By Prudence Minayo
Charles Okadia is the founder of Chemsols limited, a paint manufacturer. Before venturing out on his own, he had over twenty years of experience working in various corporate organizations, such as American Ink and Crown Paints. It was while working for these companies that he developed interest in starting his own manufacturing company.
Here is his story as told by WoK.
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In 2009, he put up a manufacturing company in the Industrial area, Nairobi. He started making paints for cartoon and paper bag manufacturing companies.
The journey was not as smooth as he envisioned. Having worked in a corporate environment before, he was now considered ‘jua kali’, and people were not taking his company seriously. He did not have enough financing and could, therefore, not afford staff to assign various roles.
He explained in a past interview that most banks are unwilling to give overdrafts to start-ups. Suppliers are also hesitant to give goods on credit to manufacturing companies. Seeing that he was competing with huge players, he missed out on a lot of clients.
The entrepreneur had to take multiple roles since he had only one employee. He was the accountant, salesperson and production manager among other roles.
“When I was starting Chemsols, I had only one worker, it would clock 10am yet there would be no tea for me, which I had been used to when I was employed, that is when you realise you are on your own,” he was quoted by the Daily Nation.
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To get labour, he had to employ unskilled people and train them on how to do the job. Despite the challenges, he managed to get the business off the ground and pool in a huge clientele.
Growth and post Covid
According to the 2021 article on DN, the company was at the time making a yearly turnover of about Sh100 million and was employing thirty people.
Today, they are able to contract qualified accountants, chemical engineers and salesperson. They produce water-based and solvent-based adhesives, car paints and house paints.
The covid-19 pandemic greatly affected their business. Suppliers could not import raw materials and this created a shortage. With the shortage, prices shot up yet buyers were not ready to pay the extra costs. This increase affected the manufacturing industry as paint components, such as, iron oxide, and titanium dioxide pigments went up. He told Nation that solvent prices also shot up by 15% to 20%. Despite the challenges, they continue to soldier on.
An alumni of Kisumu Boys High School, Charles pursued a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry at the University of Nairobi. He has a Master of Science in Inorganic Chemistry from Addis Ababa University and a Master of Business Administration, Strategic Management from Daystar University. The entrepreneur also holds a higher diploma in Human Resource from Institute of Personnel Management in Nairobi.
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