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HomebusinessRags To Riches: From Humble Beginnings As Hawkers To Owning Multi-Billion Businesses

Rags To Riches: From Humble Beginnings As Hawkers To Owning Multi-Billion Businesses

Most Kenyans look down on those who do menial jobs as white-collar jobs are considered well paying and respectable. However, there are a few individuals who started from the rock bottom and went on to achieve greatness.

These people have proved that you can literally trust the process and with the right mentality and hard work, success will be your portion. 

In this article, WoK brings you the story of hawkers who went on to own multi-million (and even billion) businesses. 

Madatally Manji

Madatally Manji was born in 1918 in the villages of Nyeri County where he spent the better part of his childhood and teenage life. After completing his high school studies, Manji didn’t want to continue with studies anymore but instead decided to try his luck in the business world.

He began hawking commodities in the Karatina market, a job he did for almost a year but his parents were not happy with what he was doing. He was later given a job as a clerk tasked with transporting goods to clients around Nyeri and the entire Mt. Kenya region.

The turning point came in 1941 when he quit the job and decided to follow his passion in the pastry industry. He came to Nairobi and using the little money he had saved from his job, he opened a bakery named Ngara bakeries. He grew the bakery from baking bread to a pastry company now named House of Manji that produces sweets, chocolates, cakes and biscuits. 

Madatally Manji died in September 2006. 

Note: House of Manji was placed under receivership in November 2001. The company was not able to pay a loan owed to Kenya Commercial Bank that was estimated to be between Ksh900 million and Ksh1.4 billion. 

Paul Kinuthia

Paul Kinuthia’s journey began in the early 1990s when he used to load coffee at the Kenya Planters Cooperative Union (KPCU). He did the job for a couple of months before quitting and started hawking perfumes in the streets, making  around Ksh 600 per day.

He later expanded and began supplying the perfumes to salons and offices. The hairdressers at the salons asked him if he could also supply them with shampoo.

Kinuthia researched and found out that he could actually make his own shampoo. He used his Ksh 3000 to buy the necessary ingredients, a charcoal jiko, sufuria and blending stick and started making shampoo from his small room in Kirinyaga road, Nairobi.

The saloons loved and appreciated his shampoo and soon he was supplying the shampoo in bulk to different salons and shops. In 2001, he registered the business and his flagship brand named ‘Nice and Lovely’ became a boom countrywide. Since then the company has never stopped and continues to grow into the billion-dollar club.

Ashok Khetia

Ashok Khetia’s journey began in 1982 in a  North Rift town of Kitale known as Laini Moja. He started a wholesale shop with only two employees whereby they used to hawk their products to rural areas of Trans Nzoia County using a pickup.

The business steadily grew and expanded, opening various wholesale shops in Webuye and Bungoma. In 1990’s he made a major development milestone after getting distribution partnerships with Kaluworks, Lion’s brand and major mattress companies.

That was a major boost which enabled him to set up the first retail supermarket in Bungoma town in 1994 under the brand name ‘Khetias Supermarket.’

The supermarket has been steadily growing since then and currently has branches spread across different parts of the country. They have 18 branches including Busia, Kakamega, Kitale, Kisumu, Naivasha and Nairobi among others. The supermarket is currently managed by the Khetias Supermarket under the leadership of Ashok Khetia.

Simon Wachira

Simon Wachira’s journey begins in Kiburu village in Kirinyaga County where he was born and raised. After completing his secondary education, Wachira resorted to working as a hawker in the late 1980s. He religiously hawked for almost a year before using his little savings to start a small grocery shop.

He would go to the interior villages of Murang’a County to get  vegetables and fruits which he would in turn sell at his grocery shop. He did this for quite some time while saving the money he made from the business and later expanded to Maguna Andu Wholesalers.

The wholesaler later gave birth to Magunas supermarket which is currently one of the thriving and best supermarkets in the country recording millions in turnovers.

Juma Khamis Mohammed

Juma Khamis Mohammed unfortunately had to drop out of school while in Form 2 since his parents couldn’t afford to pay for his school fees. He resorted to becoming a hawker selling second hand clothes in the streets of Nairobi.

He hawked for quite some time before getting an idea of venturing into a different path. The idea was to basically identify people who needed to hold an event and had no idea how to do it. He would then come in by planning and supplying them with necessary skills and equipment.

This was the birth of an events and marketing company that has expanded to operate under three branches under the brand name ‘Parrot Group.’ Parrot Group is today a conglomerate consisting of Parrot Universal Sounds, Parrot Concepts Limited and Parrot Eye Marketing.

Zedekiah Bundotich Kiprop

Zedekiah Kiprop famously known as Buzeki is a renowned billionaire businessman. His journey began in Mombasa where he used to hawk milk at night on a bicycle.

He later got employed at Kilifi plantation where he demonstrated his terrific ability to drive sales by pushing the Company’s Tuzo milk brand to become the most preferred milk brand by the residents of the coast region.

He later left the job and registered Buzeki limited – a transport and logistics company which has since become a success. He is also in the milk industry owning a milk processing and packaging company known as Buzeki Dairy Limited which has a capacity of over 25,000 liters daily.

He is also in the political scene and is expected to be running for the Uasin Gishu gubernatorial seat in the oncoming August 2022 general elections.

Linet Kathambi

Linet Kathambi famously known as Kathy was born in Imenti Central constituency in Meru County. After completing her high school education at Kinjo Girls High School, she did not go to college but instead got employed at a timber yard as an attendant.

The business went under and she later lost her job and that’s when she first came to Nairobi where she lived with her sister. She started buying items from Kamukunji and hawking them back at the Zimmerman area where she lived.

She later got married to Moses Ng’ang’a and in 2012 they relocated to Kinoo in the outskirts of Nairobi. With the little money she had saved and with the support from her husband, she was able to set up an open-air timber yard in Kikuyu town.

The timber yard was named Sung Timber and Products. She then expanded their interest into the real estate sector in a project dubbed ‘Homes by Sung’ which features furnished apartments and homes.

Teresia Kimiti

Teresia Kimiti’s journey begins when she loses her job at an insurance company where she had worked for close to 19 years. This happened in 1996 when her monthly income of Ksh 17,000 was unexpectedly slashed.

With bills to be paid and children to be educated, she used her Ksh 4,000 savings and joined the meat hawking business. She bought 10 kgs of meat which she repackaged and on the first day of joining the venture, she made a Ksh 500 profit. With time her business grew and started looking for tenders.

Her major breakthrough came when she was asked to deliver 80 kgs of beef and 16 kg of minced meat by a certain company. She made some good money from that which she used to buy her first meat delivery car.

She has been successful in the meat business and even has recently set up a children’s home in Mlolongo known as Heritage of Faith and Hope Children’s Resource Center.