To those who shared his early days, John Mbugua is often seen as the Class Seven dropout who found his calling in the world of fresh meat trading after leaving school, and he never looked back.
Yet, behind the ever-fresh face of this man lies not just an ordinary corner butcher, but a quintessential entrepreneur boasting a prestigious list of high-profile clients.
Among the ranks of Mr. Mbugua’s clientele stands the revered State House, a connection that has endured through three political regimes – from the times of former Presidents Daniel arap Moi and Mwai Kibaki to the present reign of President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Operating from his establishment, Jojen Butchery, situated in Dagoretti township just outside Nairobi, Mr. Mbugua has been diligently supplying his clients for over two decades.
Despite interacting with numerous clients in his trade, Mr. Mbugua remains a private individual, harboring a reluctance for media attention. When approached by Business Daily for an interview, he responded, “I have seen people become poorer after sharing their stories with the media.”
Mr. Mbugua’s journey into entrepreneurship traces back to 1979 when he penned a business proposal that failed to find financial backing. He then joined a manufacturing company, working for three years before parting ways with two colleagues. The turn of events led him to drive a taxi for a time until his yearning for self-employment pushed him towards the meat business.
His venture into loading meat from a nearby slaughterhouse offered him invaluable insights into the intricacies of the meat trade, eventually leading him to establish his own butchery. With a modest Sh6,000 investment, he started with a makeshift premise along Dagoretti Road, gradually expanding his operations and even making soups to supplement his income.
Within two years, the business had progressed significantly, allowing him to move to a better location. Buoyed by his success, Mr. Mbugua secured a Sh350,000 loan from Co-operative Bank to establish his enterprise at a commercial building owned by the late Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai’s former husband, Mwangi Mathai.
Approaching Mr. