By Stacey Kakea
The hot season may be winding down in Kenya, but you can still enjoy a frozen treat from Azin Pops and support a group of incredibly devoted women. Derrick Ochieng, the founder of Azin Pops, located in Umoja, Nairobi County in, Kenya, delivers a daily pleasant dessert in the market. Ochieng puts a fresh spin on traditional Kenyan popsicles by blending them with modern-day flavouring formulations. But this did not just start from here.
“When I was a kid, I used to see so many vendors come to our school and sell popsicles. We’d call them “Ice” back then. The most amazing aspect was how many kids would rush to them and buy. We’d fight merely to get the popsicles. I thought they made way too much money,” Ochieng said.
Ochieng chose to start small and gauge the market reaction in 2020. This worked out pretty well. He began as a reseller, ordering from popsicle-making enterprises until he could afford his machine in 2021. He also noted that most of the individuals who came to inquire about his work were women. They were not just looking for ways to start the same business but were also the majority of his consumers. With their encouragement, he eventually produced popsicles on a large scale.
“My wife is my role model, being my biggest support system. She helped me budget my finances, and eventually, she took over every financial decision while I ran the operation itself. I was the one working on the “ground.” When the savings eventually summed up to a good amount, I purchased a three-mold machine,” Ochieng shared.
Azin pops are made with sugar, brine, milk, and different extracts like chocolate, coconut, strawberry, and vanilla. He also experiments with various flavours. This fully depends on his customers. Machinery used in the process was sourced from Eastleigh, Nairobi, for 105,000 shillings (about US$697) for a 3-mold machine.
The 3-mold is an ice machine with a tank holding steady fluid flow. This fluid is kept under very low temperatures to keep everything frozen. After filling stainless steel moulds with the recipe for the popsicle mixture, sticks are put inside the moulds and submerged in a tank that creates the popsicles.
“Our first week of production was a challenge, but our resilient nature did not allow us to give up. We had to give it another try. Every time I was ready to give up, my wife would push me to give it another chance,” Ochieng said.
True to his goal of empowering women, 90% of his clients are women.
Ochieng has capitalised on the delicious taste of his popsicles to inspire, encourage, and empower women in a country where chances for women are often limited. He exemplifies the substantial effect an individual’s drive may possess on society, especially the women who have gained renewed power, self-determination, and pride in their tasty creations.
“The women that I work with, we all empower each other. We’re attempting to construct this together—to be on the same page. Nobody is wiser than the other, and we can all work together to solve this problem since many brains are better than one.”
Mary Achieng is one of the women who has worked with Ochieng since the inception of his business. Achieng believes this is the light at the end of the tunnel for her.
“I’ve been in the business for almost 30 years now, with my main supplier being Derrick. This business has seen me through a very dark stage in my life where I had nothing and a family to fend for. I have been able to educate my kids for all these years through this business. I hope I am able to progress and get a physical shop instead of having to walk around in order to make sales,” Achieng shared.
Ochieng believes that he will assist women in developing the skills and leadership necessary to launch their own businesses one day if they so wish. They will know how to operate a firm and become that leader.
“I’m simply a huge dreamer, but my dream business is one where women assist each other, encourage each other, and are compensated equally,” Ochieng said.
Maureen Awino is another one of Ochieng’s clients who has managed to grow financially over the years. She doubted her ability to venture into the business industry, but Awino found her way through with steady guidance.
Ochieng helped her realise her goals by making sure a steady supply of stock was available for her at an affordable price of 3 shillings (about 2 US cents) per popsicle.
“I did not think I would live to see the day when I would get a promising reward, but contrary to my thinking, I have actually managed to buy land and build my mom a house. I would rank that as one of my biggest accomplishments in life,” Awino said.
Achieng and Awino are just a few women working alongside Ochieng, and their lives have changed dramatically. Many of the approximately 30 women he has met have gone on to start their businesses, while others have boosted their clientele through him.
Ochieng hopes to increase the number of women-led popsicle enterprises to provide more jobs for women. As the proverb goes, “If you want to move fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together”. Ochieng feels that being united and working together for the improvement of women, in particular, will be more beneficial than attempting to survive alone.
To ensure optimum freshness for the trademark, his popsicles are delivered on the day they are ordered. Ochieng has also reduced the use of plastic by installing innovative storage freezers that can keep hundreds of popsicles frozen for up to eight hours.
“I use cooler boxes, which can hold a maximum of 500 ice popsicles, to deliver to the respective clients. Ochieng shared that this is our way of getting rid of plastic packaging and the need for freezers while creating something sustainable and biodegradable,” Ochieng shared.
The wholesale price of the popsicles is 3 shillings (about 2 US cents). Ochieng can earn up to 100,000 shillings (about US$664) from his model in a good month. His clients go on to sell popsicles at 10-15 shillings (approximately between 6 and 10 US cents). This increases his clients’ income and makes him a preferred wholesale point as he is affordable.
Dorcas Hera, a larger popsicle business owner who supplies major Kenyan supermarkets, believes that young people should start with such modest enterprises and expand them since they are highly profitable in the long run.
“The nice thing about this business is that you can start small and still produce safe, consistent, and delicious treats, which will help with profitability in the long run,” Hera said.
She believes that the COVID-19 pandemic provided opportunities for many Kenyans. Despite the issues many suffered, Kenyans started their businesses, selling popsicles as one of the most successful.
“Making popsicles with a machine that can produce more than 300 popsicles every 30 minutes is a profitable business. A successful popsicle business can make you thousands of shillings; some bring even more in a month.” Hera stated
However, Ochieng’s income varies primarily according to the number of clients and the amount of popsicles they require.
‘It’s a seasonal business, and like all seasonal businesses, there are bound to be peak and fall periods, too. One has to learn the pattern if maximum sales are to be realised,” he said
Consistency has helped Ochieng achieve his milestones, from selling another producer’s product to being the producer himself.
“I aspire for my business to have a breakthrough and its name to gain popularity, just like the famous Lyons Maid,” he said.
bird story agency