By Brian Yatich
With population influx and urbanization coupled with poor hygiene levels of the country’s tap water pipes and sewage systems, inhabitants have lost the confidence in water provided by water companies and have resorted to bottled water.
According to WHO Human beings need only about 5 litres of water each day for cooking and drinking, however, good health and cleanliness require a total daily supply of about 30 litres per person 11 cubic meters per year; this refers to the usage of the water regardless of the quality.
In this regard, this has led to one individual, Ruth Mwanzia who is among those who have decided to venture into waters business. She has created her own brand of bottled Water.
But Ms Mwanzia is not your typical Business woman, because she has enjoyed anything but a typical life, young, gifted and working in an industry where women are rare, Mwanzia, is what others would describe as ‘the jack of all trades’
She currently works as a Public Relations Specialist and she is also a student, as she juggles between books and her company which she says is not an easy task; I sort to find out how the media student becomes the go –to person in the manufacturing industry.
The company, Koola Waters specializes in manufacturing, distribution, Packaging and treatment of pure drinking water based in Karen, Nairobi.
The 27-year-old young entrepreneur tasked with breaking glass ceilings and crashing the competitive landscape; has risen in her current state to what is undoubtedly a man’s world. She owns a business, one that her generation would definitely negate; her calm and humble nature would have you going for a minute before you realize how aggressive, fervent and a business mogul she is.
She currently studies masters in peace studies and conflict resolution at the African Nazarene University, after which she had earned her degree in Mass Communication which has since led her to spawn a life-long passion for starting a water company.
She has tapped quite literally the biggest venture in the country, the water industry, her company Koola waters since its inception two years ago has seen a tremendous transformation.
Growing up in Kitui, a region that encounters scarcity of water and where clean water is an erratic utility, so, naturally having been exposed to such conditions she found herself involved in a number of projects as time would bring.
“In Kitui County, the region is semi-arid; extremely dry it usually receives two rain seasons a year and we are not even assured of any rains, so I decided to come up with a solution to address this challenge.” She says
With a daunting background and passion to make a difference, the African Nazarene student decided to set up a water business. The turning point for this power broker was when she started the company Koola waters back in 2014.
She started out with a capital of Ksh. 2 million through her own savings and also through family & friends who rallied around her to help her step up her production and so the young mogul has grown even bigger.
“We went to Davis & Shirtliff and bought the treatment plant, then registered the company and got the relevant certification from KEBS. So far, the journey of my company and the business has been both tough and enjoyable.
We are growing, at the moment we distribute in many parts in Nairobi, Kiambu and Kitui, we package 500ml, 1 liter, 1.5 liters and 5 liter bottles. We also bottle and deliver 10 liter, 18.5 liter and 20 liter in refillable, disposable and hard bottles. At a small charge we can also do special branding for events. In a day we produce between 50- 100 cartons” she says.
On good month Mwanzia says, she makes between KSH. 300,000 to 400,000, she terms it as a good business considering the fact that a few would taunt venturing into such.
She says that plans are underway in drilling a borehole in Kitui so that she can start a second plant in her county, this way it will cut costs on fuel and production.
While competition in the mineral and bottled water segment is cut-throat, Ms Mwanzia is hopeful, she reveals that she is taming it by being unique and growing her clientele, one bottle at a time.
“Competition is a real challenge at the moment, the country has more than 25 bottled water brands and so penetrating the market, sometimes takes time and this poses a challenge. It is not easy to get into the market as a startup. It took me time but I am happy I have a share of the market. The fact that we are new to the market, I don’t perceive it as a great challenge, we are getting there. One bottle at a time” she adds
Adding to her bucket list, Ms Mwanzia is also engaged in humanitarian activities. “I also give back to society through mentorship programmes, currently I run a rehabilitation and empowerment programme in Korogocho slums in Nairobi, where we empower illiterate kids, in those places, I also work with a thousand trides, a group of cyclists on a programme that is set to help shelter the needy.” She explains
“I have learned a lot and still learning because I am doing what I love and that brings me joy, it is a good feeling when you are used to waking up every morning and get new customers, and how they associate you with your product, It’s amazing.” She adds
She says her goal at the moment is to grow her company and anticipates in a few years, Koola waters would a household name. She also has plans for the company to expand and get to be known throughout East Africa.