Young people like Ruth Njogu, who founded Oshar Detergents at 34 years old in 2016 after losing her job as an editor. She now creates household detergents, sanitizers, toilet cleaners, and handmade baby bath soaps in Nairobi. She is supported by the Argidius Foundation through our member Somo Africa.
Ruth is a mother of four, and her loss of employment meant she risked not being able to provide for her family. She was inspired into entrepreneurship by the dual motivations of needing to earn, but also wanting to help her community.
“The women around me were going through the same situation. We have young families, and we need to provide for their needs.”
Ruth first heard about homemade detergents via a Facebook group, and started testing her first batches of products at home. Seeing their effectiveness, she began sharing them with friends, who quickly asked her to make more. This is the moment Ruth realized that she had found a viable business idea, and she started to gain customers by first giving away a free sample, and then selling the detergent once people came back for more.
As her business grew, Ruth started to sell her soaps and detergents in a friend’s shop, where she was approached by a former employee of Somo Africa who recommended that she should look into their work. Shortly after, Ruth joined the Somo Boot Camp programme.
“Through Somo I was able to launch this business and get a grant. From the grant I was able to rent a shop, and I move all my products there. I was also able to start branding what I made.”
Ruth sees the ability to brand her products as one of the most important skills she learned as part of Somo’s training. She has occasional difficulty competing with street-sellers who sell their product in generic packaging for a cheaper price, but her brand recognisability has allowed her to promise her customers consistent quality.
Working with Somo has also put Ruth in contact with mentors who launched businesses in her area, as well as helping her product get more exposure through Somo’s popup shop.
“I met lots of potential customers who asked me about my products. I also met lots of other upcoming entrepreneurs. I was assigned a mentor, and even now when I need anything, I can still reach out to them or any of the Somo trainers.”
Through Somo’s network, Ruth was able to sell her detergents in the Kenyan supermarket Uchumi, and, even with the onset of the pandemic, her business flourished. Her soaps were included as part of Somo’s care pack for COVID-19, allowing Ruth’s product to reach outside of Nairobi and securing her place as a household name.
Ruth is grateful for the support of her community, and as a result of her success has been able to give back a lot, especially in creating opportunities for others. She has provided training both online and in person. When she has big contracts to fulfil, Ruth employs between 4-10 women and has one permanent employee. Ruth is proud that she can help people in her community provide for their families.
“I think this is the most major impact I can make; employing people who can earn a livelihood from my business.”
Ruth has also donated and supplied hand sanitisers and soaps to help COVID-19 relief efforts and set up washing stations where people could wash their hands to stop the spread of the virus.
Ruth is very hopeful for the future. Of course, she still faces some obstacles – but she is confident she will be able to continue scaling her business. Her current goal is to acquire a soap mixer and open a second physical shop outside of Nairobi. Ruth hopes to be able to sell her products across at least 10 supermarkets in the next five years.
“Through Somo I was able to receive opportunities which I may not have received otherwise.”
Ruth’s story is an inspiring demonstration of youth entrepreneurship starting from and giving back to local communities.
YBI is proud to work with Somo Africa and their programmes, supported by Argidius.
You can read more about Argidius on their website, and find out about Somo Africa’s other initiatives here.