Tabitha Karanja built Kenya's second-largest beer company
African CEOs, Profiles

How Tabitha Karanja Built Kenya’s Second-largest Beer Company

The story of Tabitha Karanja, an unconventional entrepreneur who dared to play in an industry dominated by a multinational for 92 years, is one of resilience and doggedness. She is the founder and CEO of Keroche Breweries, Kenya’s first locally owned and second-largest beer manufacturer.

Tabitha is perhaps the first and only woman who founded a beer company in Africa. But she did not set out to sell alcoholic beverages until research revealed a market gap that could not be overlooked. Not deterred by the potential hurdles ahead, she plugged in. 

As the first child in a family with 10 children, she had taken on leadership responsibilities early in life. “I played a key role in bringing up my siblings,” says Tabitha, 56.

She had always desired to go into business, especially the idea of manufacturing. In 1987, after earning a diploma in business management at the University of Nairobi, she joined her husband’s business, whom she married two years after school. They both ran a hardware store where they sold paint, cement, nails, and iron sheets. After 10 years, the couple outgrew the business.

According to Tabitha, she began researching business ideas from that instant in 1997. She initially considered producing paint, but thought, “how often will a man paint his house? I have to go in for fast-moving consumer goods.” Then, she started researching alcoholic drinks and found that the middle-level and low-income earners market segment were not well catered to by the existing manufacturers in these fields and sub-sectors.

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In 1998, undeterred by the meager KSh200,000 ($2,200) left in her savings, Tabitha took the money, moved base to 30 acres of farmland she owned in Naivasha, a large town 92.8 km northwest of Nairobi. Together with her husband and the five employees at their closed hardware store. They started manufacturing fortified wines from a one-room facility…

Read Tabitha’s full story and more amazing features like this in our latest issue below. Find it on page 38.


 

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