Despite all of our worries, when the testing came Rop was transformed; his honey business didn’t just break even – he is already making significant profit
Robert, my working partner, and I have been working with an entrepreneur called Rop. Rop has only recently finished form 4, which marks the end of high school in Kenya, so is one of the youngest guys on the Balloon programme.
During the week we spent training our entrepreneurs on innovation and entrepreneurship, Rop was extremely quiet and seemed to not be understanding most of the material. He was by far the most quiet member of our group, and it was difficult for us to squeeze responses out of him. We became concerned for Rop as to us it was evident he had a lack of understanding in even the most basic of concepts.
As the programme progressed and we began 1:1 sessions with all of our entrepreneurs Rop’s quietness remained, yet it became increasingly evident his understanding was exceptional. Rop’s business was a startup; he wanted to become a bee keeper. Not until we visited his (unbelievably beautiful) home did we learn that Rop had hand built 5 makeshift hives so he could start testing his business as soon as possible. As a result, by the time we were ready to test selling honey in the nearest town, Litein, he already had 3 Litres from his first harvest.
When it came round to testing Rop’s business idea, although Robert and I were extremely excited because we knew this guy has so much potential, we were nervous about his sales skills. Convincing customers to buy a new product can be difficult, and a successful sales man in both the UK and Kenya needs to have charisma and confidence, attributes we felt Rop seriously lacked. In Kericho, although honey is relatively popular, people tend to stick to what they know – so when a new brand hits the market customers can be reluctant to buy. We were sure that we would need to hold Rop’s hand and guide him gently through the testing process, with the hope of him picking up some sales skills on the way. Despite all of our worries, when the testing came Rop was transformed. What we had taught him about the importance of customer relationship, and the passion he has for his product, shone through in his attitude. The results were incredible and within 45 minutes Rop had sold all of his stock. Not only did he sell all of his stock, he managed to generate so much interest in his product that demand outweighed supply- a number of people took his number for future orders.
We couldn’t be more pleased with Rop’s progress. After the first test his business didn’t just break even – he is already making significant profit. Rop’s success didn’t come without hard work. He took everything we taught him from the Balloon curriculum on board, and challenged himself to apply the tools to his business. After testing he realised that his initial hypothesised customer segment was far from reality, and as a result he had to slightly change his marketing strategy. He also learnt how to use the key resources he has to generate more profit. He realised that, at minimal extra cost, he can also sell bees wax and jelly in addition to honey. With the help of Balloon Rop, who is fresh out of high school with no previous work (let alone business) experience, now has a profitable business with a solid marketing strategy, balanced finances and promising prospects of growth.
With pitching fast approaching, and Rop’s business going only from strength to strength, it’s exciting to think of what the future holds for Rop.
Laura Carlin, ICS volunteer Kericho 2015