Patrick Odipo wanted to solve the perennial water shortage in his community in Migori. But, there was one big problem. Mr Odipo lacked enough capital to drive the idea to scale.
“Back in 2013, I saw a good business opportunity in the water business due to the lack of water in the county. I then decided to try my luck into this business,” Mr Odipo says.
With little resources, he founded Bazam Cool Limited, a company that processes water for bottling and mass distribution.
“I identified a premise within the town and I immediately bought a reverse-osmosis (RO) machine locally from my little savings and started making water,” he says.
Due to limited capacity, he could not process much water. This prevented him from reaching a wide clientele.
“We were not producing much and since we were still new in the business, we could not sell much,” Mr Odipo states.
There were also other challenges in the beginning. “Initially, we were using county water, and at times they would just disconnect supply without notice, hence no processing would go on,” he says.
There were also other hoops to jump through, such as the various fees levied by the county governments, the health certificates needed to legally process food, as well as certification fees and tax compliance.
In 2015, things changed for the better after KCB Biashara Club, which Odipo had joined to learn more about business, organised a trip to China.
The KCB Biashara Club is a platform that champions the growth of Small and Medium Enterprises by offering business solutions, advisory services and networking opportunities.
KCB Bank set up the Biashara Club to help provide non-financial support and other enterprise development services to the customers. Launched in 2008 as a club exclusively for Small and Medium Enterprises, KCB Biashara Club also facilitates capacity building for members through training and workshops.
The club also organises international business learning trips such as the one Mr Odipo took to China.
"We provide benchmarking opportunities against industry best practices where we take the members on international business trips to learn from the best. We have so far travelled to more than 15 countries and members have been exposed to various opportunities. Some have been able to meet suppliers and even established new markers for their products," says Annastacia Kimtai, Director of Retail Banking at KCB Bank.
The China trip was an eye-opener on water technology as Mr Odipo got to identify a fully automated RO machine with a capacity of 1,000 litres per hour.
The machine cost Ksh730,000 ($6,700). Mr Odipo immediately put down a deposit of Ksh109,000 ($1,000) and borrowed the rest from the bank through KCB Biashara Club.
He is especially happy that he got the unsecured loan from KCB Bank in three days, and adds: “I would boldly say that we are the best water processing company in the Nyanza region.”
He says their biggest milestone has been supplying water to homes, schools, colleges, weddings and funerals as well. “We managed to acquire our own borehole where we get our raw material easily.”
“My experience with KCB has been very good. KCB has made me who I am today. With Biashara Club, I have the connection and everything is at my fingertips, due to engagement with people from different business backgrounds,” he adds.
Customers like Mr Odipo have been beneficiaries of the Bank’s objective when creating Biashara Club, which was to provide non-financial services and enterprise development support to clients in business.
“Through enterprise development, our goal is to build their skills and competencies, enabling them to confidently grow their businesses with peer to peer support as well," says Ms Kimtai.
With its focus, KCB Biashara Club currently has more than 15,000 active members in Kenya and more than 4,000 in Uganda, Tanzania, South Sudan and Rwanda. It has managed to train over 90,000 business owners since inception and is primed for more success.
Mr Odipo now looks forward to resuming the trips as he plans to expand the business.
“Joining the Biashara Club was the best thing I did. This club is bringing business people together. We exchange ideas and make friends with people in different areas of business,” he says.