Hot water iron earns students top award

FELISTA WANGARI | NATION
Joseph Muchuha, a form three student at Dagoretti High School, irons a handkerchief with a hot water iron. The students invented the iron because they are forbidden from using domestic electrical appliances in school

When 11 teenagers from Dagoretti Secondary School came up with an ironing device that uses hot water instead of electricity or charcoal, they did not have power blackouts or unconnected rural folk in mind.

Instead they were looking for a way to keep students neat while circumventing school rules that forbid students from carrying electrical appliances to school.

The 11 teenagers had formed a student-run enterprise under the Junior Achievement Programme and needed a product that would earn them a good profit as well as make their company competitive.

They settled on creating an iron that relies on hot water to smooth unsightly creases from clothes and promote neatness in school.

For that, D-Smart — their company — was declared the best student-run enterprise in Kenya.

They beat seven other secondary school-based businesses to emerge tops at an event to reward student entrepreneurs in the country.

While announcing Dagoretti High School as this year’s winners, the judges said they were impressed by the innovativeness of the iron, which had the potential to go large-scale and be sold to Kenyans who have no access to electricity.

“A lot of areas in Kenya have no electricity and this unique and environmental-friendly product can meet the needs of Kenyans in those areas at an affordable cost,” said Sanda Ojiambo, the Safaricom Head of Corporate Responsibility and a judge at the event.

Their ironing device, which uses hot water, is quite popular with fellow students. Before the innovation, students used unsophisticated means to press their clothes, but they were not as effective.
“We ‘ironed’ our clothes by putting them between two mattresses and lying on them overnight.

The next day the clothes would be ready to wear, but they did not have the freshly-ironed look,” Collins Otieno explains.

Those who found lying on their clothes cumbersome drip-dried them hoping that the creases would evaporate with the water.
Now, thanks to the hot water iron, and for only Sh15, students can wear well-pressed shirts to any function and stand out from the crowd.

The demand for the ironing services was fueled by inter-dormitory cleanliness competitions and the boys’ desire to look their best during school and out-of-school functions.

“We sold the idea to dormitory captains who then mobilised their members to raise cash for two iron boxes per dormitory,” Kavita Charis, one of the student entrepreneurs, says.

Demand for ironing services peaks during special occasions such as visiting days, parents’ days, closing days and during functions such as drama and music festivals when students want to look their best.

The iron is made of simple, easily accessible materials.

Plastic lamination paper

A galvanised iron hanger makes the basic frame onto which black canvas paper for the base, aluminium foil, cotton wool for insulation and plastic lamination paper are modelled.

The school provides hot water to make hot beaverage in the evenings. It is this water that D-Smart entrepreneurs use to provide ironing services to the student community.

“We are given hot water for hot beverage and that is the one we use to heat the iron,” says Collins a member of D-Smart.
John Muchuha, a form three student, says that the device can iron all types of fabrics without burning. Moreover, it is environmental friendly.

D-Smart was liquidated last month and from an initial share capital of Sh7,000, the enterprise returned a profit of Sh25,500.
In addition to winning the company of the year title, the boys won the most innovative product award.

The boys will represent Kenya in the Africa Student Competitions in Ghana in October.

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