Let’s start by getting to know you; Tell us a little bit about yourself?
My name is Peru Alex Khaemba, I am an entrepreneur born, raised and bred in Mombasa. I am the last born in a family of three. I studied communication at the Technical University of Mombasa and ventured into photography as a field. I travel a lot for work and for a long time, my life has revolved around my work. I am the founder of Ethahusk Energy. I also run a photography brand called Phalexi for photography, where we offer the best, most professional and affordable photography services, not only in Mombasa but anywhere, within the borders of this country.
What inspired the idea of Ethahusk Energy?
Last year I came up with an innovation to generate bioethanol fuel from coconut husks that can be used for lighting and cooking in homes. This innovation is going to change people’s lives, especially those who are living in informal settlements. We are providing affordable lighting and creating jobs for the youth in Mombasa. I wanted to try and help people who are living in the settlements where I lived, growing up. I decided to provide an alternative source of energy that is environmentally friendly and affordable. I grew up watching my mother use firewood to cook and I saw how it affected her health. I do not want this to happen to anyone else.
Why did you decide to pursue entrepreneurship as a journey? You’ve mentioned that you studied communication. Why not get a job instead?
When I joined campus in 2013, my dream was to be a radio presenter. While still in school I started doing side jobs to be able to sustain myself. I was a salesperson for my brother. He would import tablets and I would sell them online either through OLX or Facebook and get a commission. Before I knew it I had a lot of experience in running a virtual business. When I did my internship at a local radio station in Mombasa I hated the experience, the real radio environment was different. Sometimes the editor would not publish my story because it would potentially hurt an advertiser and that would be bad for business. I hated it so much that I decided to pursue entrepreneurship because of the freedom to be innovative, manage my own time, and to create.
How far are you with the business?
We haven’t started production or distribution. We recently completed our pilot phase. We needed to test the product and access the need. You can create a product thinking people need it and when you get to the ground you realize that they do not need it. We also needed to know how to package the product and we figured that our potential clients prefer to buy in smaller packs. We needed this data before we started production. Currently, we are in the process of registering the company. We are doing a company limited by guarantee so it’s taking a bit more time.
Do you have any competitors in the market who are supplying the same product?
Currently, no one else is producing bioethanol but there are so many distributors. We have very few producers because the government has put in very strict regulations in the production and transportation of alcohol. However, this does not mean that other people who are well funded will not come in and produce bioethanol. So what we intend to do to stay ahead of the competition is to put all our efforts on perfecting the product based on the feedback we get from our customers to ensure we give them value.
You are in the process of building a startup. What are some of the challenges that you are experiencing right now that upcoming entrepreneurs should anticipate?
The biggest challenge is capital. We are also facing a big challenge registering the company, the process is long and I have to get quite a number of licenses to operate. The processes would be faster if I had enough money. Before settling with the lawyer that I am working with, I met other lawyers who gave me crazy quotations of over Kshs 300,000 and we can’t afford that right now. However, I have refused to give up. I have another business so I pull money from that and inject it into this business. I will work with what I have to grow this business no matter how long it takes.