Nairobi — When Celestine Masinde boarded the plane back home from the Rio Olympics in 2016, she not only carried home with her the magnificent piece of history of becoming the first Kenyan lady to score an Olympic try, but also brought with her a massive business idea that has come into fruition four years later.
While making rounds at the athletes' village, the Kenya Lionesses star stumbled upon a drink that would change her business sense and engage her mind into a 'what if I do this' situation.
Four years after she picked up the Hibiscus Ginger juice to taste, Masinde has partnered fellow rugby player, Samson Onsomu, the Kenya Simbas skipper, in starting their own in Nairobi.
"There was a West African stand in the athletes' village and one day we just decided we were tired of the pizzas and what nots and wanted to taste something different. I decided to go to the healthy section and came across the hibiscus juice and I asked what it was exactly. It tasted really nice," Masinde recalls, speaking to Capital Sport.
The taste and the thought of bringing the drink closer home lingered on her mind since then, but it had to take the hand of a pandemic to squeeze the idea into actualization.
She discussed the idea that was brewing in her mind for a while with Onsomu and just like that, the business was born.
"I kept thinking of the idea of having something good and flavoury, which we could still enjoy yet it's a healthier alternative. As sportsmen we struggle with the love for fizzy drinks and bad sugars. I decided that if I can venture to help other sports people why not? I approached Onsomu and he was on the same wavelength. We have played together and we are friends so it was easier to agree," Masinde recalls.
And, with the sound of a business and the uncertainty of a pandemic, Onsomu was game.
With the financial side of the sport hugely hit, the Kenya Simbas and Impala Saracens scrum half had to think on his feet to ensure he was not badly affected financially with no sporting action and reduced chances of earning a living.
"When COVID started, sports was stopped and for most people, myself included, I was three and a half into sports. My whole life was entirely dependent on sports and with the effects of the pandemic, I decided to venture into business. We talked with Celestine about the idea of producing and selling the drink and we started," Onsomu recalls.
Just like he pulls the strings and dictates the tempo of the game from his scrum half position in the field, it was Onsomu who jolted Celestine into action once the pandemic started and shutdowns were swung all round.
"We were still trying to get things in order but immediately the pandemic started, he told me this is the opportunity. We need to seize the moment and we can't to be statistics and say COVID has crippled businesses and sports. Now that we have time, we decided to immerse ourselves fully," says Masinde.
They decided to partner with one of Masinde's friends who owns a processing company, but had to go through all the processes to have their drinks okayed by the government authorities before they could get them into the market.
"We didn't want to do a jua kali thing," Onsomu says, further underlying his attention for quality.
They got their Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) verification sticker after all health safety standards were met and began rolling out the tasty drink into the market. Within the first month, the duo had already registered close to 1,000 bottles in sales.
Not only is the drink a healthy alternative to soft drinks, but also has immense health positives. That is what proved to be the masterstroke that lifted their sales up so quick.
"This is an organic drink. We have used hibiscus flower and ginger and we have used stevia as a sweetener because we wanted to avoid sugar. Stevia is good for Blood Pressure and also regulating blood sugar and fat levels,"
"Hibiscus helps improve liver digestion and it is also a fully loaded immune booster with Vitamin C, D and iron," explains Masinde.
With the idea off its feet and into the market already, the Kenya rugby duo are not sleeping on their laurels. They aim to make the drink bigger and better with an eye of supplying it into supermarket chains and hotels.
Both agree that the COVID-19 situation has been an eye opener for the sports fraternity especially in terms of income and life after sports.
"COVID caught everyone unaware. Not only has this been an eye opener but it has given us a rude shock. This is what our lives would be when we retire. This is our lives when rugby is taken away from us. It is a blessing in disguise and made everyone know they can't put all their eggs in one basket," Masinde, also a Credit Control Team leader at Swipe Recoveries Experts adds.
Onsomu echoes the sentiments saying; "COVID has been an eye opener to sportsmen that you can actually do anything online and still make a living out of it. For sports people, we had put all our minds in sports... it is just training and playing, forgetting that we also need to build a life outside sports. It's good it happened so that people can think outside the box."