Entrepreneur Leveraging on Solar Energy to make Refrigeration Affordable to Small-Scale Fishers

Delivery of the Kuza Freezer to a customer

Purity Gakuo is among the enterprising youth in the country who have not only shunned white collar jobs, but have moved from being job seekers to job creators. She is the co-founder and chief operating officer at Kuza Freezer. Purity is a zealous woman in technology and innovation and leverages it to create impact in people’s lives for better livelihoods. She is also skilled in community mobilization, business management and strategic planning. She has been honored with numerous awards and recognition for her work as a social innovator including being recognised by Business Daily as top 40 under 40 women 2023, Global Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2022 by Youth business International (YBI), Business for Good awards in the Netherlands, Women in Business Awards 2022 in Mombasa, AFCFTA laureate 2021, among others. Here is her entrepreneur journey.

Tell us more about Kuza Freezer?

We are a youth-led technology company that manufactures and distributes solar powered freezers. Our aim is to improve food security and promote economic resilience of the small-scale fishers by reducing postharvest losses through innovative and sustainable pay as you go cold storage services, using solar energy. We target men and women in artisanal fisheries in Kenya. These consist of farmers, fishermen, suppliers and traders who seek cold storage systems to improve their fish production and marketing processes. We believe our solution will double fishers revenues by extending the shelf life of their catch. This gives room for these fishers to sell more fresh fish to a wider growing market.

Kuza Freezers easily mounted on Trikes

What inspired you to start the company?

I have interacted with small-scale fishers in Kenya for quite some time and understood their pain points in their day to day fishing activities. The small-scale fishers and fish farmers make huge post-harvest fish losses. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, we have over 12.3 million small-scale fishers in Sub-saharan Africa. About 52% of these populations stay off-grid and approximately 45% of their daily harvest goes to waste before it can be sold or safely consumed due to lack of access to affordable and reliable cold-storage solutions. They are therefore forced to sell their catch at throw away prices to evade further losses, robbing them the opportunity to enjoy their rightful revenue. I saw this as a huge cold-chain gap and this inspired me to work on a solution to bridge it.

To date, the need for ice to cool has been eliminated with the use of our solar freezers which preserve the fish for up to a period of three days. Our customers have reported scaled business operations from the time they acquired freezers. This has not only saved them money but has also doubled their daily income. On average they would sell a Kilogram of fish between $1 and $2; with our solar freezers, they are able to sell the same amount of fish at $3 – $5. In the past 24 months, we have been able to improve the livelihoods of about 1,250 people in the fish value and supply chain with more than 50% being women in the fish vending businesses. Partnering with various organizations in the fisheries sector has enabled us to offer free training sessions to equip the fisher folk with the right fish handling skills to prevent further losses.

We are also partnering with financial institutions that provide asset financing to our target groups.

Freeze as you ride/Kuza Freezer

What sets Kuza Freezer apart from other players in the industry?

Kuza Freezer leverages solar energy, making it suitable for off grid usage and is offered on a pay as you go, a model which is flexible and affordable. Our products can be mounted on Trikes and motorbikes for easy distribution of fresh fish to the market and are durable as they are made from anti-rust materials making them suitable for use in fishing boats. We also manufacture our solar freezers locally; consequently, we are able to customize them to meet our customers’ needs. The products are versatile and can be used in various market segments to satisfy the cold chain needs. Our solar freezers are monitored remotely to improve service quality. That is; the location, performance and payment tracking. Our solar freezers are high performing and have a temperature range of as low as -10 degrees Celsius; moreover, it can serve as a fridge as well

Tell us more about your entrepreneur journey?

My little self-loved cooking and wanted to be a professional. I am glad that I achieved that for her as I am a professional private chef. I also knew that at some point in life, I would venture into entrepreneurship. While growing up, my mother worked as a self-employed cosmetics and stationery retailer, who walked door to door. I would take some of her stationeries and sell them to my fellow learners in school and make money for myself.

Fast forward to when I was in tertiary school, I started a chef’s club where I would try out recipes and make delicious meals for households at a fee. In 2020 when I started Kuza Freezer with my Co-founder, I was happy to be able to provide a solution and see it impact people’s lives: I knew it is what I was meant to do.

Inspecting the Freezer

Any challenges faced? And how did you overcome them?

As a young entrepreneur starting up, I have experienced ‘failure’ or rather made mistakes that over time, I have learnt from. Sometimes things don’t work out as planned; however, I have learnt to be open-minded and flexible when dealing with changes in the business environment.

Young entrepreneurs are prone to burn outs and become unproductive due to huge workloads and work life imbalance. I have been able to overcome this by delegating duties and improving on time management so that I also set aside time for self-care. I have also enrolled in programs that offer training on leadership skills and management making me a better leader today.

What are your future plans and aspirations for the company?

Most of our production processes are manual which makes it hard to meet the rising demand from our customers. My future plans and aspirations are to scale our company manufacturing processes by investing in modern machinery which will not only enable us to accelerate our production processes but also cut down the cost of production. Our product has the potential to scale and we are looking to extend our services to various countries in Sub-Saharan Africa in the coming years.

Any advice to other women wishing to start-up?

The most important decision is to take the bold step and start. As women, we have all it takes to make the world a better place for all, with the right mindset, you can achieve that which you desire. Believe in possibilities, get your team right and your goals are achievable; no matter how big. Take action and be brave enough to create the life you deserve.