A Look at Our Incredible Women: Meet Lydiah Njung’e

By Davina Ngei 

Edited by Linda Davis PhD and Maureen Onyango

Lydia runs Eversave Charcoal, a briquetting business based in Mai Mahiu in central Kenya, at the heart of the Great Rift Valley. Her business manufactures and distributes briquettes to farmers, households and eco-conscious lodges across Nakuru, Kiambu, Narok and Nairobi counties. In 2009, Lydia (at the time a poultry farmer) was devastated by the sudden loss of 2000 chicken (the equivalent of one – third of her stock). The fact that she was using expensive charcoal to warm the chicken coops compounded her losses. Electricity was too expensive to carry out hatch warming, leading her to consider alternative fuels such as briquettes. However, there were no large-scale briquette suppliers in close proximity, and consequently Lydia started manufacturing briquettes for her chicken coop. At a poultry farmers seminar a few months later, her colleagues were impressed by the economics of her chicken business, setting off a chain of events that led her away from poultry farming and towards briquette production.

Notwithstanding her success in supplying briquettes to other poultry farmers (her target market), Lydiah has been unable to scale up her business in terms of accessing new markets to distribute her products. Thankfully, wPOWER is providing support, through which Lydiah is receiving tailored mentorship on modifying her business plan and developing effective marketing strategies.

Lydiah Njung’e at the Eversave Charcoal production site in Mai Mahiu, Kenya

Mentorship

Lydiah has been paired with Dimita from Romania, who is offering guidance on growing her business in a sustainable and affordable way. Currently, Lydiah is completing the design of a new website, to showcase and advertise her briquettes widely. Furthermore, and at the encouragement of Dimita, Lydiah has printed leaflets in addition to leveraging social media to increase awareness of her briquettes. But perhaps her business’ most significant transformation is the establishment of well-designed branding identity, which can be seen in the sacks used to package her briquettes  and her business stationery (receipts, quotations, delivery notes etc).

Additionally, Lydiah has recruited a 5-person sales team who she pays on commission. Before the mentorship engagement Lydiah was hesitant to make this step considering limited capital, however, Dimita helped her identify a cost-effective growth strategy i.e. commission-based contracts as opposed to employment contracts. As her mentorship engagement progresses, she is excited at the possibility of targeting newer markets, including supermarkets, grocery stores, hotels and executive clients. With a ban on logging in Kenya and the subsequent decrease in charcoal dust, Lydiah is also pursuing training on carbonizing agricultural waste material, ensuring her supply of raw materials is not curbed by the ban.

“My goal is to be the number 1 briquette producer in Nakuru county. I want to expand, scale, brand, and stabilize my prices and quality. I want to bring awareness and investment to the sector and to my business. I want to train and empower others to join the briquetting business, to fill the demand gap that is too large for one business to cater to. When you’re passionate about something, you’ll make it.”