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HomeWealthCouple Quit Their Jobs, Start Successful Manufacturing Company 

Couple Quit Their Jobs, Start Successful Manufacturing Company 

By Prudence Minayo

After years of employment and running a trading company, Joseph Uimbia and his wife Joan Okonu, decided to get into manufacturing. They wanted to produce their own brand of personal hygiene and home care products.

Joseph, an engineer, had worked in the production of fast moving consumer goods and Joan had worked in the financial services sector. The couple hoped that their skills would come in handy. 

Here is their story as told by WoK.

Setting up and being approached by Unilever

They opened their business, McDave in 2016 in a small go-down in the Industrial area to cut on cost.

Their initial goal changed when they were approached by Unilever. The multinational had heard that they had set up a manufacturing plant that could mix chemicals. They contracted them to begin making some of their products.

This was an offer they couldn’t refuse and a year later, Unilever came with an even bigger deal. This deal opened the way to move to a space that was more than twice their initial go-down in 2018. More clients came knocking on their doors prompting to significantly expand their business. 

Covid-19 and Zelia

By the time Covid-19 was hitting in 2020, the operations had gone from a monthly production of 25 tons to 400 tons, four to 48 workers, and 3,600 square feet in space to 15,000 square feet. 

The pandemic brought with it numerous challenges. As they were dependent on Unilever and other companies, it meant their success would also depend on them.

If production went down due to Covid-19 then their turnover would also be affected. This taught them the need to diversify and stop fully relying on contract manufacturing.  

By this time, they had conducted about two years of research into personal care products. Hence, they thought it would be the perfect time to launch their products not only as a way to grow their business but to also manage risks.

The long period of research was meant to ensure that their products are of high quality in order to compete with the well-established brands. 

They started Zelia with a number of products: sanitizer, dish washing paste, toilet detergents, carpet shampoo liquid, multi purpose cleaner and hand washing soap. 

The couple hope to make Zelia a household name in the country and are banking on their years of experience in the manufacturing industry.

Apart from the gained skills, contract manufacturing has helped them increase in capacity and workforce thus, they believe this would ensure they produce high quality products. 

“We realized this was a dream we could achieve because we had gained capability after years of manufacturing diverse products, such as hand-washing detergents and sanitizers. We were therefore capable of producing our own brand, which recently became our main focus. We are going out there, we are selling this brand and look forward to growing,” Joan told Nation in a past interview. 

They do manufacturing for SMEs and have partnered with sustainable organizations to  introduce recycling of packaging equipment. 

According to Joseph, if Kenya wants to compete in the global arena, contract manufacturing needs to be widely embraced. It is better to have few quality manufacturers than many who do a sub-standard job.