Charles Okadia is the founder of Chemsols Limited, a manufacturer specialising in paints, inks and adhesives.
Okafia established his company in 2011 after resigning from a managerial position at a local chemical manufacturing business.
Although he admits quitting was not easy, he added that he felt it was the right time to branch out and start his own venture.
Here is his story as told by WoK.
In 2011, Okadia who served as a business manager at Coates Brothers, a chemical manufacturing business, to start his own venture.
In an interview with How We Made It In Africa, he explained that leaving his job was a hustle since the company was reluctant to let him go.
He also had to deal with the prospect of doing away with the security that comes with being a salaried employee.
In his last six months in employment, Okadia had kicked off the process of registering his business and looking for premises.
He also explained his decision to invest in chemical manufacturing.
“There was a lot of construction happening in the country at the time and I knew there was a gap in the market for high quality, locally produced paints and adhesives,” he explained.
Okadia noted that starting off was not easy as he was the only one running the company. He explained that he wanted to handle everything and learn on the go so he could train new employees.
“I always joke with my staff about the culture shock of those first couple of months. Working in a corporate environment I had tea brought to my office. Now I was suddenly everything,” he said.
He also faced challenges with raising capital to set up the business since he was using his personal savings.
As such, Okadia had to use equipments that was being thrown out by another local manufacturer since he could not afford to buy a new one.
“In the beginning there was suspicion; the company was an unknown and customers rightly were worried that we would not be able to provide the quality we were promising,” he said.
Elsewhere, he has challenges with getting raw materials which are sourced from China, Egypt and Netherlands.
Okadia recalled an instance where he was unable to pay custom duties when he received his first ever shipment of raw materials.
With his bank denying him a loan and the demurrage charges at the port accumulating, he was recommended to a manager at a different bank who offered him a loan after understanding his background and expertise in the industry.
“I remember him saying: ‘Charles, I am taking a risk, but you have to make sure that this money is repaid by the end of the month,” he recalled.
With time, Chemsols received referrals, which meant good business and he was able to hire employees; particularly in the marketing department.
“We would negotiate with customers to pay us on time so that we would have the cash to clear raw material imports for continued production. By the beginning of the fourth year, it was clear we needed more finance if we wanted to grow,” Okadia added.
The company currently manufactures paints, encompass inks and adhesives, and has a production capacity of 25 tonnes.
With 30 full-time employees, Okadia had rose to secure customers in Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda.