Name: Kelvin Chihota
Company name: Chikel Investments
Business Location: Murewa and Mbare Magaba Complex
Products /Services: Eggs, horticultural produce and retail
Years in Business: 5
Number of employees: 16
Phone number: 0779696372, 0778008234, 0713006503, 0733388976
Tell us your name, tell us about your business and where you operating from?
Kelvin Chihota: My name is Engineer Kelvin Chihota. I am into horticulture, poultry and retail. Our poultry and horticulture business is based in Murewa and retail shop is in Mbare in the Magaba Complex popularly known as Siyaso.
What led you to start those businesses? Why did you decide to be an entrepreneur?
Kelvin Chihota: I believe that I was born an entrepreneur. I only scaled up what I used to do when I was in primary school. I have a strong passion for business. In 2012, I started the poultry project for layers with 200 birds. I was doing it at my house and I did not have a proper space to dispose the dropping. I then started to do market gardening, with a plan in mind to absorb the waste being generated from the fowl run. I started to do vegetables and on several occasions I could not find a proper market for vegetables and I could throw the vegetables to the laying birds to supplement vitamin requirements. As the egg business was growing, I faced a challenge in selling the eggs as the market was saturated with eggs. My next move was scout for a retail space to move the eggs. This led me to Magaba Complex which dominated with hardware and I found the gap. Selling eggs only could not make sense. As a result I had to include all groceries.
That’s impressive, so how do you manage all three businesses?
Kelvin Chihota: Managing a chain of projects has never been easy especially when they are still at infancy. The main challenge is you will not be able to pay competitive salaries to your workers. As a result, you will need to feel the heartbeat of the business time and again. I can say it’s a challenge. Anyway Entrepreneurs are meant to work out challenges.
How did you raise the startup capital for the business?
Kelvin Chihota: I used to take salary based loans from banks such as CBZ, POSB, Standard Chartered Bank, FBC and ZB, I am currently employed as a Lecturer at one of our local Universities.
How do you strike a balance between your Job and the business? Isn’t this a challenge?
Kelvin Chihota: It’s quite hectic, but I am managing, we have a robust human resource base and we operate in such a way that eliminate me from day to day running of the business. At first it was very difficult but with the zeal and passion, I find it working and we are moving. Lectureship is a profession for organized people, you work as per your itinery and you are supposed to produce output.
How do you market your business? How do you find customers? What do you do to make sure they become repeat customers?
Kelvin Chihota: Siyaso is a big market both external and internal. External customers come from all over Harare and its satellite town in search of building materials and hardware. Here and there they buy refreshments and eggs to take home. However, the internal customers i.e. those who work in Siyaso such as carpenters, welders, mechanics, fabricators constitute a very large market and by word of mouth, they always visit our shop and bring business to us. However, the Siyaso market only cannot absorb all our eggs and we run a Facebook page advertising our eggs and we supply wholesales in Macheke and Marondera as well. Our Horticulture produce are all sold in Mbare Musika, with few going to supermarkets in Harare. As producers in a vertical integrated system, our customers are always guaranteed of fresh products and our prices are usually on the low side, hence we enjoy the business.
What are some of the challenges you face in your businesses? How do you overcome these challenges?
Kelvin Chihota: An entrepreneur always faces challenges, some of them are serious threats to the continuity of the project. For instance, in August this year there was a fire outbreak in Siyaso and our shop was burnt to ashes and we failed to recover a thing. Just like that, we lost $8000-$10000.00 in value of stock and assets like freezers among other retail equipment. All the three year effort was put to zero. These are serious challenges and with the beauty of vertical integration, you always have a privilege of borrowing from other projects to kick start your operations. Three months down the line we are up and going, much bigger and stronger than the previous setup. It’s part of entrepreneurship to rise with energy when you fall and pretend as if you are not wounded and throw your arrows with an unmitigated sadism.
