Inside the shop in Nakuru County, one of the youths winnows dry maize, and another weighs maize flour on a scale before putting in smaller branded packs.
Outside the shop, a young man arrives with a motorbike to deliver a bag of dry maize. It is not hard to tell that the youth who belong to Tiger Self-Help Group are a busy lot. On this day, they are working hard to meet client's order.
"We started the group in 2013 but registered it in 2014. Then, we were 22 members but we are now 10," Fredrick Kimani, the chairperson tells Mkulima Young.
Kimani notes the group's goal from the start has been to empower members economically as they boost food security.
"We have had big plans. Our aim is to ultimately venture into real estate by buying land for our members. We started various income generating projects that include an entertainment joint, bought pool tables, TV sets and set up a candy shop," he says.
To boost their business, they took a Sh400,000 loan from Unaitas Sacco, which they have since repaid but as years passed, some members dropped out," recounts Kimani.
Their venture into processing of maize and other cereals started about two years ago when they enrolled in Vijabiz programme.
"Vijabiz gave us a grant and we chose to invest in cereal value chain by buying a secondhand posho mill and we also started an eatery. We mill the flour for customers and our two posho mills also provide the produce for the hotel. We offer market to our own products," says Kimani.
Besides maize meal, they also process porridge and peanut flour, with all their products branded Afri.
"We sell Afri Maize Meal in packets of 1, 5, 10 and 50 kilos. A kilo goes at Sh60. We also have Afri Uji, which is made from a mixture of sorghum, millet and cassava. We were advised by a nutritionist to do that combination," says Kimani, adding they source the raw materials directly from farmers.
They process up to 800kg of cereals on a good day. "With the new machinery from Vijabiz, we believe we'll do a tonne and above," says Kimani.
They sell their products in the local community, through orders from hotels, institutions and schools.
"Our hotel also offers a great market. We market the products through word of mouth, referrals and on online platforms like Mkulima Young," says Kimani, noting they have employed two people as the rest of the work is done by members.
Joseph Murioki, a member of the group, says Vijabiz has helped them acquire ICT skills that have come in handy when branding their products.
"They made us see the opportunity in cereals business. They have also taken us for peer-to-peer learning by visiting other producers and youth groups to learn," he says.
Covid-19 pandemic has affected their business as schools, one of their biggest customers were closed leading to reduced demand.
"Even if the locals consume, they can't consume as much as schools, so for us it is a loss," he says.
Morgan Siguda, a project officer with Vijabiz Project in Nakuru, says Tiger group members are determined.
"They have other enterprises which run concurrently with the cereals business what shows their entrepreneurship," he says.