By Prudence Minayo
Patrick Wainaina, popularly known as Wainaina wa Jungle, is the founder and CEO of Jungle nuts. Incorporated in 2004, the company began operations under the name Sawa Africa EPZ. Over time, they changed their name to Jungle nuts. They process cashew nuts, macadamia nuts and peanuts among other things.
Here is his story that traces its roots in the US where he nursed the elderly, founding Jungle nuts and his entry into the world of politics as told by WoK.
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Career and Moving to the US
He was working as a mechanical engineer at the Kenya Nuts Company in 1996 when he quit and traveled to the USA to study Marketing. During his stint at Kenya Nut Company, he gained a lot of skills and knowledge which he would later put to use while establishing his own company.
Getting a decent well paying job in the US was so difficult and at the end he secured employment taking care of the elderly. During this time, he managed to save about Sh300,000. He had also studied a lot about the world of macadamia and made a few contacts.
When he returned to the country, he rented a godown, bought second hand machines and paid rent. Soon, he found himself cash strapped. The banks were unwilling to finance his venture forcing him to close the business and seek employment. He ended up working at Safaricom as a manager. He joined a Sacco and managed to save Sh20,000 every month.
After five years, he approached a friend and they formed a group where he was able to secure finances from a micro-finance. He also traversed through Central Kenya looking for various macadamia farmers.
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Starting Jungle Nuts
With the cash he had saved and the connections he had made before, Patrick Wainaina felt confident to kick-start the business. His very first client was someone he had met while he was working in the US. The businessman gave him a contract worth Sh400,000 which helped him boost his business and build the reputation of his company.
The company went on to win Top 100 SMEs in 2011. They have gone on to impact thousands of lives through employment and through their mentorship program, Jungle Nuts Foundation.
The FSSC 22,000 company has expanded its products to include hass avocados, macadamia oil, avocado oil and assorted dried foods. They get most of their cashew from the Coastal part of Kenya and their macadamia from the mineral rich highland soils of Mt. Kenya. They also get the nuts in regions like, Kiambu, Meru, Embu, Kirinyaga, Murang’a, Nyeri, Kitale, Taita and Bungoma.
In a December 2021 event coordinated by the Avocado Society of Kenya, Jungle Nuts was named the best company in Kenya in avocado value addition.
During a previous interview with a local daily, he said one of their main challenges was smuggling. A couple of people bought nuts from farmers at a cheap price before smuggling them to Tanzania where they would eventually make their way to China.
During the August 2017 General Elections, the Jungle founder won the Thika town Parliamentary seat after garnering 58,286 votes. Vying as an independent candidate, he defeated the incumbent Alice Ng’ang’a who got 50,115 votes.
In the 2022 general elections, Patrick Wainaina vied for the Kiambu gubernatorial seat but came in second.