This week, we catch up with Kenyan agripreneur Peninah Muthonia. She is among the 15 women entrepreneurs hand-picked for a training initiative presented by Corteva Agriscience and Strathmore University.
A small regional outlet in Karatina town, Nyeri County is what Peninah Muthoni and husband Robert Kabiru started with in the year 2000. This is after she completed her diploma studies in Tourism Management at the Coast Institute of Education.
According to Peninah, the agribusiness journey grew from a farmput agrovet which was then registered as Jupiter Farmput Supplies and later on incorporated into a company limited.
“I got married into a family that was in the agribusiness line. And that is how I got into it. I found it okay because I didn’t get the time to go and work in the line that I was studying. So, I came straight into agribusiness and incidentally it became like a passion for me. I had no challenges adapting. And good thing is that in my upbringing my parents used to involve us in business when we were not in school, so involving myself in business was not a difficult task,” she says.
The 45-year-old who was born and raised in Nyeri, has never looked back ever since she put her foot in agribusiness.
“The way you can do one thing and then have a second thought to try something else, it has never run in my mind. From the word go since I started involving myself in this, I have enjoyed every minute of it. There is so much to learn in the agricultural line.
“Personally, because once in a while I will drive out to the fields to see what the farmers are doing. Most people even think I have been into an agribusiness class but I have never. I am proudly trained.”
“I also have a small farm which is not a serious business,” she chuckles, “I currently have potatoes and cabbages.”
Her passion crowned her Best Small-scale Agrovet Input Dealer in Nyeri County. This was during the Farmers Awards Scheme 2015 sponsored by Elgon Kenya and Ministry of Agriculture.
Though Peninah describes her journey as a smooth run, she did not shy away from citing the constraints she has faced.
“The challenges have been there because when we started it was very good, we were a few players in the market, we had very good margins, the range of products want wide so we could play around a small field. Those days were easy doing business. And now it’s very tough because number of players in the market has increased.
“With the cut throat competition, margins are very small. Again you find there are so many products in the market sometimes it becomes hard to balance it because every other day you hear farmers demand of a new product and if it’s a product you haven’t stocked before you have to go looking for it,” she says.
Adding that there were days when the negatives were more than the positives. Such is the year 2020 when the Covid pandemic hit hard, greatly affecting economies across the globe.
“It has been okay for me because I have seen growth all through until now around 2020/2021 with the Covid-19 issues. That is the only time that I have seen my business gone down. But previously I was okay about every year.”
This was also the year she lost her husband. She not only lost a companion but also a business partner. This pushed the mother of three to rebrand in 2021 naming the agrovet, Highland Farmcare. It deals with fertilizers, chemicals, seeds, soil testing etc.
“After losing my partner in the year 2020 I had to change the name because I couldn’t do much with that company when one director was not there.”
Muthoni continues to push forward as a sole director. Even though now she has delegated, she still remains in charge of overall operations.
She was among the extraordinary women who participated in the 2021 edition of the Corteva Women Agripreneur Programme with Strathmore University; attesting that she gained much knowledge from it.
“I distribute for Corteva and also being a woman in agribusiness is how I got myself into the programme. The trainings are good; they touch on everything we need to do in our businesses. There is a lot I learnt about taxes and management of the business and personnel.”
While wrapping up her interview with FoodForAfrika.com, she highlighted the importance of venturing into agribusiness.
“This is a very important line. We have a large population and we need to feed the nation. Agriculture is therefore there to remain so for everyone who thinks of venturing into that line, I think it’s the right direction.”