Getting more Kenyan students involved in agribusiness – agriculture as a business

In Kenya, there is this formula that we all know too well.

After secondary school, the default thing to do is to look at your Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education results and the amount of money your family can raise for your next step in the 8-4-4 system – to some that could be university, college or polytechnic.

After graduation, you are expected to take the next step. To look for a job. A good job.

But here’s where some Kenyans with undergraduate or postgraduate degrees and diplomas decide to take another direction – less taken.

And that is to start their own businesses; to be the employer rather than the employee. And yes, everyone, employees and employers should be commended for their bravery and choices.

My focus today is on those people that decide to start new businesses. And the big question is, ‘How can more of these people get involved in agriculture or businesses that lean more towards agriculture – agribusiness?’

How can more of these graduates make agriculture their business?

May be you are one of those people who are seriously contemplating starting a business leaning towards agriculture and perhaps suffering from indecision.

Are these things holding you back?

1. Lack of capital to start your business

Now, this is usually brought up even if it is not the main reason why one hasn’t turned their idea into a business. But capital may be a big reason why some don’t make agriculture their business.

Lack of capital can be a reason brought up by someone who wants to start buying grains in bulk and processing them (for example, maize to maize flour) or packaging them (for example, popcorn).

It could also be a valid reason brought up by someone who wants to be in the business of selling milk and other dairy products.

2. External influence

No matter which industry your business idea takes you, there will always be people for and against what you do.

The opposition can be strong especially if the business you want to start (say pig farming) isn’t well accepted or seen as normal by the people around you like your friends, family and colleagues.

When you talk about starting a business, most think of something close or similar to what some professionals choose to see everyday – a neat office that houses a business that commands immediate attention and respect even if the niche it is a part of is so crowded that owners of businesses in it make so little money and derive little satisfaction from what they do compared to the person whose business is to buy, raise pigs and sell them for a tidy sum.

This is further taken to another level given the fact that most of the successful business personalities all over the media are usually running companies in fields outside ‘agriculture’.

We have all these millionaires and billionaires we admire so much that are mainly in tech, fashion, retail or showbiz.

These industries are inviting. The glamour that come with them can dissuade you from going agriculture all the way.

At the end of the day the urge to follow the crowd can be so strong, especially when you have peers and a family that for some reason may say something like, ‘You mean with your degree (doctorate, masters or diploma) you just want to make money as a farmer? Degrees and farming don’t mix, you know.’

But I am certain you’ll know when to fight for your ideas, by simply smiling and immediately taking action to turn your ideas into profitable businesses.

3. Agribusiness looks like too much work

Sure, at the onset, a ‘business in agriculture’ may look like a lot of hard work compared to some businesses you think are easy to start.

But look at the returns.

Look at the satisfaction you’ll get for having the courage to pursue an idea that needs a lot of effort on your part before it is profitable!

A lot of hard work and money that comes in slowly shouldn’t scare you.

How can students or graduates in Kenya be more involved in agribusiness?

Suppose you are a graduate / student, here are some things to consider.

1. Don’t be ashamed going a path people are ashamed to go even if their heart tells them that’s where they should be

Don’t let the standards of other people make a profitable path look shameful to you. Your standard shouldn’t be what is glamorous; what is popular; what is considered normal.

Your standard should be, ‘Is this right?’ That and the question (How do I go on from here to serve the needs of the prospects and customers in the market I’m targeting?) are the two key things to focus on.

If you really want to deal with naysayers, including that little pessimistic voice inside your head, focus on the two.

2. As a student, you need to think for yourself

If you wait for the position of businesses leaning towards agriculture to be elevated before you jump in to make your profit, it will be too late.

So, many people will have jumped in by the time you blink twice. And they’ll have jumped in with more money, better equipment and knowledge.

What does that spell to you? Doom? No. Too much competition – and lost time?

Competition is good but don’t wait for someone or society to elevate your business ideas before you take the chance to fight for market share with competitors.

Do your due diligence…

then see if you should go right ahead and launch your business.

Don’t wait for anyone to rouse you and point you in the right direction. Don’t wait for encouragement. You are capable of finding your way. God is holding your hands.

Do you have something you’d like to share with me? Share it in the comments section below.

MUST READ: 10 Things to Look At if You Are Thinking of Starting a Business in Kenya >> Download the PDF here.

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