Lorna Rutto Kenya Millionaire

Mohammed Abbas, an undergraduate Business student at the University of Nairobi views 30 years of age as the ultimate psychological barrier.

He has set himself serious targets he wishes to have achieved by then, failure to which he will consider his life a disappointment. 
“When I am 30, I expect to have made my first million, bought a dream car, be living in my own house and be a father of two,” he says.

Mr Abbas, at only 21, has almost a decade before ‘judgement day.’ But even those inching closer to 30 years retain dreams of crossing the barrier, seen by many as the dividing line between youth and adulthood, with minimum targets met.

Miriam Wekesa is already 28 -years-old, but she believes all her life’s biggest dreams will be met in the next two years before she hits 30.

“I plan to be married and self-employed before I hit 30,” she says.

The strange thing with Ms Wekesa’s wish is that with only such a short time remaining, she has no stable boyfriend and her “small salary” is not even enough to take care of all of her needs.

But if 30 years is the limit of achieving success, one young woman has already achieved that — and she still has three years to spare.
And already, she is causing waves in the world of green business.

The road past the Kasarani Stadium in Nairobi is badly pot-holed and down the valley towards Baba Dogo is a sprawling slum.

It is a grim site and hardly the area one would expect to find a story that is being held up as inspiration at home and even abroad.

Lorna Rutto’s compound is hardly what many people would consider appealing either. Sacks of rubbish are stacked high above each other as about 15 employees of EcoPost Limited, Ms Rutto’s company, sift through the waste sorting different varieties of plastics into different containers.

It is dirty work and we are handed gloves and protective gear as we are led to the main factory, where noisy machinery churning out new products make communication difficult.

But while we squirm in the discomfort created by the noise and the pungent smell of burning plastic, our host carries on happily and clearly at ease with her environment.

Ms Rutto is nothing you would call ordinary.

In 2009, she was a relationship officer at Imperial Bank. But her burning desire to turn the plastics that dot most Kenyan neighbourhoods into useful products led her to quit the job.

With her savings, she set out to do to what she knew would one day be her key to success.
She bought an old machine from an industrialist who was closing down and started manufacturing plastic pellets from waste and selling them to businesses that make plastic products.

“It was really hard at first. Having bought the machine at Sh400,000, I was really struggling to even pay rent which led to the premise’s closure on more than one occasion,” she says.

But big ideas never die and Ms Rutto saw a business plan competition as her opportunity to get things right.

“Enablis were advertising for people to send ideas and I thought that was something I was definitely going to win,” she says. 
She won Sh500,000 which she ploughed into her business by buying another machine.

Today, her business is nothing to be sniffed upon.

The machines alone are worth about Sh3 million. Apart from the 15 people she has employed permanently, EcoPost provides indirect employment to another 300. These are mostly street families who walk the streets and dumpsites looking for plastics.

“Depending on the type of plastics they deliver, we pay them anything between Sh5 and Sh30 per kilogramme,” says Ms Rutto who expresses her deep satisfaction for providing an income stream for the most vulnerable people in the society.

“By providing them with something meaningful to do, you prevent a lot of destructive indulgences like rape, crime and drugs peddling and consumption.”

Because of her efforts to conserve the environment and create wealth for the poor, Ms Rutto is becoming an international celebrity having won many awards.

She has won the World Wildlife Fund’s Nature Award at The Hague, Netherlands where she took home Sh1.3 million, SEED Award which saw her win Sh700,000 and will be in Paris this October to receive the Cartier Women’s Initiative Award which carries a Sh1.2 million reward.

With those awards and her turnover exceeding Sh1 million a year, Ms Rutto has been a millionaire many times at only 27 years of age.

But she is not satisfied.

“We are still hiring a collection truck and that is still costing us a lot of money,” she says, adding that the government should do more to enable the development of the recycling industry.

“A country like Germany has over 300,000 people directly employed in the waste management industry which is itself worth $50 billion . We need tax breaks and other incentives to develop that kind of industry here.”

The benefits of what Ms Rutto is doing are massive from an environmental viewpoint.

Since EcoPost commenced operations over a year ago, 600 metric tonnes of non-biodegradable waste rotting in the streets and polluting rivers, parks and neighbourhoods has been recycled to fencing posts and plastic pellets.

Saving trees

According to Ms Rutto, every 25 posts that she makes from plastic waste saves a mature cedar tree.

“We plead for support from policymakers to ensure our operations are enabled by the policy framework, not hindered,” she says.
Her products, which are essentially posts for fencing, can nonetheless be customised to fit any clients needs.

People are always coming in to demand all sorts of materials which she says, she gladly offers.

In the next year, EcoPost plans on producing industrial size posts for street lighting, billboards and for electricity transmission. 
For her, impossible is a term that clearly does not exist. She urges people not to hold back when planning on going into self-employment.

“Opportunities are everywhere and if I can make money from waste, there is money to be made everywhere. I have a great passion for what I am doing and for me, that is the absolute basic. When the passion is right, the will is there,” she says.

And as the saying goes, where there is a will, there is a way. Very many people fail because of approaching life situations with a set mentality. I left a white collar job to deal with waste and I feel happier here, says Ms Rutto.