Although he admits that it has been difficult to generate interest for the product, Ken is confident that a market for the oil exists
Waikwa Maina @PeopleDailyKe
When you walk through his door, a guidepost reads “Managing Director”, but from his executive swing chair, Ken Thumari is surrounded by pieces of avocado peelings and uncut avocado fruits.
There is minimal paper work in his Majengo slum office, located in Nyeri Town a few metres from River Chania. He will be here the whole day tasting and grading the fruits, a task he can’t delegate to any of the employees at his Kencado Oils Company.
Sampling helps him make informed decisions on where to source the avacados, and what fruit is best for the oil. The 24-year-old graduate of Aviation College extracts avocado oils that produce two varieties: Extra Virgin Avocado Oil and Virgin Avocado brands supplied in beauty shops and other outlets.
Next to his office is a securely locked room from where some soft humming equipment and sound of clattering plastics can be heared. The machine is crushing and squeezing oils from avocados, ready for packaging and distribution to the market brands that are claiming their space in cosmetics industry.
However, this did not come easy. After completing his diploma course in Aeronautical Engineering at the East African School of Aviation in 2014, Thumari wanted to start his own manufacturing company.
“My initial plan was to research and invest in making herbal juice from tamarind, but later realised that supply of raw materials would be a major challenge.” The answer came when his uncle confirmed his fears, but advised Ken to try avocados. “That’s how I began my business early 2016,” says Ken.
Still, his efforts proved futile trial after trial, until six months later when he produced the first 20 grammes of oil. “I nearly gave up, but my uncle who operates a Jua kali workshop kept encouraging me.
He shared his frustrations and that motivated me to keep trying. So, I did more online research until I produced the 20 gramme, which was a major breakthrough. Using the same process, I produced 20 more litres in a month,” he recalls. His next challenge was the market and how to compete with well-established cosmetics.
“By this time, I had improved my production to 25 litres in a week,” he says. However, having the product accepted in the competitive market posed a major setback.
So, he began giving free samples to salons, barber shops and people who had conditions that avocado oils cure. The approach worked and in a month, beauty shops that had tried the samples began making small orders, and in three months, his products were selling in more beauty and cosmetics outlets.
Later, he applied for Kenya Bureau of Standards certificate, which tested and approved his products. “The oils are powerful antioxidants, containing vitamin A, E, D, C and B-Complex vitamin.
They prevent wrinkles and premature aging of the skin, treate dry and damaged skin, erase stretchmarks and it’s a good hair moisturiser.
The oils also eliminate dandruffs, heals itchy scalps, strengthens hair and speeds up hair growth,” Ken says. He confirms that his family uses the oils for cooking, but he has no plans to produce cooking oil on large-scale.
“I call them Virgin Avocado Oils because they have no additive or preservatives, they are chemical free,” he assures. After processing, a litre of the oils earns him an average of Sh4,000, packaged and sold in 50ml bottles each retailing at between Sh200 and Sh250 depending on the brand.
A litre is extracted from 16kgs of ripe avocados, which he buys at Sh800 though he prefers Hass Variety of avocado which he says produce more oils. Increased demand has forced him get a loan that will help him expand his production capacity to 500 litres a day, something he hopes to achieve by mid this year.
“My ultimate goal is to have a powerful equipment capable of extracting 100,000 litres in a day,” he concludes. Currently, Ken is constructing an expanded processing plant to meet this constant supply.