Hatching a plan – The journey of Grace, an entrepreneur on the Balloon programme

Grace is a young mother living out of Kanu Street on the outskirts of Nakuru town. She worked as a merchandiser for an ice cream company although this was not enough to sustain herself and her family so she kept some chickens as a source of extra food. One day a friend mentioned the Balloon Kenya programme and how it helps entrepreneurs with the skills and the capital they need to start or expand a business. Grace saw an opportunity and in typical Kenyan fashion, jumped at it without hesitation.

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After starting the programme Grace was supplied with the help and expertise of two volunteers Samantha Bellamy and Richard Hammud. Wasting no time they hatched a plan (pun intended ūüėČ ) to expand Grace‚Äôs poultry keeping to a scale that would allow her to supply eggs and meat to restaurants in town. There was one big challenge, Grace lives in a small apartment and her garden is very small, it’s hard to imagine where the chickens would be kept! This is where I was extremely impressed by the creativity of Grace and her team. By building a very thin and long chicken keeping structure along the back wall of her garden they were able to use the space optimally to create a chicken coup with an impressive capacity of seventy hens!

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To differentiate herself from the competition Grace and her team decided not to go for the standard exotic or Kenyeji breeds of chicken. Instead they sourced an interesting breed from Uganda called Curoiler. The advantage of these is that they are more resilient to diseases than the exotic breeds and tend to grow larger meaning that the meat can be sold for more. Grace started by buying 77 chicks at 110KES each. She has experienced her ups and downs after losing 20 chicks to a stray cat that had been preying on her flock. I could feel her pain as she explained how bad she felt when she found her hard work being dragged over the wall one morning. Since then she has been able to grow the remaining chickens to a large and healthy size. A highlight for her was when her 17 year old daughter needed money for a trip and Grace was able to support her by selling 10 cocks for 850KES each. When I met Grace it was just before Easter and due to higher demand and the size of her Roosters she was able to sell one for 1500KES! Grace’s hens have also just reached laying age and they are now supplying her with 18 eggs per day. This has become another source of revenue as Grace supplies trays of 30 eggs at 420KES to a supermarket in town.

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Grace is not finished expanding her business and wants to expand her flock with other breeds and interbreed them to create an even better gene pool. Currently Grace is still employed alongside keeping the hens although she aspires to grow the business enough so that she can become full time self employed. Grace still thinks very fondly of her volunteers, it was heartwarming to see her become emotional as she recollected about her time with them and all of the help that they gave her. She said that the Balloon programme was the best thing that could have happened to her as she received training, helpful volunteers and now has something to call her own.

Contributors: Archie Brixton & Glen Herriot, ICS Entrepreneur, Cycle 2, Nakuru

Grace was originally working with Samantha Bellamy and Richard Hammud, Balloon Kenya Fellows summer 2014, Nakuru

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