Working and living in rural Kenya is so much richer an experience than living just next door. After spending almost two years in rural Central Kenya, I have the deep set belief that if you want to help a socio economic bracket, you need to live with them and work with them hand in hand, be their friends and spend time with their children. Through doing this, you find out what makes them happy, what their interests are and what challenges they face.
A co worker, Joseph Wambugu, initially gave me the idea of doing a hydroponic system when he took a course and said it was amazing. Talking about it with him, I realized that it could be a business. For any business it needs to have two pieces: it has to solve a problem and it has to make money.
Hydroponics could do both quite well. First off, it is very simple technology at first but can be very scientific and complicated when turning it into a business. The good part is, it is very low cost and does not require unique or hard to find materials. Second, it produces something that is in dire need across East Africa: high quality feed stock for dairy cows.
After thinking about this idea for a few days, I realised that it had potential. I set out over the course of the next month to answer three questions:
- What were the details of the problem that farmers are facing with their feeds
- Can hydroponics really solve these problems
- Can it become a real business. i.e. make money.
By spending time doing work with Takamoto, it was very easy to spend three minutes here and there each day talking to the clients I was interacting with and asking them about the problems that they were facing. It became paralysingly clear to me that the problem was there and that it was a major reason why these farmers have been suppressed by the glass ceiling of poverty. I had determined that the problem was real.
During the same course of time, I was researching the solution on the internet and meeting with people who currently worked with hydroponics in order to see if the problems I was finding in the field and and the solutions I was finding were true. I met with two companies that were doing hydroponics in Kenya, joined LinkedIn groups and connected with people from around the world who ran hydroponic systems. I read as many articles as I could find that would support my case or try and prove it wrong. I found that I was not and that hydroponics offered a solution.
Two weeks later, on a weekend excision with Naomi, my girlfriend, I registered the URL http://www.lishabora.com, and set out on the long path of founding a company.