With a simple, portable and handy gadget, Ken Kamanja solves a problem that can throw you into real disarray when it happens to you- the loss of a personal document. Without the national identification card for instance in Kenya, you cannot access most government or private company premises; make over-the-counter, mobile money or agency banking transactions; and even register to become a voter and take part in the process itself.
While the document can be replaced, like many other personal documents, the hassle associated with that cannot be ignored. Enter Kenneth Kamanja. The 24 year-old Kenyan, a trained media practitioner saw a gap, came up with an idea and ran with it.
For almost one year, Kamanja has been labelling personal documents with names and contact details of owners across Kenya with a sticker that does not interfere with the originality of the documents so that in case of loss, the owner can be contacted to recover them. He talks to Footprint to Africa about his document labelling enterprise idea:
What motivated your idea of the labelling machine, did you see a potential business opportunity or was it out of necessity after you lost an important personal document yourself?
I saw it as a business opportunity because people mostly lose their personal cards and end up paying huge amounts of money and wasting valuable time to replace them. People urge the government to put personal phone numbers on their identification (ID) cards but it is yet to respond to these requests. So I decided to solve the problem.
What was your initial investment in the venture and has it paid off?
I started the venture with Kshs. 12,000/ $120 which I used to purchase one gadget. Yes, it has paid off; in fact it paid off in less than two weeks.
How does the sticker printer machine work?
The Sticker Printer is a very simple gadget. It uses a cassette that consists of stickers and uses six AAA batteries. All that is required is to dial the words or the numbers you want to print and it prints the sticker in less than three seconds.
The printer weighs 400gms which makes it portable. It also works independently, eliminating the need for a desktop or any other device for it to work.
What is the range of documents you label and do you label anything else other than documents?
I label documents such as National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) cards; ATM cards; passports; school certificates; driving licences; IDs including national, job and school, national; as well as office equipment such as files and furniture.
When did you start your business and have you acquired more sticker printer machines from the one you started with?
I started in November 2016 and I have acquired more gadgets since. Now, I also sell them to people interested in benefiting from the venture.
With your “tools of work” being portable, there was no initial need for office space and related expenses, a major plus for an entrepreneur who is just starting out. Have you or do you have future plans to set up an office to allow clients to come to you instead?
Yes, I am planning on getting offices in each of Kenya’s 47 counties to enable clients to be served at a stationary place.
Are you facing any competition or challenges in the running of your labelling enterprise?
The only challenge is that a few people mostly ladies do not carry their personal documents with them unlike men who always have them in their wallets.
You have registered a company known as Anjamak Empire Ventures, does it encompass your labelling business? What other ventures, if any, are you involved in?
With Anjamak Empire Ventures, I provide printing services. Currently, I print business cards, t-shirts and yes, the labelling of personal cards.
You must be commended for your income-generating idea, in a country facing unprecedented levels of youth unemployment against a rapidly growing population. Have you created any opportunities for other Kenyan youth through this venture?
Thank you. Yes, I have employed four young Kenyans on a temporary basis who are currently providing the labelling services in different Kenyan towns.
What advice would you give young Kenyans who are out of jobs towards self-employment and self-reliance?
The difference between where you are and where you want to be is what you do today. So anything you want to achieve, start working on it now, with whatever little you have.