This week, we catch up with Kenyan agripreneur Sabina Muchira. She is among the 15 women entrepreneurs hand-picked for a training initiative presented by Corteva Agriscience and Strathmore University.
“Immediately after school I wanted to intern somewhere else. I didn’t want to run the family business. I wanted to build my own brand. If it wasn’t for the fact that things didn’t work out in the banking sector I wouldn’t be here.”
Sabina Muchira couldn’t be happier that agriculture found her. In fact, she describes her move to the dynamic sector as “the best experience.”
“On the other hand, though I was very happy because the jobs in the banking sector were very rudimentary. You don’t manage to see the whole company prospective of the action from the start to the end. You only get to see the aspect of business you are dealing with.
“With this, there is a better learning in terms of exposure because you get to meet very many people and dealing with a lot of issues. And the fact that it is a family business, you also get to be an entrepreneur.
“You don’t only handle finance, you deal with HR issues, operational issues so the exposure has been great, I wouldn’t compare it to the banking sector where you only deal with one complementary thing day in day out. So, the experience has been a plus.”
Early exposure to entrepeneurship
Speaking to FoodForAfrika.com, Muchira (32) says she was born and raised in Mwea Kirinyaga County, Kenya. She studied finance at Strathmore University before graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in 2011. She is now an accountant at New Downtown Agrovet.
“It’s a family business started by my parents. They are still very highly involved however due to factors like ageing we have also had to come in and help them. That is how I came into the business. Basically, I am second generation. I didn’t think I was going to join the sector. I was basically assisting in the normal operations but now I am in the finance department.”
According to Muchira, it was an accidental business. It started off in 1984 as a utility shop, but with requests from customers and suppliers to keep other agrochemicals, later turned into an agrovet.
It now deals in agrochemicals, fertilisers, irrigation, seeds, animal feeds, veterinary products and farming inputs.
She officially got into the business in the tail end of 2013. But how easy is the transition from being a banker to becoming an agrovet?
“The transition wasn’t hard. Fortunately, we were really involved in the business quite early on different aspects. So, as you grow older you are getting more responsibilities. By the time I was actually in campus there was a time I was able to handle the business alone for even a week. The handover has also been slow and progressive. I was able to start handling receivables, slowly to payables, and now into the banking area.”
Even with a finance background, working in agribusiness has had its challenges, added Muchira.
Upping her game
Muchira admits that diversity and working with many people can be challenging.
“The way you handle a situation is different from this one and this one. Another is you are worrying about what is going to happen tomorrow with all these different roles. I also remember when joining, for about two years there was a lot of push and pull; getting to know the correct leadership style. There was a difference in the approach to things.”
Through the recent training programme between Strathmore University and Corteva Agriscience, Muchira has been able to advance her business management strategies.
“The class was a very good eye-opener in terms of management. Specifically, it came at a very timely period; the end of year period where you are also reflecting about what to do with the company and your decisions moving forward, so you regulate your decisions for the next year plan.
“You are making more informed decisions in terms of the business. I also liked the fact that it was done in not only a theoretical approach but more of reality in check.”
With her nine years of experience in the family’s agribusiness, Muchira has a few pointers for those looking into following her footsteps.
“The individuals themselves have to really accept it. There is that aspect of validation by your parents, you don’t think they would really validate you in terms of jobs. That is a very big push and pull we had with my parents at that point.
“Another factor, especially for handlers of the business, for example the parents, is acclimatisation of your children into the business. It can be very hard coming into the business from just school and at that point even when you were younger you have never been involved actively in the business.
“Employees will tend not to believe in you and decisions you make and even yourself you don’t really know what are the right things to do. So, for anyone running a business I would always advice, let them first do the rudimentary jobs as early as they are able to stand understanding something.
“They can start by handling different job levels for example during school breaks and by the time they are getting to the position of becoming manager, they already have an experience from everything down the entire lane.”