Since 2019, the rate of unemployment in Kenya has been on the rise even as new jobs are created to absorb the high number of youths joining the job market.
However, Evelyn Wambui believes that it takes individual effort to solve the issue of unemployment in the country.
She’s currently working as customer service and marketer at her parents’ business, Levi African Tanners which was founded in the 1980s.
Having being raised and taken through school by money made from the business, she highlighted the leather tanning business as one of many businesses that unemployed people can venture into.
“Where we are as a country, I feel bad that people keep saying there’s no work but when I look what we do, this is a business that raised me and my siblings, my parents have build a home, so I think this is something that anyone can venture into. There’s nothing to be scared of, just get the right information,” Wambui said.
The businesslady noted that she joined her parents immediately after completing her secondary school education.
“I would urge anyone out there who feels like they have no work to do, in the leather industry there’s a lot of things you can do; you can start with the belts and from there you will grow,” she added.
Evelyne Wambui explained that setting up the business will require at least Ksh 5,000 capital.
For example, you venture into the business and you want to make leather belts, Ksh 4,000 will get you about 30 square feet leather material.
The remaining Ksh 1,000 will get you things such as balance rivets and buckles which will be used on the belts.
This is excluding labour cost because they vary depending on the person.
She stated that she opted to join her parents after looking at the worrying rate of unemployment in the country. She is also into interior decor.
“I found my parents doing it, they started it in the 1980s and they have done it throughout the time. Leather business is actually nice if you get to know how to go about it,” Wambui said.
She also explained the inspiration behind her decision to be involved in the business.
“I’m a very handy person, I love creating things. For leather, I love hand bags, so just because of how I could see I can turn leather into some nice articles, that’s where I got my inspiration from,” Wambui told WoK.
Wambui said they mostly outsource their materials locally, however, they sometimes get it from other countries such as Tanzania.
“We outsource out material from people who get them from slaughter houses; they can do semi processing for you or get sell it while its raw
“Raw is when the hide has fur, you can choose to maintain it with fur or remove it to get wet blue leather. Here, you choose what kind of leather you want and in what color and tell what product it’s suitable for,” she explained.
In terms of the cost of materials, she disclosed that a whole sheet of cow hide goes for Ksh 800, adding that there’s no loss in leather as every part of the hide has its purpose.
Evelyne Wambui explained that other than the obvious business challenges, getting the required paperwork from the government is one of the main challenges that they had to face.
“When COVID-19 hit, we had to close down our tannery. Also, getting machines here in our country is challenging because you have to buy it from either China or Turkey
“I’m glad the government said it is going to revive the industry because the China wear took over the Kenyan market that people no longer buy genuine leather products,” Evelyne Wambui said.
At Levi Tanners, they majorly do leather tanning, automotive upholstery, seat upholstery and splits on goat skin among other services.
They make security boots, gloves used in steel companies, wallets on order as well as school shoes and men’s wear.
The company is currently working with casual workers on contract basis.