Patrick Mukundi Mbogo is the founder of Privamnuts EPZ Kenya, a macadamia nuts processing and exporting company.
Mbogo, former banker, established the busit business in 2011 after an interaction with a macadamia nuts farmer .
While working at the bank, he regularly served a client who sold substantial amounts of US dollars. However, this was unusual since most people bought dollars from the bank.
After an interaction with the client, Mbogo realized that he traded macadamia nuts, a move that forced him to reconsider his career.
Here is his story as told by WoK.
In 2010, Mbogo was working as a teller at I&M Bank in Nairobi.
While at it, he would serve a client who walk into the bank every month looking to sell huge amounts of US dollars.
“It was unusual because normally people want to buy dollars, not sell them,” he said.
In an interview with How We Made It In Africa, Mbogo explained that he interacted with the client at some point and learnt that he was a macadamia nuts trader.
“I got talking to him, and he told me that he traded macadamia nuts. I knew there were a lot of macadamia trees near where I was from in Embu, some of which were rotting away,” he said.
Mbogo noted that he would source the nuts from Embu and sell the, although in small quantities, to the trader.
“So I did some basic training, learnt how to check for good quality nuts, and started a small operation. I would buy the raw nuts from farmers and sell them to my former customer,” he stated.
Mbogo traded the macadamia nuts with local businessmen for a while until he managed to secure his first International client.
This was around the same time he was introduced to an investor who offered to put his money into his new venture.
“I had an old friend who was working for the Export Promotion Council. He introduced me to an investor that wanted to source macadamia nuts in the country
“The investor, Swiss Gourmet, and I set up a small joint venture in Thika town, which they would help pre-finance,” he said.
In 2013, Swiss Gourmet wasn’t able to buy a specific number of containers of the nuts per year resulting in termination of the joint venture.
This development meant Mbogo’s company, Privamnuts, was free to sell macadamia nuts to the open market.
“We began constructing a new facility on our own land in Embu, and we were soon exporting to around 10 customers, some of whom had previously been buying through Swiss Gourmet
“Others we secured through cold outreach and sending samples. By 2016, we were shipping 12 containers a year and at times would have upto 500 workers in our factory,” he explained.
While starting off, Mbogo noted that he experienced challenges with cash flow and the high cost of certification.
“Buyers from the United States or Europe will not buy from you if the facility is not fully certified. It’s very expensive and time-consuming to get to that point
“We started off using HACCP, which is the most basic food safety management system. This meant buyers were willing to buy from us. Gradually we worked our way up to higher food safety standards,” he explained.
Privamnuts has the capacity to process around 7,000 metric tonnes of raw nuts per a year.
“The amount of raw nuts we have been able to process has risen dramatically from around 1,500 tonnes in 2016 to around 4,000 in 2020, but that is still far below what the factory is capable of producing
“Currently we sell all of our product months in advance, and even if we processed to our full capacity 7,000 tonnes a year, the demand would still be much higher than our supply,” Mbogo stated.
A kilo of raw macadamia nuts sell at between 70 and Ksh 160. A 20ft container of shelled macadamia nuts can now sell for upto Ksh 40.3 million.