Bamboo genius strikes gold
Boniface Maina is reaping big from his African themed furniture and art pieces business.
He quit his job as a technician to focus on his creative passion of making items from bamboo.
Maina then teamed up with the bamboo department at the Kenya Forestry Research Institute (Kefri) to find out the uses of the plant.
“Bamboo has many uses. It is one of the strongest woods and is also durable, eco-friendly and elegant,” said Maina.
The 35-year-old began his business two years ago after quitting from Office Technologies limited and Mfi Solutions.
With a capital of Sh50,000, he bought a few feet of bamboo and some simple tools before launching Elegance Bamboo Ventures. He specialises in furniture, handicrafts, wall hangings, lamp shades, vases, gazebos and water fountains.
He markets his wares online where clients can also place orders.
As his business grew, he shifted operations from his house in Tassia to the main road in Donholm. This made him get more customers.
“I realised cost cutting was not necessarily saving money, especially when I was not making much,” he said.
He chose bamboo because it is unique and the most unexploited type of wood. His business has seen him attracting customers from as far as Westlands, Ngong and Lang’ata Roads. Clients pick their orders from the workshop but if they are smaller pieces, he delivers them.
“I earn up to Sh100,000 a month. A five-seater sofa set goes for Sh50,000. I do my work on order because I don’t have space for a showroom. When the work is overwhelming, I employ temporary labour,” he said.
He buys the bamboo from farmers in Kiambu at Sh1,000 per 10 feet and pays the temporary staff Sh300 each per day.
He also buys chemicals for treating the bamboo at Sh250 per kilogramme.
“I buy a pick-up load of bamboo once a month at Sh10,000. The bamboo is immediately boiled in large drums for about three hours to get rid of starch and sugars because these attract weevils, ants and other pests,” said Maina.
He uses an electric drill that cost him Sh9,000. Instead of using ordinary nails, he opts for small wooden pegs. He also has a hand drill that comes in handy when there is no power which he bought at Sh9,000. He has hacksaws and other improvised tools.
The business has made him sustain his family of three.
An average interior floor vase costs Sh1,500 while wall hangings range from Sh1,000 to Sh3,000. He makes about three of each daily. “Instead of sitting idle when there is no work, I make small things such as necklaces and bracelets,” he said.