Possibly you purchased a bottle of Koola Waters at one time, but do you know the face behind the water company? Our writer ESTHER KIRAGU caught up with the twenty-seven year old Ruth Mwanzia, the director and founder of Koola Waters Company who got into entrepreneurship having experienced the challenges of water shortage.
Having grown up in Kitui County, a region that experiences semi arid and arid climate in Kenya, Ruth Mwanzia understood the challenges of accessing clean and safe drinking water from an early age.
Whereas Ruth admits she knew she would venture into business one day, she says she was not sure what business it would be. Passionate about media, she thus enrolled into African Nazarene University to study a Bachelor of Mass Communication specializing in electronic media and as a requirement to graduating she had to go through an internship for about six months.
“I was able to secure an internship opportunity with a water management company in their public relations department, an experience that changed my perspective of life. It exposed me soo much and I got to learn a lot regarding water as a resource,” she says.
Venturing into business…
It was during her internship that Ruth felt convicted to do something towards alleviating the challenges faced by many regarding access to clean, safe drinking water; a present problem todate in her hometown in Kitui County.
This became the inspiration behind her doing a market research on starting a water manufacturing and distribution business. This led to the launch of Koola Waters in 2014, a company based in Nairobi’s Karen area, which manufactures and distributes pure water countrywide.
Ruth says the business required an initial capital of Ksh 2 Million and while in campus she had saved some money by the time she graduated, it was still short of the capital she needed. Not one to allow lack of capital to derail her from pursing her business dream, she turned to her parents for financial support.
“I am so indebted to my family because they believed in my dream. My Parents who are entrepreneurs have also played a huge role in mentoring me to become an entrepreneur. At one time, my mum registered me as one of the vendors at a business expo at our church. My sister joined me at business and we worked together to exhibit Koola Waters for the first time during the expo that ended up providing us with not only a chance to test the market but also an excellent business networking opportunity” she says of the launch of Koola Waters.
Ruth says her journey in entrepreneurship has been about risk and sacrifice. At times she would distribute water to corporate companies and events free of charge in order to build a rapport with the hope that this would later result into loyal business partnership.
“It worked,” she says and adds that nothing good comes easy in life. Like any other entrepreneur she has also had to deal with challenges from competition, as there are many water manufacturing and distribution companies today, some of which are counterfeits and are not certified by the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS).
She is however glad with the steps KEBS has now taken to fight counterfeit. All the same to differentiate her brand from the rest Koola Waters uses a special technology from Davies & Shirtliff equipment that takes the water through seven stages of purification to produce top-notch quality service.
Faith, Growth and support…
Over the last two years her company has grown from three to now eight staff. In addition Koola Water has expanded to now package water in up to 10 litre bottles and is available in all leading supermarkets in Nairobi. It is also distributed in eight regions in Kenya including Kikuyu, Kiambu, Kitui, Githunguri, Kabete, Machakos, Karen and Buru Buru.
A believer that one is never too young to start giving back to society, Ruth has integrated corporate social responsibility as a priority of Koola Waters. She expounds, “We love to impact on the community and in the past we have done this through women and youth empowerment programs such as mentoring young girls from Mathare through Ghetto Talents Initiative. We also support girls from New Scent Centre and work with little children at Korogocho Children’s Centre. Additionally we do lots of tree planting activities in Kitui County.”
Ruth is grateful to God for the far He has brought her and emphasises that her pillars in life remain her faith in God and the love and support she gets from her family and friends.
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Regarding her business, Ruth dreams of Koola Waters becoming a household name in Kenya and growing into a global brand. She encourages young people not to allow lack of capital to be an impediment to them accomplishing their entrepreneurship dreams.
“There are many investors today looking for viable businesses they can fund as an investment, but to capture them, you must first believe in yourself and ideas, trust God as well as market your business ideas appropriately. It also helps to have mentors and to be on the look out for learning opportunities where you can gain knowledge, share ideas, network and equip yourself to be a better entrepreneur,” she says in conclusion.