Beekeeping ventures in the country have been among the most profitable businesses that many aspiring entrepreneurs have entered into
One such Inspiring businessess people who ventured into bee keeping is Pauline Otila who quit her well paying job to becoming the founder and managing director of Apiculture Venture Limited .
Otila’s ejourney began with avisit to Israel.
Her trip exposed her to diverse approaches and innovative practices in the beekeeping sector.
“While in Israel, I interacted with different women in beekeeping and thought of replicating the same back home,” Ms Otila
Her goal was not just to become another player in the industry but to provide a one-stop solution across the honey value chain, offering beekeepers a ready market.
Before embarking on her bee keeping venture, Otila faced a significant dilemma.
She had written not one but two resignation letters during her 15-year career in the beekeeping industry.
“I was being paid well, so quitting and not being sure whether I would be able to make ends meet was not easy,” Ms Otila recalls.
To overcome this, she sought guidance from fellow businesspeople who had successfully navigated the transition from employment to entrepreneurship.
One of the key factors that paved the way for Otila’s entrepreneurial success was how she was well prepared in terms of finances.
In 2013, she started budgeting, opened a fixed savings account, and also saved with her Sacco.
By the time she made the decision to leave her job, she had saved Sh4 million.
“Shock on me, by 2018 when I was starting, commodity prices, office space costs, and equipment prices had all gone up and the savings was only enough to sustain the business for only four months. So I had to plough back the little profit I made into the business.”
The first year of business in 2019 was far from easy.
Otila grappled with financial challenges and the complexities of managing a new business.
Then, in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic brought added uncertainty.
Here, she thought of returning to employment.
To overcome these challenges, she had to change her living lifestyle.
“I scaled down my lifestyle, got a smaller vehicle, joined master classes and accelerator programmes to make me more resilient in business and these kept me going and got to understand my business better,” said Ms Otila.
Despite facing various challenges in her first year, she managed to expand her company’s base to six counties and onboarded 2,500 beekeepers, generating a revenue of Sh21 million.
The COVID-19 pandemic led to a surge in honey demand, that led her to recruit over 2,600 new beekeepers.
Although the revenue growth was not significant due to the time it takes for bees to produce honey, it increased by 10%.
In 2021, Apiculture Venture experienced exponential growth.
The company recruited 8,000 new beekeepers, doubled its revenue, and sold 6,000 bee hives.
“In 2022, we signed partnerships with other organisations, had 10,700 new beekeepers and revenue grew by 20 percent and received a $50,000 grant,” said Ms Otila.
Up until now, the company maintains an annual average of seven tons of honey sales, has sold approximately 20,000 bee hives, and has enlisted 24,900 beekeepers across more than 20 counties.
Her vision is to expand operations to all 47 counties and establish itself as the leading commercial honey producer in Kenya and East Africa.
Additionally, she aims to create sustainable employment opportunities for women and youth through beekeeping initiatives.
One of the major challenges in the honey industry is competition from both genuine and adulterated honey sellers.
Otila’s response to this challenge was to maintain strict quality control.
“We only collect honey from our farmers who are trained in honey handling and have also set up a laboratory for testing before taking products to the market, not to mention continuous branding and rebranding and having feature marks to safeguard our brand,” said Ms Otila.