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Pauline Otila: Former Auditor Who Quit Her Job For Beekeeping, Makes Upto Sh21 Million In One Year

For 15 years, Pauline Otila was deeply entrenched in the beekeeping industry, working diligently in roles spanning auditing, finance, and administration.

Her expertise and dedication were unparalleled, but it wasn’t until a transformative visit to Israel that her career took an unexpected turn, leading her to establish Apiculture Venture Limited—a comprehensive solution provider across the honey value chain.

Otila’s journey began when her eye-opening experience in Israel introduced her to the incredible potential of the beekeeping sector.

Immersed in the success stories of women beekeepers, she felt a profound desire to replicate their achievements back home.

This pivotal moment marked the genesis of Apiculture Venture Limited, a company she founded and currently serves as the managing director.

Transitioning from a stable career to entrepreneurship is no easy feat, and Otila grappled with the uncertainties that accompany such a move.

The allure of a well-paying job was strong, and she candidly admits to drafting two resignation letters before summoning the courage to take the plunge.

“I was being paid well, so quitting and not being sure whether I would be able to make ends meet was not easy. I spoke to other business people on how they navigated after leaving their well-paying jobs,” Ms Otila recalled during an Interview with Business Daily.

The early days of Apiculture Venture Limited were a test of resilience and determination.

Otila’s first year in business, back in 2019, was characterized by financial challenges and the complexities of managing a fledgling enterprise.

Just as the venture was finding its footing, the Covid-19 pandemic erupted in 2020, throwing additional hurdles in Otila’s path.

Recognizing the need for adaptation, Otila immersed herself in women’s business networks, sought mentorship through master classes and accelerator programs, and even made lifestyle adjustments.

“I scaled down my lifestyle, got a smaller vehicle, joined master classes and accelerator programmes to make me more resilient in business and these kept me going and got to understand my business better,” said Ms Otila.

Downscaling her personal expenses and embracing a more frugal lifestyle allowed her to redirect resources into her burgeoning enterprise.

These pivotal decisions not only ensured Apiculture Venture’s survival but also fostered its growth in the face of adversity.

Otila’s financial foresight proved invaluable, as she had strategically prepared for her entrepreneurial journey.

Her prudent savings allowed her to enter the market with Sh4 million in hand.

However, the ever-changing economic landscape posed unexpected challenges.

“Shock on me, by 2018 when I was starting, commodity prices, office space costs, and equipment prices had all gone up and the savings was only enough to sustain the business for only four months.” She claimed.

Undeterred, Otila reinvested her profits into the business, leveraging every opportunity for growth.

Despite the daunting hurdles of its early years, the company managed to expand its footprint across six counties.

Through strategic partnerships and careful onboarding, over 2,500 beekeepers were enlisted under the Apiculture Venture umbrella.

Remarkably, the venture generated revenue amounting to Sh21 million in the first year.

Amid the tumultuous Covid-19 landscape, Apiculture Venture Limited continued its upward trajectory.

The pandemic’s demand surge for honey led to the recruitment of over 2,600 new beekeepers.

While revenue growth was tempered by the slow production cycle of bees, a 10 percent expansion underscored the company’s resilience.

The turning point arrived in 2021, when Apiculture Venture Limited experienced exponential growth.

A staggering 8,000 new beekeepers were onboarded, and the sale of 6,000 bee hives—double the previous figure—bolstered revenue.

“In 2022, we signed partnerships with other organisations, had 10,700 new beekeepers and revenue grew by 20 percent and received a $50,000 grant,” said Ms Otila.

Apiculture industry is nothing short of remarkable.

Annual honey sales reached an impressive seven tonnes, while 20,000 bee hives were sold, accompanied by the enrollment of 24,900 beekeepers across 20 counties.

Otila’s aspirations remain grand, with plans to extend the venture’s reach to all 47 counties in Kenya and solidify its position as East Africa’s premier commercial honey producer.

Equally important is her commitment to gender equality and youth empowerment through sustainable beekeeping initiatives.

Navigating a competitive landscape posed challenges unique to Apiculture Venture Limited.

Honey, unfortunately, is one of the most adulterated food products globally, and Kenya is no exception.

Pauline Otila addressed this issue by meticulously ensuring that honey was sourced only from trained farmers, and implementing a stringent laboratory testing protocol before products hit the market.