— Ruth Mwanzia
African Nazarene University
Bharatam
Bizna
Central Kenya
Disqus
Karen
Kenya
Kitui
Kiunga
Koola Waters
Kyondoni village
Marist Lane
Mass Communication
Ms Mwanzia
Nairobi

Media graduate achieves dream of water bottling

As a little girl she witnessed people trek for kilometres to find water that most of the time wasn’t even safe for drinking. The problem of looking for safe drinking water fanned her flames to start Koola Waters, a company that purifies, packages and sells water.Located on Marist Lane in the Karen area of Nairobi, the company consists of a bore-hole and a semi-automatic purification machine. The bore-hole is connected to storage tanks via pipes.

They say necessity is the mother of invention. Born and bred in Kitui — a region known for persistent drought — Ruth Mwanzia, 29, knew that one day she would venture into the drinking water business. As a little girl she witnessed people trek for kilometres to find water that most of the time wasn’t even safe for drinking.The problem of looking for safe drinking water fanned her flames to start Koola Waters, a company that purifies, packages and sells water.Located on Marist Lane in the Karen area of Nairobi, the company consists of a bore-hole and a semi-automatic purification machine. The bore-hole is connected to storage tanks via pipes.

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The firm has capacity to purify up to 1,000 litres of water in 15 minutes, which translates to about 20,000 litres per day. The company has a lean permanent staff of six and outsources some duties including accounting, designing labels and photography. “We package water in 500 millilitre, 1.5 litre, five litre, 10 litre and 20 litre bottles,” she said.Her market is Kitui, Nairobi and parts of Central Kenya. This being her fourth year in the competitive venture, Ms Mwanzia has found an edge in purification. “We use reverse osmosis technology which involves a semi-automatic machine with different filters used to get rid of impurities as well as killing bacteria thus making our water safe for drinking,” she explained.The technology is one of the reasons she’s happy with the company’s performance. “The company has been breaking even. We’ve been able to meet our budget and make a good profit,” she said. Her business prowess saw her recognised in the Top 30 Under 30 last year by the Bizna Kenya blog. But success didn’t come easy.“Our main challenge is the massive competition in the industry, meaning that we have to work hard to get people to trust our brand, especially when supplying to a new town. Also we’ve been having a problem with counterfeit products,” she said.Her dream of building a water bottling firm was born in 2014 after graduating from African Nazarene University with a Mass Communication degree.Her initial plan was to venture into the water distribution business using trucks.She later changed the plan after consulting family members and friends.“I went on a fact finding mission for six months, researching on various issues regarding the whole process, including machinery, products available, legalities, clientele and competition,” she said.The company was launched in November 2014. Drilling the bore-hole cost her Sh2 million.“Luckily I had saved some money from my previous job as a corporate communication officer. I also received financial support from my family and a partner,” she said.Her first purification machine cost her Sh350,000. As the company grew, she bought a better machine.Her advice to youth planning to make it in business is to hold on to their regular job until their venture is on its feet.“My business began as a hobby as I held onto my job until it started showing signs of stability. Don’t resign unless you’re forced to,” she said.With the business doing well Ms Mwanzia plans to launch another plant in Kitui next year.Drilling of her second bore-hole in Kyondoni village is already underway.

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