Man who kept soap for 58 years awarded a year’s worth of supply

Kimani Kibiku,72 with his wife Wanjiru Kimani

Kimani Kibiku,72 with his wife Wanjiru Kimani, 67 pose for a photo with some of the goodies they received from Sunlight on November 24, 2022. Kimani has kept a souvenir piece of bar soap for 58 years. 

Photo credit: Lucy Wanjiru | Nation Media Group

When Kimani Kibiku first reached out to share his story about keeping a bar soap for 58 years, he said it was simply because he is a fan and a regular consumer of Nation’s content.

“You can call me old-school,” he quipped. “Every day, I buy one of your newspapers, mostly alternating between the Daily Nation and Business Daily. But I always get the Nation’s weekend editions. I, especially, love the Lifestyle stories which I find relatable and entertaining.”

So, having read many people’s stories, Mr Kimani thought it was time he finally shared his, with the hope that someone might enjoy it. His was a peculiar tale of a bar soap of the “Key” brand that was manufactured by East Africa Industries (now Unilever).

Together with his wife Wanjiru, they shared fond memories of their childhood and painted a picture of what life was like five decades ago.

Online buzz

Much to the couple’s joyful surprise, their story captivated many who came across it, the online buzz surrounding it evidence enough. Some made comments in jest while others expressed their amusement.

Among those whose attention was captured were Unilever, the manufacturer of the soap.

They reached out to Mr Kimani and visited his home on Thursday afternoon.

It was here that we retraced our steps back to Kiahuria village, Kabete Constituency, for this merry occasion. A beaming Mr Kimani and Wanjiru met us at the gate to welcome us to their home.

“When I first came across the article online, I was immediately captivated,” said Ibtisam Habib, the marketing manager of Sunlight, one of Unilever’s brands. “I just wanted to spend some time with this man, hear the story for myself and, of course, see the piece of soap.”

Ms Habib said the Key brand was officially taken off the market in 2002, adding that the company decided to retain and improve the Sunlight brand.

“Even if we are not able to gift you (the Kimanis) a replica of the original, we came with our current products, which I believe are of even better quality,” said Ms Ibtisam. “We brought you a year worth of supplies as a simple means to show appreciation to a loyal customer.”

Among the items in the gift hamper that the couple received were various kitchen, floor, bathroom and laundry cleaning products as well as an assortment of toiletries.

Mr Kimani said he was excited beyond measure, stating how much his life had changed since his story was first highlighted in the Sunday Nation’s Lifestyle magazine.

“I am grateful to Nation for telling my story. Nowadays I get calls from so many people who want to visit me. And I became the buzz of the village. Even people who did not previously pay much attention to me now want to say hello and interact with us,” he said.

Ms Wanjiru said: “We are honoured by Unilever paying us a visit. It feels good to be appreciated and after all these years of using their products, our day finally came. We love and welcome visitors; they are a blessing.”

The couple also said that being businesspeople at the nearby Wangige town – where Ms Wanjiru runs a bookshop and Mr Kimani operates an agrovet – being in the limelight has given them an edge and they have seen the number of their customers increase.

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