”Have courage to do ethical business,defend quality and practice ageless qualities such as honesty and trust”–Ruth Mwanzia
Ruth Mwanzia is the CEO of Koola Waters Ltd ,a 2017 top 30 under 30 CEO ,China Embassy Entrepreneurial awardee, an awardee of Nazarene University for social impact. She reiterates that the art of resilience, focus, constant quality improvement and people conscious business are paramount success factors of her innovation The 29 year old CEO talked with Impact Voices about her entrepreneurial journey.
How was the idea of starting a company born?
I was born in a family of three in Kyondoni village-Kitui. Kitui experiences two rain seasons but the rain is usually sporadic and non-promising. As a little girl aged five ,every morning before going to school I would walk though thorns and desolate surface for 45 minutes to fetch water from a seasonal river named Ithekethe.The river was a dirty trickle ,it was brown, sometimes yellow.It moved lazily over sun-baked stones.We shared it’s waters with our famished donkeys,goats,sheep and cattle. An entire family would use a ration of two jelicans per day. It is the same water we used for cooking ‘cleaning’ utensils and washing clothes.The water still had a sour ,putrid ,taste and it permanently stained the teeth with a brown tint. It did not care for toddler’s unsteady teeth nor the elderly’s scarce teeth.We would boil the water but basic boiling does not kill all the pathogens such as viruses, bacteria and protozoa present in water. Sometimes there were dysentery and cholera outbreaks. It claimed the lives of children and many an adult.
How did you start the Company?
I joined African Nazarene University in 2012 to pursue a Bachelor’s degree Mass Communication-Electronic Media major. Despite shooting a barrage of applications to media houses I never got a chance. My career bubble as a videographer or producer was burst giving up is not my portion .I changed gears and took up an internship with Water Resources Management Authority. I garnered experience in water management and water technologies such as reverse Osmosis ,administration ,communication and public relations.I knew time was ripe to impact on those thirsting souls. Vivid consciousness of water menace in Kitui constantly urged me to intervene. My immediate thoughts were to dig a community borehole or buy a water bowser to supply safe and affordable water to families in sheer need. My family advised me to focus on water manufacturing, treatment, purification and distribution .I valued their insight and chose to treat, purify and distribute water for human consumption. With savings from college I started the company Koola in 2014 .
What level is your company?
In a loop of three years the company has steadily grown to become a middle level size with fifteen employees. I began with small purification machine but with time the company acquired a bigger and more efficient machine. We also dug a borehole in Karen.The production capacity is 1000 liters per day.
What are some challenges that you encountered?
It was an uphill task acquiring the first ten customers and penetrating into prospective markets .The prospects would resist our product. They woud be skeptical of the product because there are counterfeits and products of weak quality that have littered the market .
We faced stiff competition from well established brands -establishments with a strong budget muscle and elaborate marketing function. At the onset we were not getting the right people to work and that was a major hurdle.
How did you overcome the challenges?
We gave out many samples and leave business cards with potential customers hoping someday they would dial up .After they trusted our product, the customers would call and make an order .We retained the customers by timely delivery consistent improvement of the product and aggressive marketing campaigns. We make the brand visible through social media and taking about it whenever we get the slightest opportunity to take about the solutions we offer. My background in communication and public relations has contributed to the thrift off the businesss,I’m an ambassador of the product wherever I go. Thus far our market share has reached ten counties and growing.
We faced off with competition by mapping out our competitors,ridging their weakness and consistently improving of our product to make it crispier.
To attract the right employees we adopted new hiring approach We not only hired based on skills and experience but attitude ,professional ethics ,readiness to fuse with our culture and live our values . Initially we were not getting right people to work with; we did not have an efficient work force.
Resilience was the bone and spine that saw Koola waters become a middle sized company .
What advice do you have to young entrepreneurs?
The root of successful business is to believe in the light that prompts one to take entrepreneurial path. Take a brave step and start despite the odds because the circumstances are temporary and passing .Bravery is starting even when venturing into business frightens. Have courage to do ethical business, and defend quality and practice ageless qualities such as honesty and trust. Even if resources are meager, do not procrastinate the idea –begin and bootstrap by cutting unnecessary costs. Multiply the little profits by injecting back into business while retaining a fraction of it in liquid for mundane business needs. Market aggressively especially using low cost new media, word of mouth and seek referral. I urge entrepreneurs to set big discrete goals and until the magnitude of the goals scares them but be bold enough to rise up each dawn in pursuit of the dream. Break the goals into small reason daily, weekly and monthly steps .Put your mind, effort and soul into achieving of the milestones . Before you know it you will have achieved the goal within the predetermined time scope. Once the goal is achieved ,set another goal and keep expanding .Be focused lest you be ensnared and distracted by other ideas before the big idea becomes fruity. Above all trust in the counsel of the Almighty, He knows what the best is for you.
By Tom Mwiraria