A Look at Our Incredible Women: Meet Jane Kioko

By Simon Kiragu and Davina Ngei 

Edited by Linda Davis PhD and Maureen Onyango

Jane runs Silver Investments, an alternative renewable energy business based in Tala  eastern Kenya. The company distributes solar panels, improved cookstoves and solar accessories to communities with limited access to electricity. In her previous occupation as a manager in a solar company, Jane was exposed to diverse solar technologies. Her experience there inspired her to establish a business offering quality hand held (pico) solar lanterns to meet the high  demand for energy solutions at the household level replacing kerosene, charcoal and firewood. Over the last two years, Jane has grown Silver Investments by using profits to stock up her shop, consequently expanding her product portfolio to include 10-20 watt solar panels, batteries and spare parts for solar home systems.

Despite introducing new products such as cookstoves, Jane struggled to maintain  good profits margins due to the relatively high cost of products and challenges experienced in accessing affordable financing to grow her inventory to meet rising demand. However, through support from wPOWER, Jane is receiving tailored mentorship focused on business plan and marketing strategy development, logistics planning, and assistance in attaining financial support.

Jane Kioko at her shop, Silver Investments, in Tala, Kenya

Mentorship

Despite some health challenges at the beginning of her mentorship period, Jane has found support in her mentor, Tobeko from South Africa, whose patience and guidance has strengthened her resolve to take her business to new heights. Together, they are creating a business plan geared towards cutting wholesale costs and propelling market growth. Additionally, they are brainstorming different techniques of affordable financing for the growth of Jane’s business (acquiring capital), considering high interest rates charged by formal financial institutions and limited financing available for energy SMEs.

With Kenya’s recent ban on logging of trees, Jane is exploring possibilities of diversifying her business to provide fuels such as locally made briquettes as an alternative to the scarce and expensive charcoal.

Inspired by her mentor, she is also looking to employ women marketers in her business to increase product sales.

“I urge women entrepreneurs not to rely on financial handouts from organizations, but to be proactive, patient and resilient in growing their business day by day. My childhood was not easy and I never thought I would one day own a business and employ others. Now I mentor 3 young ladies who want to venture into business and I am hoping they become successful.”