What you need to know:
- On any given day, Njogu first tends to his farm, and then heads to his workshop.
- Njogu wishes more people would appreciate locally made toys like his, which are of good quality.
Michael Njogu’s toy workshop is located in Kamakwa market in Nyeri County. Any discarded plastic or wooden object is a fortune for him, since recycling is at the centre of Mr Njogu's venture.
Since his childhood, he enjoyed resurrecting unwanted objects, and is constantly on the lookout for waste that he can transform into toys, in fact, his free time during childhood was spent crafting cars from all types of materials he would come across, and thanks to the art and craft lessons back in primary school in the 80s, Njogu got a chance to discover his gift early, and so his hobby became his lifetime venture.
He began his toy car business in 1992.
On any given day, he first tends to his farm, in which he has planted sweet potatoes, and then heads to his workshop.
“I prefer to use the silky oak tree, commonly known as Grevillea, since it is cheap, and also the cypress tree, which when painted shines and glows,” says Njogu.
He uses a wood shaper machine to perform specialised and specific cuts for the different parts of the toy vehicles.
“My biggest masterpiece is a tractor model which took me eight years to get right, it has a complete hydraulic system and looks real and functional,” he explains.
Depending on the car model he is making, he can take up to a maximum of 10 days to put it together. The cost, he says, depends on the time it takes to put the car together.
The most expensive so far is the hydraulic tractor, which costs Sh3,500, while the cheapest in his collection is a pickup model that costs Sh500. He gets inspiration from the cars he sees on the road.
He wishes that people would grow to appreciate locally made toys like his, which are of good quality and therefore long lasting and unlike plastic toys which are considered waste once they get damaged – the secret to his toys’ durability is the thick metal rod he inserts beneath the cars, which prevents breakage in case a child steps or sits on it.
“My biggest challenge at the moment is capital, which I require to set up a proper workshop, for example, I take a long time to curve the wheels, work that can be easier and faster if I bought a specialised cutter,” he says.
Another challenge is getting buyers to appreciate his pricing, few understand that a lot of work goes into making the toys.