Even in poultry it was worse at one point. I remember having a batch of 1 300 chickens and losing 750 of them on day 21 after IBD outbreak and a vaccination program that did not go well. Imagine working up with only 550birds when you had 1300. In another incident we lost 600 birds from a batch of 900 due to suffocation when the assistants slept on the wheel. All these are life threatening challenges that cuts deep to the heart of the project. Right now you can find that we are failing to restock our installed capacity for 15 000layers because the day old chicks are not available from the suppliers for the past 9 months, all these are challenges we face on day to day.
In Horticulture, the major challenge is on the marketing side. In most cases you end dumping your products on a less lucrative market since they are perishables, you cannot keep them for too long without proper refrigerating facilities. On top off these challenges we also face serious price distortions on the market, at times you produce at a loss. However with all hope, an entrepreneur who face the strongest winds, survives the thickest tornado.
What role does technology play in your businesses?
Kelvin Chihota: The use of Technology has assisted us in poultry production. Our project is based in a rural setup and we don’t have any borehole and we rely on shallow wells for water. However, because of Technology, we managed to install submersible pumps to pump water to overhead tanks for delivery to fowl runs. The use of computers and ICT is mainly for information storage and generation of reports.
Where do you see your businesses in the next five years?
Kelvin Chihota: In the next five years, we are aiming to have our own hatchery and a layer capacity of 50 000 birds. Retail outlets in Harare, Marondera, Rusape and other cities to absorb our egg produce. In Horticulture we are expecting to tile 10 hectares of farm produce on an annual combined budget of US20million for the whole group of projects.
What advice would you want to give to Zimbabweans who want to venture into poultry, retail and horticulture business?
Kelvin Chihota: My advice to those who are interested in these sectors, is – please do not hesitate, go for the kill and don’t expect a payback period of less than two years. Seek financial literacy and read wide. Learn from others who are in the area and do proper due diligence. Keep proper records and learn how to interpret data and predict the future. You may endure the whole night, but surely joy will come in the morning
What products do you offer, and how can our readers get in touch with you if they want your products?
Kelvin Chihota: At the moment we have eggs (retail and wholesale), on horticulture we have butternuts and cucumbers ready for sale. Cabbages and tomatoes will be available in February, March and April 2019.I am available on 0779696372, 0778008234, 0713006503, and 0733388976. Alternatively, visit us at our shop in Magaba Complex – Katanga area near the cooperative offices and you can also buy your household groceries. Like us on Facebook on Chickel eggs.
What advice would you give to other Zimbabweans who are complaining of the tough economic conditions?
Kelvin Chihota: Running a business in tough economic conditions is a real challenge because of pricing risks. However, those who want to set up capital infrastructure it is the right time to strike. Suppose you want to venture in poultry, now is the time to build fowl runs. There is a lot of pressure to secure chicks and prices are shooting. Instead of chasing chicks, rather chase bricks and build. When the situation improves, you will hardly have time to renovate and build new structures as you will be concentrating on producing. In Horticulture better go to the fields now, prices will shoot up next year since very few farmers are keen on going back to the fields, because of poor market prices obtaining against rising inputs prices.
What are your last words to our readers?
Kelvin Chihota: Entrepreneurship is a serious engagement and a trade reserved for visionaries. You really need to have courage to sail through since it is not always about profits but about losses too. There are quite a lot of entrepreneurs who excuses themselves from producing because of lack of capital, all what I can assure is the money you might have is just, but enough to initiate a project, just dive into the field. Entrepreneurship is for those who are willing to defer their gratitude and desires of their life into the future. You sacrifice what you have now for tomorrow’s joy, which you may not whether it will come or not. Entrepreneurship is for those who would want to defy logic and normal reasoning and volunteer to be misunderstood by the society. Entrepreneurs see proceeds from a lucrative venture as seeds for the next project. Opportunities for entrepreneurs are unlimited, seize the opportunity and remember Zimbabwe is open for business.
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