspapers which are donated by the schools who buy their products.
Kirori explains the company’s manufacturing process to ‘African Start-Up’: “We produce on a needs basis. At any given time, we have got 250,000 pencils ready. Therefore we just wait for the orders. When we get big orders, that’s around 30,000 to 40,000 pieces, we’ll have about 28 to 30 people working here on a full time basis.”
Kirori and Ochieng now supply Green Pencils to 51 schools in Nairobi, as well as businesses and some retail outlets.
Ochieng concludes this week’s CNN’s ‘African Start-Up’ by sharing the fortunes of his company: “We doubled our turnover in the first year, $20,000. We doubled that in 2014. This year we’re looking at a minimum from our projections of $100,000 turnover… And given our third year, we’ve survived the first year, we’ve survived the second year, now we’ve grown and we feel we are strong enough and moving in the right direction.”
Ochieng has been selected by Business Sweden to participate in a Leadership and Business Sustainability Program at Swedish Business Institute, Stockholm. This is an intensive two module program in Stockholm, Sweden in August 2015 and four months later the second module will be held in Africa in February 2016.
‘African Start-Up’ airs Wednesdays in ‘Connect the World’ at 1800 EAT on CNN International.
Tune in to CNN on DStv Channel 401.