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Entrepreneurship – a risk worth taking

Howard inspecting his greenhouse plants.


In a post that went viral, a mother marveled at her son’s progress in entrepreneurship. Parents, in the comment section, narrated their own children’s feats in dabbling in business, a trait that the older generation seems to have approached with caution a bit later in life. “The power of intention! When my 17 year old son told me he wanted to build a greenhouse and test a business in logistics I thought it was just the usual teenage talk. 5 months later he’s done it…now we are looking for market for his tomatoes!” His mother’s post ignited a conversation on the willingness of Gen Z’s to take risks, those that the older generation might have approached with a tempered touch.

Fruits of labour

Howard Gitamo, the star of the post, began the Diploma in Entrepreneurship course at the Strathmore Institute of Management and Technology in January 2021 through remote learning. By then, his tomatoes were growing away in a greenhouse that he had set up several months earlier. As you read this, he probably has harvested and sold his first bright red, round fruits or in this case, vegetables of his labour.

This journey began in 2019 while he was still in high school when a classmate brought up the availability of a greenhouse. His friend’s father owned the structure; as he wasn’t making use of it, he offered it to his son. The duo pushed the fast-forward button and dreamed of the cash benefits such a project would bring in. However, due to various environmental factors, the idea did not materialize.

Growing up, Howard had his sights on becoming a vet due to his love for animals. He let go of this career choice when he realised biology and chemistry were not among his top choice subjects. So he thought, why not become a pilot? This too, became a passing admiration. What endured was his love for business.

“I enjoyed business classes in high school. I also have great interest in business simulators – virtual games where one gets the experience of running a business. The management aspect of it interests me immensely.”

Insightful conversation

Right before the onset of the pandemic, his mother’s job transported them to the Kericho. During this transition time, he had an insightful conversation with an uncle who runs a farm. “He told me of his experience in farming, what he grows, how much it fetches…He has labored over it for over four years and now it is bringing in profit though there is still room for it to grow. From this, I remembered the key in business is to differentiate between needs and wants. Food will always be a need thus it will always have a market.”

Once the pandemic hit and restrictions to movement were put in place, he was forced to spend a high amount of time indoors and without much human interaction. “With time, watching videos on YouTube endlessly became tiring. I realised if I didn’t engage in something productive, I’d lose it by July.”

The seed planted in 2019 by his friend and later watered by his uncle, popped up then when he saw a gold mine right there in front of him as he spent time outdoors playing football. “Here was a large piece of land I could use to set up the greenhouse. As I was far away from my friend in Nairobi, I had to go solo.”

Initial setbacks

“I did a bit of research on green houses, costs involved and what it takes to set one up. My first major mistake was selection of greenhouse size. I underestimated the size and instead of asking for a 15m by 8m, I ordered for a 5m by 3m. I remember the lady attending to me repeatedly asking me if this was the size I wanted but I didn’t think too much of it. She must have thought I was out to make an experiment out of it.”

It dawned on him that he had asked for one too small when it was delivered. This was the first of a few mistakes he is sure he cannot make again.

By October, it was all set up after that initial set back. “In November, we planted the seedlings. They take a very short time to grow as they do so in controlled conditions. Now in Mid Feb, we are ready to harvest and sell them.”

At the moment I am looking at it, not from how much I will earn from it, but how much I can learn from this experience. I was fortunate enough that I didn’t have too many initial expenses as I had land, equipment and expert help readily available. I am still under my parents care and for the moment I would like to plough all profits into more greenhouses.”

The units he is currently taking in the diploma course – business communication, innovations and tech, introduction to entrepreneurship – are granting him extra tips on how to grow his business. “I was rather skeptical about the critical thinking course – what exactly was I going to learn from this? Now I see I have to analyse decisions I make.  The decisions I make have a ripple effect; they not only affect my life and my business but will affect my customers, and ultimately, the economy. My end goal is to grow a business that offers more than profits.”

His parting shot: Take up any opportunity that is presented to you.


This article was written by Wambui Gachari.


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