Few years ago, Simon Ngugi ventured into the animal feeds business with limited knowledge about the industry.
Today, he stands tall as the founder of Nile Feeds and Cereals Limited, a thriving venture supplying raw ingredients to companies and farmers for making animal feeds.
Ngugi’s story is one of relentless perseverance.
Initially aspiring to be a dairy farmer in his native Nakuru County, he encountered a significant hurdle: feeding his livestock.
“It’s during this time that I faced the challenge of feeding two hungry heads. While I spent a lot on feeds, milk production was not worth the effort. Profits were dwindling. In short I was making losses,” the 35-year-old father of two said.
Undeterred, he explored various paths, trying his hand at selling second-hand clothing (‘mitumba’) in Busia, only to face challenges yet again.
It was a chance introduction to the animal feeds business by a friend that changed Ngugi’s course.
Embracing this newfound opportunity, he quickly adapted to the industry, becoming a linchpin in the supply chain connecting farmers and feed manufacturers to affordable raw materials.
Ngugi’s astuteness led him to source his products from Jinja, Uganda, where prices were more favorable.
His business grew steadily, fueled by discipline, resilience, and a sharp observational sense.
“It has not been a walk in the park. It has taken a lot of hard work, resilience and determination to put up this establishment. This is a very competitive industry but what has helped me is that I am a keen observer despite having no experience,” he said.
Ngugi’s strategic approach involved sourcing maize meal, wheat, soya, and cotton cake from Uganda, which he then supplied to clients in Mumias, Kakamega, Eldoret, Nairobi, Kiambu, and Meru.
His products gained popularity, especially among farmers who witnessed the positive impact on their livestock.
Challenges, however, persisted.
The high cost of ready-made feeds propelled the demand for affordable raw ingredients, and Ngugi stepped in to meet this need.
Despite hurdles such as limited capital and the impact of government policies, including interest rate caps, Ngugi’s business continued to thrive.
In a good week, he revealed in an interview, he sells up to 100 tonnes of products, making approximately Sh1.6 million per month.
“I am humbled at how this establishment has grown from a simple entity to a middle range supplier with over 100 clients. With a mill I will be able to increase production tenfold and also create jobs for hundreds of youth,” he says.
Looking to the future, Ngugi envisions expansion. Plans are underway to establish stores in Nairobi, Kiambu, and Nakuru, and he dreams of investing in a mill and branding his products.
His ambition extends beyond personal success; he aims to create employment opportunities for hundreds of youth, fostering economic growth in his community.
Despite political uncertainties and market challenges, Ngugi remains undeterred. His advice to fellow entrepreneurs, especially the youth, is a beacon of hope: venture into agriculture. In a market with open spaces and high demand.
One of the major challenges entrepreneurs in the animal feeds industry face is lack of capital for expansion, he says.
He is also concerned that interest rate caps introduced by the government have led to capital flight from small enterprises like his.
Political uncertainty has polarized the country and slowed down his business, he says.
Ngugi says the government should minimize on importation of products such as fish, eggs, and poultry and instead motivate local farmers to produce them.
“We get a lot of cheap products from Uganda, for example eggs. Poultry farmers who depend on expensive feeds for their layers for eggs will definitely make losses.’’
He advises the youth to venture into agricultural businesses. “There is still space, the market is open and demand is high.”