Money Does Grow On Trees, If You Know Where To Look11th Nov, 2016
Gum Arabic. Many Kenyans probably heard this term for the first time when watching the fourth episode of Lions’ Den last Monday. Watch here
But not Sam Nyamboga, Founder and Managing Director of Kennect Entreprises along with his fellow Director Kepta Ombati
They know an open secret.
Gum Arabic is a substance formed from the sap that seeps from the acacia tree. The hardened product is a natural gum that is then picked without harming the acacia tree.
The largest source of Gum Arabic is in Sudan but some can also be found in parts of Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya as well.
The odourless and tasteless gum is ideal and well positioned to be used in the production of edibles.
Gum Arabic is used in emulsion and as an additive ingredient in the produce of various edibles such as soft drinks, candy and even yogurt.
On the other hand, a grade of Gum Arabic also exists that is used as a binding agent in the production of glue, paints and beauty products.
Sam and Kepta saw an opportunity in this product and decided to pitch for investors in Lions’ Den to scale up their business
They have projected sales of Sh27 million by the end of the year 2016 for their one-year old company Kennect Enterprises.
The current financial position of the company and the future projections made the company a sure pick for each one of the judges.
The viewers of the show were equally impressed by the business potential in exporting local goods as well as the cool demeanor of the two gentlemen as they tackled every single question from the Lions.
When asked about where the business idea behind Gum Arabic came from, Mr. Nyamboga said that it was purely coincidental, “It choose me”.
A university study buddy in Germany who was the Head of IT at what is now one of Kennect’s clients, asked him about Gum Arabic one day and after discussing its uses and benefits they were looking at going into the business of sourcing it and getting it to Europe together.
Many were impressed by Kennect’s slick performance in the Den, however, it was an onerous task constructing together what we call Kennect today.
Following lots of research Mr. Nyamboga decided to pursue the concept seriously, he travelled back to Kenya from his studies in Germany three years ago to find a Gum Arabic sample.
Knowing that the grade of gum Arabic he could export to Europe could be found in Kenya, he was confident that he would find exactly what he needed.
The exciting short trip back home morphed into a three-month nightmare with Mr. Nyamboga back on his flight to Germany empty handed.
Disappointed and discouraged in his airplane seat he decided to distract himself through conversation with his neighbor.
As the two gentlemen chatted, Sam shared his frustrations about the results of his trip and to his surprise and delight it turns out that the gentleman he was speaking to worked in the forestry field.
Luck had arrived in the form of Dr. Balozi Bekuta, who as it turns out is a lecturer at Moi University in Eldoret. He helped get Sam the sample he needed as well as introduced him to the key individuals and associations that turned Kennect into a reality.
This unique product also gave Kennect the opportunity to showcase to the country the social impact effected by their businesses.
The acacia population is high in the semi-arid regions of Kenya and the quality of gum Arabic is best found within parts of Northern Kenya.
The collection of the natural gum is done by the locals meaning that people now have a constant flow of income for the first time. “We are working with communities that have been left behind for a long time, but we do not look at them as help cases we look at them as business partners” explains Mr. Nyamboga.
The effects of this have been astounding; the mentality of the community has been altered simply because they can now reason beyond the question of where their next meal is coming from.
There has been awakening within the communities and they now expect more from their leaders and themselves.
Mr. Nyamboga explains that even he, has been humbled by his experience with the communities “I have more appreciation for money…I have seen the difference 5 shillings can make in a family”
It is the hope of the directors of Kennect that Kenyans will be stimulated by Kennect’s story and exploit resources available locally to not only export but also focus on how they can bring in value addition to make Kenya the exporting powerhouse it can be.
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