Following my previous article (Employment crisis: After campus, what next) in which I painted a grim but factual picture of our degree-wielding, jobless generation, I received quite a response. Apparently, it seems that few people want to hear the truth – even when knowing the truth is in their best interest. Take this friend, for example, who I met in the hallway of hostel M and who swore that I was a prophet of doom and a villain in the campus-degree success story. Well, I don’t really blame him. Under different circumstances, I too would have labeled me a prophet of doom.
You see, the problem is that ever since birth, most of us were convinced that we were special. We were given an award for every little achievement that we made – right from the first time we said “momma”, even though it sounded something like “wagon”. The effect, of course, is that we came to believe that we were overachievers, that we were special. We were kept from feeling the sting of failure, so we were rewarded out of pity most of the time. The effect – we became ill-equiped for adulthood. And we grew up thinking that the system would conform to our desires, and give us our dream jobs on silver platters.
Back to my friend, he backed his argument by referring to the “vague” idea I proposed as an alternative to employment as a cliché. He asked me if I knew how difficult it was to start a business. And he challenged me to give him some practical ideas. Not one to back out of a good challenge, I accepted. Just for the record, I know how “difficult” it is to start a business because I have tried, failed and succeeded (well, not really at a conventional business), and because I have seen people try and make a living out of nothingness; out of anything that they set their minds on. Out of poop, for example.
I know; I know what you are thinking. Poop, really? Picture this: some three guys assessed the “flying toilets” phenomenon in the slums of Nairobi and drafted a business plan for a Fresh Life Toilets company, which they named Sanegy. The plan won the 2011 MIT Entrepreneurship Competition and they received some cash award to implement their plan. They set on to build some decent toilets with removable waste cartridges, which they then sold to local operators in the slums at Ksh. 43,000 each. By 2012, they had made and sold off about 150 toilets in Mukuru slums. Last I checked, they were planning on making and selling between 5-10 toilets every week.
But their story doesn’t end there. Once they sell a toilet, the revenue it generates is the operator’s. But they come and collect the poop from the removable cartridges every day. On a bad day, Sanergy collects 1.5 tons of human waste from these toilets. The company uses this waste to make biogas and out of what remains, they make fertilizer. They sold about 2 tons of human-waste fertilizer in July 2012, with each ton of fertilizer collecting something between Ksh. 25,000 and 50,000. So for two tons, they made anything between ksh. 50,000 and 100,000 in that month alone, depending on the rates for fertilizer at the time. This figure excludes whatever they made out of biogas. Who would have thought poop could be so lucrative?
See where I am going with this? Let’s assume you haven’t heard about Sanergy just yet. Now let’s play out a scenario. If I needed some investment, and I approached you as a potential partner with a business plan on poop, what would be your first reaction? Am sure you would have laughed it off. Because as the lost generation, we would rather ride the “jobless” bus as we wait for the “real job” express, rather than do the “dirty” work. It isn’t the lack of opportunities that ails us. It is our selectivity, and the notion we have grown up with as campus attendees that we are special. Everyone poops just the same. I am not special, and neither are you.
Entrepreneurship is a journey. And it begins here, now, with you looking out for market gaps and/or areas where your passion lies. You have a passion/talent for beadwork? There are these velvex holders made out of beads that people really love, and there isn’t much supply out there. And they love some African crafts over there in the west too – do something! Farming is lucrative too if you set your mind to it. And you don’t have to own a shamba – they will let you lease one acre in Pokot for just 1,000 bob a year. Go dig some dirt – wherever the money trail takes you. Or you have a passion for writing like my friend Elvis Nyakreal and I have? Great, see either one of us for insights on how to turn that passion into a living.
I could go on and on, but I don’t know where your passion or talent lies. I could also tell success stories of people who started out with nothing for hours on end, but most of us would only make excuses. That we don’t have connections, that we don’t have any money, that the conditions are not yet right, that no one would buy what we have to offer, that we would only make losses.
If you are looking for an excuse, you will definitely get one. Heck, you will even get 100 excuses if you rack your brains hard enough! There has never been a place for excuses in success. There have never been perfect conditions in the history of start-ups. So what are you waiting for? Do yourself and your classmates-cum-future-employees a favor and start drafting a business plan today. Doesn’t have to be much, anything that says where you want to go and how you will get there. And in case my friend meets me in the hallway of hostel M again, I just might address his concerns in another article. For now, just remember its okay to get dirty. Dirt is good.
Article shared by Walter Murimi. Walter is a contributing author at
You can also read:Employment Crisis: After Campus What Next, Part 1?