Margaret Munene is the founder and CEO of Palmhouse Dairies, a milk processing company in Githunguri, Kiambu County.
The research scientist ventured into milk processing as the cooperative that she was selling to was not paying enough to balance off the costs.
Within a short period, the business had picked and this saw Margaret quit her job and fully concentrate on the milk venture.
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Here is her story as told by WoK.
When Margaret started keeping dairy cows, she wanted to have adequate milk supply for her household.
However, within no time, the heard grew and the milk produced in her small farm became too much for the family.
At the time, Margaret was working at Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Institute (Kalro) and decided to share excess milk with her colleagues.
“After some time, I realised the milk was a lot even after giving it out and since the cows were consuming quite some money in terms of feeding and care, we decided to take the milk to the nearby Githunguri Dairy Cooperatives Society,” she recalled.
In an interview with Business Daily, Margaret noted that she opted to sell the milk to the cooperative but later realized that they were not getting paid enough.
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While at it, a colleague suggested that she sells the milk directly instead of going through the cooperative.
“…after a couple of years, we would have about 300 litres of milk in the car boot. After dropping our three daughters to school, I would quickly go around selling the milk and by 8 am, I would be at my office desk,” Margaret said.
With Margaret and her husband still in formal employment, they decided to employ a knowledgeable staff to run their small dairy farm.
With the high demand of milk in Nairobi, Margaret had to purchase a pick up and hire a driver who would be delivering the milk.
She later realized that she was making more money from her side-hustle compared to her job, and as such, she resigned and founded Palmhouse Dairies.
“I was not finding satisfaction in my work, so in 1995 after working for nine years, I decided to quit and become a dairy farmer and milk hawker while my husband who had a better job, continued working,” she said.
Getting funds to set up the company was not easy, she sought for funds from different financial institutions including her bank but she was not successful.
“It wasn’t like today where everybody wants to give you money. Nobody could fund us but eventually, a family friend told us that the European Investment Bank (EIB) was supporting SMEs through KCB and that we could use that,” she said
Margaret presented their project proposal to KCB and secured a loan with a one-year grace period.
They used the money to purchase among other equipment a milk processing machine which was installed months later kicking off the processing of up to 400 liters per day.
“We were going into unchartered grounds, not sure what to expect. We also had to establish people to work without forgetting that farmers were so used to KCC and the only reason they could give us milk was that they had nowhere else to sell their milk,” she further explained.
Other than running the milk processing company, Margaret also set the Palmhouse Foundation to finance the education of students from poor backgrounds.
“We invited a couple of our friends who began with three students 20 years ago. We later increased the number to ten the following year
“This was scaled up with the support of corporates and fast forward, over 1,000 students have gone through the foundation,” she stated.
Over the years, the company has grown from the initial machine capacity of 3,000 litres to 15,000 litres per day.
Their products range from fresh milk, yogurt and cream.
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