Winfred Nyambura Ndung’u is the founder of The Clay Republic, a pottery business that also empowers women in rural areas to be independent and support their families by reviving traditional pottery practice and linking their products to markets.
Briefly introduce yourself.
My name is Nyambura Ndung’u, I am the founder/commercial lead at The Clay Republic Ltd (TCR). I am a marketer turned entrepreneur after almost two decades in the business world. I am also a trained brand strategist. I have worked with various SMEs on how to grow their brands both online and offline.
What inspired your interest in clay works?
It’s an interesting story. During Covid-19, we were having discussions with some friends, and an idea popped up about making clay water pots. The rest is a tale of investing hours, a creative mind, and extensive networking. And here I am, with a vast range of pure clay products, including water pots, cooking/serving pots, grills, tandooris, pizza makers, energy-saving jikos, fireplaces, and selected flower pots.
What types of clay products do you make?
Our flagship product is our Miara water pot, where it all began. Now we offer other products such as cooking pots, serving pots, cutlery (e.g., plates, mugs, calabash, bowls, Shekla tibs, etc.), tandooris, grills, pizza makers, fireplaces, jikos, home improvement products like lampshades, essence burners, and selected flower pots. The list is endless.
Could you briefly discuss the process, materials, and equipment required to make a clay product?
The process takes quite some time. None of the products you see here takes less than 27-36 days to reach this state. It begins by sourcing the best clay from river banks, followed by mixing it. The mixture is then covered with polythene bags for a few days. Next, the final mixing and kneading are done, and the pots are made using a roller wheel. We dry the items in-house and then expose them to the sun for 7-12 days. Once we ensure that the items are thoroughly dried, we light up the kiln to fire them. The firing process takes at least a day or two.
Where is your shop located, and how do you reach your customers?
Our shop is located at Nagi Plaza on Waiyaki Way, near Kangemi, in Nairobi. We are also opening a new branch in the Bamburi area of Mombasa in June/July this year, and we hope to have another branch in Meru by the end of the year, God willing. We are gradually expanding. We reach our customers through online platforms, word of mouth, activations and events, open markets, and soon, through our distributors.
Who are your target customers, and why would they prefer clay products over regular ones?
Our target market is broad, encompassing both the young and the old, males and females. We have noticed that younger people are particularly interested in purchasing our products, as they want to experience what our forefathers did with clay pots. With our diverse range of products, we have something for everyone. We primarily market through social media, word of mouth, exhibitions/events, and open-air markets. The greatest thing about our client base is that they are all becoming aware of the health benefits of using clay products. We emphasize the health aspect of clay products and compare them to other readily available products such as dispensers and aluminium sufurias in the market.
How do you determine the prices for these items?
Pricing is an area where many SMEs make mistakes, and I always advise my peers to price their products appropriately to satisfy the market while still generating profit for the business to thrive. Our prices are very reasonable and affordable, ranging from Sh600 to Sh15,000. There are special custom-made items that may have prices going up to Sh80,000.
Where and how did you acquire the skills to create these beautiful and unique items?
We collaborate with various male and female potters. Our philosophy is to shape with passion for empowerment and to transfer skills for sustainability. We actively engage with women groups and young people to ensure continuity and succession in the future. Our aim is to ensure that pottery doesn’t fade away but continues to thrive long after we are gone.
What is your unique selling point?
Our primary selling point is the tremendous health benefits of using clay products. These benefits include retaining nutrients and essential minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium, and more. We have also developed various user-friendly designs for everyday use. All our products can be used on gas, electricity, oven, charcoal, and firewood. As clay pots cook slowly, they retain a significant amount of heat, allowing you to use less heat from your cooker.
How much do you make, say monthly?
We are still below Sh500,000 but my aim is to get to Sh1 million by March 2024.
Your closing statement?
Being an entrepreneur is a rewarding pursuit. Despite the challenges that come along the way, I would still opt for the entrepreneurial journey. Life is never easy, and one must put in hard work to achieve their goals. I encourage young people to acquire diverse skills that will enhance their lives. Let them become creators of opportunities rather than seekers of jobs. This way, we can accelerate the growth of our country.