Barclay Paul Okari took up a volunteer teaching job at a school in Narok to give back to the community and boost his CV for career opportunities in future, little did he know it would open his eyes to a business opportunity waiting to be exploited.
Barclay Paul Okari is the Founder/CEO Impact Africa Industries, a social enterprise that manufactures affordable, reusable and washable sanitary pads that sell to local communities in informal settlements currently distributing to Uganda, South Sudan and Kenya.
“Every day, I would observe girls skip school and I later learnt that they opted to stay home during their monthly periods. Aside from raising my curiosity, it gave me the idea of offering an affordable solution and making money while at it,”
“One day I had visited a girl’s school in the community to give a talk. After the talk, when I was interacting with the students, I noticed people who were missing. On further inquiry the administration told me they missed school because of lack of access to sanitary towels. I then organized friends to buy them from the local supermarkets and donate them to the school. Since we were students we couldn’t sustain that money-wise because they were expensive. That is when I thought up of an alternative affordable product, which led to the re-usable Safi Pads.”
“It astounded me even more when I dug into the statistics of the problem in East Africa. Aside from raising my curiosity, it gave me the idea of offering an affordable solution and making money while at it,”
– Mr Okari who holds a Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Nairobi.
According to the business daily africa, the 22 year old started up his company, Impact Africa Industries in 2011 using a loan of Sh100,000 he took from his parents and repaid within six months .
“With the money, I bought very basic equipment and raw materials. I just wanted to show the people around me that it could be done,”
“The market was so thirsty for the Safi Pads that the first batch sold out within a week. I knew at that moment that I had struck it,”
Although he started as a sole proprietor, he brought in other investors afterwards to assist in setting up a manufacturing plant in Kitale and purchase equipment for large-scale production. The company currently comprises of 34 members – 23 are full time employees (including 15 women and eight men) while 11 are part time.
His success was not without a failure, his first business was Skype Science in 2007 (a science video sharing site) while in high school which failed a year later due to lack of time for it. His second one was market place, an e-commerce site that failed after 8 months due to poor execution of the business plan.
He revealed that he draws inspiration from Ghanaian-born Fred Swaniker whom he admires for his risk-taking attitude.
Mr. Okari was a finalist of the Anzisha Fellowship last year. The Anzisha Prize is the premier award for African entrepreneurs aged 15 to 22 who have developed and implemented innovative business or social ventures.
He has also received the following honors and awards: Forbes 30 Most Promising Young African Entrepreneurs 2014, Under35CEO Young Social Entrepreneur to watch, Remarkable30 under 25 Young Entrepreneurs and Spark Fellow 2013.
His words of encouragement reads: “There is no perfect moment to start or expand your business. With hard work, persistence and right people around you things will fall in place sooner than later. Always remember that your network is your net-worth, so work to build them.”
Share your thought below. Do you have a story to tell or share? Email us at info[at]ngcareers.comStory of a Graduate Who Began as a Volunteer To Become One of the Youngest CEO’s by Andy