Profile: Clifford Okoth – Chemolex – East Africa


clifordBrief biography

I am an entrepreneur, marketer and sales trainer in Kenya. Since graduating from the university, I have passionately worked at Chemolex Company where I am a co-founder. I have developed the start up from an idea to the scale up phase where the company serves 400 households, 30 businesses and operates 5 solar powered motorbikes for transport. I have efficiently developed appropriate sales and marketing strategies for the company as well as training a team of 10 sales and marketing persons thereby creating an effective marketing department for the company. I have also worked as a business consultant for NEWX SHOP which is an established online company in Kenya. I have a degree in BSc Industrial chemistry with a post graduate diploma in sales and marketing.

What is your off grid energy business? Can you give a brief overview? How long have you been working on this business?
Chemolex Company is a green energy startup company in Kenya. We basically provide green and renewable energy in off grid environment within the Kenyan households. This is due to the fact that clean energy is very important in spurring economic development within the households. We started in 2015 by providing systems that use solar energy to provide lighting and phone charging services within the off grid set up then we developed the business to also provide clean and affordable solar energy to various businesses within the off grid community. This is because we noticed a huge demand for affordable energy by various businesses. Chemolex currently provides affordable transport services to rural farmers and business women by use of solar powered electric motor cycle. The solar powered electric motor cycles have helped 300 farmers and business women transport their farm produce to the required potential market thus reducing post-harvest loss by 70% within the off grid Kenyan community.

Chemolex therefore provides clean and affordable energy for lighting and phone charging, for business operation and for transport services within the off grid community.

What inspired you to start working in off grid energy? Are there any key people who inspired you to start working in this area?

I was inspired by my dad so much as he made me believe from a young age that with appropriate education and knowledge I can have the power to positively transform my society.  I can vividly recall one time when I was 8 years old and my dad took me to the nearest town which was 250 km away from our community. While in the town, I noticed how bright it was at night and how several businesses are operating till late in the night and so in my curiosity I noticed that the main reason for that was electricity supply from the grid connection. This was the turning point in my life as I started identifying other alternative sources of energy that could make our community have businesses that operate 24/7 and even bring light to our community.

Have you lived in off grid community? What is something you want people with reliable energy to know about living in off grid community?

I was born and brought up in an off grid community. I used kerosene lamps, candles and sometimes moon for my night studies. My first time with a television was at the age of 14 when I joined high school.

The most important thing that those with reliable energy should know is that growing up off grid was challenging but it improved my innovation and creativity as through the challenges that I encountered, I can develop appropriate solution for them. I also appreciate the importance of energy in our ecosystems as through clean and affordable energy, we have access to information, we can see and most importantly we can operate numerous enterprises.

What are the main things you have learnt while working as an entrepreneur in off grid energy? Your biggest success and biggest failure? Key epiphanies or turning point?

I have learnt that the most important factor in business development is the customer or the target market. The success of any business depends majorly on the ability of the owners to develop relevant technologies and business models that resonates with the target market.

My biggest success is to develop Chemolex Company to a level that it is attractive to all the stakeholders that is customers, investors and partner organizations.

What has surprised you most about working as an off grid energy entrepreneur?

The most important thing that has surprised me is the role of clean and affordable energy in off grid household. I have noticed that clean and affordable energy is not limited to lighting and basic household operation but it’s also very crucial to business operation as well as development of other sectors of the community such as security, education, health facilities and even water supply. This is different from the traditional African mentality where clean energy was assumed to be important only for the households.

What has been most difficult/ most rewarding?

The most difficult thing has been to effectively develop the business with absolutely no capital and to run it at no profit at a time where I was just from the campus with absolutely no source of income to meet my daily needs such as food, housing, clothing and even entertainment. It was a time where most of my classmates had gotten well-paying jobs while I remained completely focused on the business despite the financial constraint and no support from anyone.

This has been very rewarding as through this passion I have developed something and brought a positive change in my community thus making me feel fulfilled.
If you could share some wisdom 3 years ago, what would it be?

I would say that creating a positive change in our society can never be a one day thing. It requires relentless effort, great passion and ability to be consistent for a very long time without losing hope.

I would also say that failure cannot be an option unless you get discourage and stop what you were doing. The human being never fails but they only lose hope and stop whatever they were doing.

What do you hope to be in 3 years from now?

I hope to have develop Chemolex Company to a fully established company with operations spanning from provision of clean energy to off grid community, businesses and offering transport services to Kenyan off grid households.

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