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 outstanding 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.
What sets Jamii Products apart is not just its eco-friendly approach but also its commitment to social inclusion. Kimani, an innovator at heart, provides free training to people living with disabilities and former prisoners, equipping them with hands-on skills.
On the other end of the spectrum, the training program is accessible to all, with a fee of Ksh 15,000, requiring no machines and spanning 7-10 days, with no age or education limitations.
His workshops are not just about creating flower vases, candle holders, or dust bins from recyclable materials; they are about building futures.
To date, Jamii Products has trained over 8500 individuals and offered employment to 19 people, including three with disabilities and one individual who spent seven years behind bars.
”We have empowered 25 groups for disabled in kibra ,Kiambu ,Nanyuki and 6 prisons in Central and Nairobi regions and more that 23 school for intellectual challenge units,” Kimani said.
Moreover, Kimani’s initiative reaches far beyond Kiambu County. He has empowered 25 groups for disabled individuals in various regions, fostering a sense of belonging and self-reliance.
The impact of Jamii Products extends even further. By providing materials and tools to his trainees, Kimani ensures that his knowledge becomes a catalyst for more enterprises.
His vision goes beyond just recycling; it’s about creating a circular economy where waste is not just discarded but transformed into opportunities for growth and development.
One of the most remarkable aspects of Kimani’s work is his determination to spread the message of sustainability.
“I am profoundly grateful to announce the establishment of a branch for my siblings in Naivasha town, where they will continue the noble work in that area. As I gaze hopefully toward the horizon, I am positioning myself to be an integral contributor to the ongoing efforts of mitigating the effects of climate change, conserving the environment, and fostering community engagement through behavioral and social change.” Said Kimani.