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Fish dealer happy he quit Sh25,000-a-month driver’s job to sell fish

By Kamundia Muriithi
Isaak Kinyua at work at his Kutus fish eatery. He sells the big fish at around Sh1,500 but the few gigantic ones can fetch as much as Sh3,000.

Smoke curls from the wooden shed as sizzling hot oil in the deep-frying pan quickly turns the red white reddish fish into an inviting, golden brown delicacy.

Customers munch the delicacy sitting at the lone form inside the shed while others stand outside waiting for the trader to wrap up their purchase so that they can enjoy it at their homes.

The shed near the Kutus market “Mjini” is owned by an entrepreneurial young man, Isaak Kinyua who spotted a lucrative opportunity in whetting the appetites for fish for the residents.

Through hard and smart work, Kinyua has cut a niche for himself as a fish dealer of choice for many people who visit the market and want to take a bite of fish. He has customers who make orders for him to deliver the large catches to their homesteads.

He deals in mudfish, common cap and eels varieties that he sources from the Masinga dam on the border of Embu and Machakos counties.

Early every day, Kinyua rides in his motorcycle to Masinga dam through the Piai (Makutano) route. Around 11 am, he has bought fish for the day from fishermen and rides back to Kutus to start selling.

“I buy only live fish and hire people to slaughter them for me as I watch. I can’t risk buying an already slaughtered fish as it can spoil my business should it go bad,” he says.

Kinyua reveals that traders compete to buy the large-sized fish, which appeal to moneyed customers. He also buys several, small-sized ones to meet the needs of all his customers.

At Masinga dam where men spend the night fishing in their canoes and row to the shore in the morning, traders buy a kilogram at Sh250.

Alternatively, the trader and fishermen “eye” the catch and come to a mutual agreement on its price depending on its size. Kinyua prefers the second arrangement.

Once back at his joint, its sheer hard work as he hangs the fish from the large window. He then embarks on deep frying and selling the fish and serving customers until he sells the last fish.

“I don’t keep the fish overnight. I only buy what I’m able to sell for the day. I buy and sell a bucketful of fish every day,” says the trader.

Kinyua does not regret leaving his job where he earned Sh25,000 monthly for self-employment. In fact, he is happy he is his own boss and makes more than double that amount.

He started the fish eatery last year after several pitfalls in employment.

Kinyua narrates that in his first job at the Kutus market, he was employed to sell mitumba clothes.

He saved every coin and enrolled for a driving course. He also upgraded his wardrobe but that did not go well with his employer and he was fired.

After hustling for a while, he got a job as a driver and would frequently drive his boss to Nairobi.

“On our journeys back, we would stop at Sagana to buy fish. He would send me to buy it. I interacted with the fishmongers and developed an interest in what they did,” he says.

Coincidentally at that time, a friend had been requesting Kinyua for connection to a job. Kinyua thus resolved to open a fish joint and have his friend operate it.

“The friend was a university student and I would pay him Sh400 every day. Whereas my salary as a driver would be delayed, I was paying him without fail. That only hastened my resolve to quit employment,” he says.

Once he quit his job and was fully into the fish business, Kinyua was concerned that transportation cost ate heavily into his profits.

To source for fish, he was hiring a motorcycle and a rider at Sh800 and fueling it with about Sh500 every day.

When he bought his own motorcycle, he bypassed that expense and is now able to cover longer distances to get the best fish.

Kinyua says his business is profitable especially now that he has a loyal clientele.

He makes a profit of about Sh300 per kilogram. He sells the big fish at around Sh1,500 but the few gigantic ones can fetch as much as Sh3,000.

During the interview, Kinyua received several calls from police officers, a teacher, a pastor and business people who form his customers who make an order.

He faces the challenge of stiff competition but is able to withstand it by offering services of the highest quality.

In fact, his shed does not have the characteristic fishy smell of some fish eateries. He frequently wipes his working bench to keep off flies.

Satisfied customers of his fish refer others to him.

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