Lucy Wanjiku Kinyanjui is the founder and owner of Lukinya International, a company based in Kent, Washington that deals in importing and supplying food commodities. It also operates a fashion store and sells beauty and therapy products.
The businesswoman, who has plied her trade for the last nine years, started the company as a platform to provide market for local products and offer opportunities for Kenyan traders.
Wanjiku has since created employment for fellow countrymates and notes that her joy is seeing them earn good money in the process. Here is her story as narrated by WoK.
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During an interview with US-based publication Kenya Diaspora Media, Wanjiku revealed that she first begun exporting products from America to Kenya, when she realised that she would make more money the other way round.
She noted that the mass production of clothes locally was her biggest challenge. She also stated that local tailors were used to producing attires as per the deadlines and measurements issued by customers.
“I knew that Kenyans are really gifted and capable of anything. I wondered why we couldn’t bring Kenya to the US. It is difficult to introduce a new product in the US, especially those from Africa.
“Kenyan tailors come up with exceptional designs but lack market. I started slowly by slowly, collecting fabric and clothes but sizing was the biggest hurdle as most Kenyan tailors work on a single project. It took me a long time to teach two to make clothes without measuring people,” Wanjiku recounted.
She notes that her joy is seeing the tailors make over Ksh200,000 per month each, compared to days when they would go back to their homes empty handed.
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“That was my way of empowering women and youth,” she said, adding that the products were well received in the US market.
Whenever Wanjiku would come to Kenya, she would carry a lot of food back to the US. This gave her an idea to open a grocery store back in Kent. The new project was funded by proceeds from the fashion store.
She therefore moved to get the necessary clearance from the national government, allowing her to import food commodities into the US.
Wanjiku imported groceries and cereals which were well received by the US market. In 2020, she sold a whole container of food in one month out of the four she had imported.
“I supplied food in the US during the Covid-19 pandemic and was lucky that I had imported in bulk as we are all aware that all sectors were plunged into a crisis,”she said.
The businesswoman began the importation of Moringa Oleifera which she used to manufacture beauty and cosmetic products. The plant has been hailed all over the world for its multiple health uses.
“I love superfoods. With the Covid-19, we have been selling Moringa and I decided to have its powder formulated into a beauty product for men and women. My customers love it,” she said.
“The market is available. We all have to do our research. Within the next two years, I should be able to supply African prints to other stores in the US. We shall be creating more opportunities for our women, youth and children back in Kenya,” Wanjiku added.
From her grocery, Mrs Kinyanjui sells dried vegetables and porridge, which is not only popular among Kenyans but also African immigrants.
“The most popular are the common amaranthas (dodo), African nightshade (managu) and cow pea leaves (kunde),” she stated.
The trader conceded that she sells some of the perishable goods at high prices due to the relatively high cost of importation.
“I only bring them by air cargo. By the time it gets here it is very expensive because it has very short shelf life,” Wanjiku explained.
Her catalogue includes beverages such as juices and a local favourite concoction of water, ginger, lemon and honey, popularly known as dawa.