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Success away from home

For many, fish is just a food they eat from time to time but for Maureen Akinyi in Chuka, Tharaka Nithi County, it is her income generating activity and a great boost to her livelihood.

        

The 26 years old Akinyi came to Chuka in 2018 in search of employment and indeed secured one but decided to venture into her own business after 3 months of working.

      

She started selling Samosas around town when she discovered she had never spotted anyone vending fish in Chuka town apart from a few restaurants which were expensive for the common Mwananchi.

        

Coming from Nyanza, she found that odd and immediately ventured into the fish business.

            

“When I resigned from my job, I had no idea what I wanted to do but I knew I wanted to start my own business.  I started selling samosas around town and made some profits. Then I realised a great opportunity and that was how I began my fish business,” she revealed to KNA.

            

She went back to her home county Kisumu where she sourced for a fish supplier from Lake Victoria who agreed to be sending her the fish all the way to the Eastern region.

            

When starting the business venture, she faced a lot of rejection being in a community where few people ate fish and a couple others lacked knowledge about the type of fish to eat while others were clueless on ways to consume it.

            

She also experienced a little struggle with language as she could not speak the local dialect.

            

“I faced so much rejection when I started selling fish here. So many people didn’t know how to cook or eat it, others were disgusted by the smell of fish. I could go a whole day without selling a single piece of fish. To add it up, some of my clients though a few did not understand Kiswahili very well, it was difficult,” she said.

            

Without losing hope, she started teaching people the benefits of fish from a few books she acquired from Kenya Fisheries Services.  

            

To lure the people even more, she began selling boneless fish to customers to increase the consumption rate. Within no time, the number of consumers started to shoot up increasing the number of kilograms she sold a day.

            

This enabled her to open a fish and chips restaurant where she could sell up to 30 kilograms of fish a day making a profit of almost 120 thousand shillings a month.

           

 The business went on well for 2 years until Covid-19 struck in 2020 and greatly affected her business as she brought her Fish all the way from Lake Victoria.

            

“I transport my fish from lake Victoria to here using public transport. When Covid-19 hit the country and a lock down was imposed, I was unable to bring the fish. This went on for a few months until the lockdown was lifted,” she lamented.

           

After lockdown, her sales had gone down tremendously making her unable to maintain her business forcing her to reduce the number and price of Kilograms sold in a day which was devastating.

           

However, that did not shutter down her dreams as she came up with a quick solution to save her business by closing down her restaurant and opening up a shop where she could sell take away fish and chips from outside.

            

The fishmonger told KNA that even though her business is not thriving as before, she is slowly getting back on track.

           

Currently, she is selling 15 Kilograms a day which is half what she used to sell and making half the profit nonetheless, she remains adamant of regaining her past glory.

           

She enthusiastically said that the business has enabled her to pay rent and educate her children to good schools.

           

 “I cannot give up on my business, it is because of it that I pay rent and my children go to good schools. So many businesses were affected by Covid-19 and were closed down completely.  Mine is still functioning even though I have gone down in terms of profits, I believe I will rise again,” she said hopefully.

            

She insisted on the many benefits of fish to pregnant women and children some of which she quoted, “building the brain of a fetus, good source of protein and main source of Omega 3 which is good for children.”

           

“Fish is now becoming a staple food in Kenya you know,” she stated. She added that the business is one of the most undervalued in the country and urged youths to be open minded.

            

She further encouraged them to refrain from being too choosy when looking for business opportunities.

            

She hopes to start transporting fish from Lake Victoria to Chuka using her own means.  Her dream is to become the biggest fish supplier in Tharaka Nithi County.

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