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The Success Story Behind Billionaire Patrick Wainaina, Proprietor Jungle-Nut.

Some of the richest people in the world were born into their wealth. But many of them started with nothing and through hard work and God’s grace, they managed to rise to the very top.
Patrick Wainaina, the real brain behind Jungle Nuts Company, has done it all out of shear hard work. Wainaina has over the years been able to turn around his fortunes into a successful entrepreneur through what he refers to as blind faith, hard work and optimism.

“My history starts from the Kenya Nuts Company where I worked as an engineer in 1996. I am a trained mechanical engineer. My boss was a Japanese who was very strict and he taught me a great deal on what the future expects from me,’’ recalls Wainaina.

After resigning from Kenya Nuts, Wainaina headed to the US to study marketing, convinced that the trip would unlock his success. In the US, he found himself chasing for success that seemed beyond his grasp.

After completing his studies, Wainaina embarked on seeking employment, but nothing was forthcoming. The first job that presented itself was attending to the elderly.

Though it was not his preferred option, he took the job in order to make ends meet. After working for years, he had not managed to make any enviable savings. Life was becoming unbearable and he was getting home-sick.

“I had to cut down my spending and save something to take back home and this translated to Sh300,000,’’ he said.

Before leaving for the US, he had studied the Macadamia market and seen its potential. He had made contact with a number of businessmen involved in the trade.

“When I arrived in Kenya, I rented a small room and bought second hand machinery and used the remaining amount to pay factory rent for six months. I was left with nothing and my dream of owning a business was plunged into darkness,’’ he said.

His entry into the business world was faced with lack of capital to finance his dream and the future looked grim.

“The banks wanted a guarantor and no one wanted to take the liability in case I failed to repay,’’ says Mr Wainaina.

Broke and depressed, he shut down the business and looked for employment.

His turning point was in 2002 when he got a job as a Safaricom manager. At Safaricom, he joined the company’s sacco where he saved Sh20,000 per month.

Five years later, he felt that it was time he reignited his business with his savings. He would double as a manager to his employer and as an entrepreneur before and after work.

He later approached a group of friends and together they formed a group that enabled him get a loan from Faulu Kenya.

He embarked on sourcing for Macadamia nuts from the central region of Kenya.

Five years later, he resigned from Safaricom and concentrated on managing his young business. His first deal worth Sh400,000 from an American tycoon gave his company a new impetus globally and what followed was immense referrals and endorsements that changed his life completely.

Today, Wainaina is a self-made billionaire whose firm processes macadamia nuts, cashew nuts and peanuts. Interestingly, none of his products are consumed locally. The company exports its products to the US, China, and the UK.

“We have taken keen measures to have a respected brand both in Kenya and across the world. A good reputation in the market is the cornerstone of any business,’’ notes Wainaina who is an admirer of former Safaricom chief executive Michael Joseph.

“We plan to expand our footprint to Middle East countries and come up with more products that will grace the local supermarkets soon,’’ he added.

He says the global market is immense and comes with many opportunities for sales and brand exposure. He advises businessmen to study the market and understand what the consumer needs.

Jungle Nuts sources Macadamia from small-scale farmers in Kiambu, Muranga, Nyeri, Kirinyaga, Embu, Meru, Kitale, Bungoma and Taita. One kilogramme retails at between Sh60 and Sh80.

“The economy in nuts is cheap and easy. We normally meet annually and discuss the way to improve the industry,’’ he says.

Top of the list will include Macadamia butter and Mac Oil which will supplement salad oil. Also, the Macadamia shells are used to make charcoal that goes by the name Jungle Brickets.

“The charcoal is durable and relatively better and play an instrumental role in conserving the environment,’’ he explained

Wainaina came into the limelight after he became the overall winner of the Top 100 mid-sized companies survey organised by Nation Media Group’s premier business publication the Business Daily in partnership with consultancy firm KPMG.

In 2009 as very many companies were grappling with the global economic crunch, Jungle Nuts posted more than $6 million in turn over.

Jungle Nuts has a network of more than 80,000 farmers and 250 permanent staff.

He has invested Sh40 million on technology to ensure that nuts are bought e-buying. The produce is weighed right in the field and the data sent to a portable PDA machine which sends the results to a printer.

“We pay the farmers via M-Pesa immediately we buy their produce. This was inspired after witnessing crime incidents in some of the areas we buy our raw materials where farmers were being robbed off,’’ explained Wainaina.

The farmers too cannot be defrauded since the buying price is set from the factory. The company also supplies the farmers with Macadamia seeds at a fair price to enhance the quality of the produce.

Smuggling of the nuts from Kenya to China by middlemen has presented the biggest challenge, resulting to farmers losing a lot of money as well as leading to deteriorating quality of output. Another challenge involves the high cost of power as the firm’s monthly power bill is at around Sh.1 million.

His background has taught him the potential of youth mentorship.

“We have been a bridge to help other people realise their dreams and aspirations in life. Success calls for teamwork,’’ he says. The company’s mentorship programme, Jungle Nuts Foundation, aims at driving change based on self-reliance and empowering the community.

Entrepreneurs present their business ideas to the company, which vets and decides whether the idea is to be commercialised or whether the applicant needs to be mentored.

If the idea is prime and viable the individual is offered seed capital after going through a short financial literacy programme. One is expected to repay once the idea bears fruit. One beneficiary of the foundation is Nicholas Njoroge, who runs an enterprise called Alanic Products that makes detergents.

He received Sh1.5 million, which has transformed his childhood dream of venturing into self-employment. 

Today, he supplies his products to supermarkets and shops across the country.

Mr Wainaina’s wife runs a non-governmental organisation called Steps of Mercy that offers rejected and poor elderly people basic needs such as food, shelter and clothing.

“It’s in the spirit of offering help no matter how small it is. My success came from people who saw the potential in me and offered their support. Empathy should be inseparable to humanity,’’ he said.

His advice to budding entrepreneurs: “Value teamwork, live within your means and come up with projects that create employment. “Sometimes it’s better to start small where you learn the ropes of successful businesses and work harder to make it bigger,’’ he says.

(Greatly borrowed from Business Daily)

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