Josephine Njoroge is the chief executive officer (CEO) of Lemafix Limited, a company that primarily deals with cereals. The businesswoman sources her products from as far as Tanzania, Ethiopia and Uganda. Her turnover amounts to millions of shillings and she has directly employed 40 workers.
Here is the story of the Thika based businesswoman as told by WoK.
Before venturing into business, Josephine struggled to make ends meet. She worked at a bakery christened KenBest for a period of two weeks where she made Ksh2,900.
With the money she had made, she approached a company called Capital Industry and convinced the management that she was in a position to sell them maize.
They agreed to become her customers. To fulfill the orders, the then budding entrepreneur would go to farms armed with a can and fill sacks with maize.
Once she filled the sacks, she would take it back to the company. She was also able to find another buyer.
Little by little, her small business yielded handsome profits and the companies began placing more orders.
After delivering the orders successfully, she was issued with a blank cheque from Absa, then known as Barclays Bank.
One time while cashing the check, Absa employees advised her to open an account. At the time, she was unaware about the workings of the bank. She thought her money would disappear but after some convincing, she gave in.
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With Josephine business booming, Absa told her they were ready to extend her a loan. At first, she was not comfortable taking a loan from the banking institution.
However, as Absa agents told her of the benefits and the lengthy repayment plan, she gave in. The Lemafix Limited CEO was now on a roll. She was able to source cereals from other East African countries.
She jumped from supplying maize on a pickup to a lorry that could accommodate more load. Realizing she could supply more, she added rice, beans, soya and other cereals to her portfolio.
Working honestly, she gained the trust of her main suppliers. They would at times give her goods and allow her to repay once she got the money. With time, her company grew and so did her customers.
She says from the initial Sh3 million loan, she made about Sh10 million. Today, she supplies beans, maize, rice, soya, millet and groundnuts among other cereals.
Her encouragement to young entrepreneurs is that they should start with whatever they have. They should not overlook the little money they make. They should also focus on one thing and ensure it is established instead of jumping from one project to the next.
The mother of two has not always had it easy.
First, is the fluctuating prices of cereals, which she has learnt to deal with.
The other problem is to do with customers’ payment. Some customers fail to pay and claim they have no money after the goods have been delivered. She has taken some to court. Others give cheques that take a year to mature making her suffer the consequences.
The other issue is to do with police officers who extort money from them. Considering the low margins, when police take money from them, they cut deeply into their profits. At times, the police say they have overloaded and demand a bribe. Even when the trucks are not overloaded, they have no choice but to comply.