In this latest post in our series profiling the extraordinary entrepreneurs we work with, we profile Apolo, whose animal feed supplement business was supported by Balloon Volunteers in 2014.
Apolo grew up in Nakuru county and now lives in Section 58, just outside Nakuru town, with his wife and three children. After working in Provisional General Hospital between 2012 and 2014, Apolo got the entrepreneurial itch and decided to set up his own business.
Shortly after setting up his business, Apolo came across the Balloon programme. Although Apolo knew he had a great product, he was aware that he could learn more about how to run a business, as he had no prior experience. As a cash-strapped start-up, Apolo also appreciate the value of Balloon’s free, unsecured finance offer, which he hoped would provide him with the capital to manufacture his product.
Working with Balloon
In September 2014, Apolo joined Balloon’s Fellowship programme. Before working with our volunteers, business was small-scale, and so our volunteers set out with the primary goal of acquiring new customers for the business.
Working with Balloon Fellows, Apolo developed a brand which he then used to identify his products and overalls. He also introduced a new product form (buckets instead of bags), and increased the size of each product (from 2kg – 10kg).
These initiatives increased both the volume of his sales, and his profitability. The group also piloted a service whereby Apolo would visit customers to refill their existing containers. This greatly reduced the packaging costs per unit.
In his pitch, Apolo requested 50,000 KSH (£360) and was awarded 40,000 (£300). This was used to order marketing materials the team had developed and to purchase inventory.
In April 2016, after repaying his existing loan, Apolo completed a second Balloon programme working with Citi EMEA volunteers as part of our Volunteer Africa programme. Together, they worked on several aspects of Apolog’s growing business.
A key part of this second programme was to help Apolo better to understand how to scale his business through reinvesting profit into savings. The volunteers set Apolo up with an app to track his expenditure and gave him some guidance on making smart decisions with his available capital.
The team also suggested that Apolo take a fixed salary from the business, rather than spending on an ad hoc basis, to make his cash flow more predictable.
During his time with Citi volunteers, Apolo also worked on honing his sales pitch. The team observed Apolo’s interaction with customers and gave him tips on his presenting style, as well as arming him with soundbites and facts to help him sell his product.
At the end of the Volunteer Africa programme, Apolo pitched for a loan of 150,000 KSH (£1,080) and was awarded 114,000 KSH (£850). This is currently being used to increase inventory and cover costs associated with filling large orders, something he wasn’t able to do previously.
Looking to the future
Apolo once had to turn down an order of four tonnes, because he simply could not raise the capital to buy the raw ingredients.
With his 114,000 KSH loan, Apolo has increased his inventory so that he can service large orders like this.
Apolo also has plans to move to a bigger workshop, as he currently has his production and inventory spread across three locations. Moving all operations to one central location will reduce inefficiencies in the production process and also reduce transport costs which will help to offset the cost of renting a larget space.
At the end of his most recent programme Apolo, usually quite reserved, told us – “Give me two years, I will be a giant of Nakuru”. We are glad he is feeling confident and cannot wait to see what is in store for Apolo and his business!