Meet Charles Kimani, affectionately known as Kimani Wa Makaratasi, a Thika-based businessman and the visionary founder of Jamii Products – a company that specializes in the manufacturing of eco-friendly carrier bags, aptly named “makaratasi” in Swahili.
Kimani’s entrepreneurial journey began modestly.
Armed with confidence and a determination to achieve his dreams, he seized an opportunity that would eventually grow into a multi-million-dollar enterprise. His story is a shining example of how resilience and a small loan can pave the way for success.
In 2018, Kimani laid the foundation for Jamii Products, driven by a deep understanding of the environmental issues associated with the widespread use of polythene bags. When the Kenyan government imposed a ban on plastic bags, Kimani saw a window of opportunity and decided to act.
“It was a new dawn, and I decided to be part of changing the narrative in the packaging industry. I developed a business model to offer a sustainable solution and gave birth to Jamii Products Limited,” he explains.
What sets Kimani’s journey apart is his humble start. He embarked on this venture with a loan of just Ksh1,600, which he had borrowed from Safaricom’s M-Shwari. He attributes the astounding success of his company to a higher power, saying, “I started with a loan of 1,600 from M-Shwari. It is on record. When I saw it was growing, I knew this is God’s love.”
Jamii Products specializes in the production of khaki paper products, including envelopes, gift bags, packaging bags, popcorn bags, khaki rolls for packaging, cake boxes, and book covers, among others.
These bags are not only biodegradable and compostable but also cost-effective, making them a sustainable alternative to single-use plastics.
Over the past three years, Kimani’s company has experienced substantial growth and expanded its reach beyond Kenyan borders. It now exports its eco-friendly products to Uganda, Tanzania, and Rwanda. From its humble beginnings in Thika, Jamii Products has scaled up production to cater to both local and international markets. The company currently operates two branches, with one located in Naivasha, a testament to its continued expansion.
Kimani acknowledges the global shift away from single-use plastics and the growing demand for sustainable packaging solutions.
While alternatives have often been costly, his company fills a crucial niche in the market by providing eco-friendly options at competitive prices.
Despite his achievements, Kimani faces challenges in his business endeavors. Logistics, especially the delivery of products to certain parts of the country, presents a formidable hurdle. Additionally, he sources his materials from Tanzania, as buying them from Kenyan suppliers can sometimes prove costly.
Beyond his commitment to sustainable packaging, Kimani also strives to impart knowledge and skills to his community. In January 2018, Jamii Products initiated a training program aimed at empowering community members.
The program offers training in the production of various eco-friendly products such as packaging bags, envelopes, book covers, popcorn bags, gift bags, cake boxes, as well as branding and marketing. Kimani’s dedication to promoting sustainability and socio-economic development in his community shines through in his focus on skill-building and awareness.