At 17, Kenneth Opondo was serving a six- month sentence at Kodiaga Prison in Kisumu. This is after he was caught circulating fake money at an M-Pesa outlet where he was employed. He was arrested and charged in court with forgery.
He lied about his age and was imprisoned at the main prison so that he could pursue computer course.
Mr Opondo had just completed his secondary education in 2011 and got a C plain grade in the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education examination.
“I was employed at an M-Pesa shop. My friends approached me and asked me to supply fake cash. I used to mix fake and genuine money for the clients,” said Mr Opondo.
In a day, he could make Sh5,000 from the dirty business.
He was handed a six-month jail term or a fine of Sh40, 000. Instead, he chose prison life. “I told my dad to save the cash and allow me to learn from my mistakes. At the prison, he continued to engage in dirty business by selling cigarettes, razor blades and food,” said Mr Opondo.
He said he used to work closely with prison wardens who allowed him to do his business, but at a fee.
“Suspects who used to go for their court cases used to supply me with the cigarettes and razor blades and I would sell to prisoners. I got protection from the warders. The suspects got the goods from their relatives,” he said.
He was released from prison in June 2012 and started hawking water at Kisumu bus terminus. In March 2013, he left his job and got employment as a security guard in Mombasa.
“A few days later I was promoted as senior chief controller due to my credentials. But I wanted more so I started a side hustle of making juices,” he said.
Speaking at his Nyali home, the 25- year- old says he is now the proprietor of Kenjuices and Smoothies.
He supplies fresh juices and smoothies to homes, schools, supermarkets, malls, offices, gyms, churches, weddings and special occasios such as birthdays. He also trains people on how to make fresh juices.
“I started my business with Sh2,000 but today it returns Sh20, 000. I bought a blender and used my father’s fridge to start the company,” he said. He buys his fruit from Kongowea fresh produce market and gets his avocado from Kisii county.
“I have employed four people who help me run my business. My juices and smoothies are natural. In five years I see myself owning a large juice company and supplying the products countrywide,” he said.
Mr Opondo, who is married with one child, uses part of his proceeds to educate his wife in college. He makes his juices using three blenders, a large freezer and several dispensers.
“The youth should see beyond formal employment. Venture into business and earn a living. I want to buy motorbikes to help in delivery. My biggest challenge is sourcing for fruits because they are seasonal,” he added. He uses social media to market his business. A five litre of jerican fresh juice goes for Sh700.
Mr Opondo says many youths fail in business due to lack of preparedness.
“A glass goes for Sh100 in churches and Sh50 in schools. Hard work and trusting in God can do wonders. Instead of idling, youths can start a business with anything they have,” he said.