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Silvia Tonui, The Lady Who ‘Thought Out Of The Box’ To Sweetens Up Your Popular Beverage

Silvia Tonui is one young and very courageous lady who, even after studying hard and graduating in marketing, quickly followed her passion away from her field of study and still made in life. Her career has seen her work in different countries over a span of 9 years from Japan to South Africa to Kenya.

At 23, she began working for Times Media Limited in South Africa. Over a period of 4 years, under the Times Media umbrella, she worked for Elle; Stuff; SoccerLife & South African Home Owner Magazines holding different positions in Consumer and Trade Marketing. She then moved back to Kenya in 2012 and was the CEO of FAFA (Festival for African Fashion & Arts) for 2 years before branching out to consult for What’s Good Studios amongst other clients.

FAFA was set up in Nairobi in February 2008 by a small group of Kenya-based professionals in the fields of fashion, media, music and the arts to show creativity in the face of adversity, a belief voiced by many African artists and designers, and to promote Kenya as a leading centre for all things creative on the continent.

She is currently co-founder for Africa Retold- a management consulting company and along with 3 business partners runs a firm that makes an export ready honey brand. 

After discussing with one of her friends whose grandmother has been hawking raw honey by the road-side in Baringo, Silvia partnered with three others to package honey in sachets. This was after identifying an untapped potential in the honey market. They decided to target the low income clientele and packed them in small sachets dubbed the ‘kadogo economy’.

With a little contribution each, the three set up a pasteurisation and packaging plant in Nairobi, Honeymoon Kenya, where they could source raw honey various counties. Previously, they had also started an IT company which did not do well and it was quite a big challenge to venture into the honey business. However, they were quite surprised when they could not even satisfy the market demand of honey.

“We started selling honey because we saw that the biggest problem in developing countries was value addition where most people do a lot of Agricultural products, but who sell to a second person who beautifully package them and later resell it for about 500% profit. Basically we sell our kadogo economy to kiosks and low income areas but we are also looking into exporting the product,” said Sivia.

According to Tonui, honey is readily available all-over the country but the producers never get value for it. The y source theirs from different places especially in West Pokot where they later bring it to Nairobi.

“It has been a real good journey especially now that a lot of hotels are turning to honey. Basically, you can sell honey every single day. One in every five people like or use honey. People are moving away from sugar because of health reasons. There is a big rise in diabetes, high blood pressure, weight issues, all that are driving people away from sugar which has worked to our favour.”

Why Agriculture?

“Agriculture is one of the oldest trade and people need to eat, thus a guaranteed market per se. It is unfortunate that majority of the foodstuff in our supermarkets are imported yet we are an agricultural country. With the introduction of formal education, everyone moved to the white collar jobs, leaving behind a very big gap in the agricultural sector. That is why we have that big deficit in the sector, thus our reason to jump into this sector which has a huge business potential,” she said.

She fails to understand the reason why Kenyans aren’t selling their own products yet they are so readily available and easy to market.

“Why ain’t we selling our own products? Why are we importing honey for example? The biggest selling brand of honey in the country is Manuka all the way from New Zealand, yet we have honey here in plenty.”

One of the challenges that affects most of the youth in Kenya, she adds, is the initial fear of venturing into business due to the country’s education orientation that encourages them to just go to school and seek for white collar jobs. For Tonui and her partners, they opted to overcome that fear and risk their money into this investment.

It is for this reason that she is challenging Kenyan youth to have a paradigm shift and stop boxing themselves in the notion that being employed is the only way to make money. She reminds them that the government had set aside so much money for them to exploit and start business ventures that can assist them break even in entrepreneurship.

She proudly says that, a year and a half down the line, she along with her business partners are earning handsomely in this honey making business. Their biggest marketing strategy has been through the social media and personal networks which are offering a lot of sales especially through Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp.

“It has been a long journey but I can proudly say that the most fulfilling thing now is that I am my own boss, controlling my time, earning good money and actually creating jobs,” said Tonui.

Their business chain currently has 15 salespersons and so many other people benefitting from them directly and indirectly.

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