When Elizabeth Mutheu, a trained medic, ventured into the business of making interlocking bricks, she had no expertise, let alone knowledge of the market trends and demand for the bricks. All she knew was that there was a need to have access to better housing and affordable material to improve living conditions for people in her community. “My sister told me that just by using locally available soil mixed with cement and sand, you can make bricks that can be used to make affordable, yet beautiful buildings and I immediately knew I wanted to get into this emerging business enterprise” says Mutheu.
Trained Nurse Turned Contractor
- Mutheu left the medical profession and through skills she acquired in youth entreprenuership trainings, she's not only making interlocking bricks in Maungu town but also carrying out construction projects with her team of artisans who are skilled in building with the bricks.
Barely four months after she began, her business is booming and she is trying to meet the demand for the interlocking bricks in a rapidly growing town of Voi, which is situated 150 Kilometers from the coastal town of Mombasa in Kenya. The petite 35 year old currently employs and supervises 10 masons and brick makers and has already overseen the construction of churches, schools and residential houses using the fast and reliable construction method. On a given day, the brick makers make up to six hundred bricks, but when the demand is high, Mutheu hires other casual laborers boosting her production to one thousand bricks. This can translate to profit margins of up to 70 percent after meeting all the overhead costs.
Mutheu who had initially started a small laboratory at her home town in Kitui, Eastern Province of Kenya, was stuck in a business venture that was not growing and to make matters worse, her laboratory was broken into and her equipment stolen, reversing the little gains she had made. It was at this time, she heard of a Youth development and training program organized by UNDP, and enrolled for it and presented her proposal to start up an interlocking brick making company. She learnt new business skills and received expert advice on managing a business and has now officially registered the company as Masonry pavers.
“I always thought that I needed a lot of money as startup capital, but with only Ksh. 29,000 and a brick making machine, I am now in business and already making good profits within a short period of time.” An excited Mutheu explained. The Course, which was in collaboration with the Ministry of youth affairs and sports, seeks to unlock the youth’s potential, transforming them from job seekers to job creators and make them relevant to the development of the medum and small scale enterprise which promises to be an engine for economic growth.
For Mutheu, the potential for growth is evident and she is currently working towards buying more machines that will not only build her business, but change the landscape of Voi and its environs as they embrace cost effective buildings material from interlocking bricks.
· The Youth Development and Training Program is designed to help youths to perceiving creative and innovative economic and social opportunities, converting these opportunities into viable enterprises and initiating the process of enterprise start-up by acquiring necessary inputs and managing them professionally.
· Interlocking bricks - as the name suggests, interconnects each other with other bricks and holds without more cement needed for bonding.
· Interlocking bricks technology is affordable and is easily adapted and used in rural settings to improve housing in line with Kenya’s Vision 2030.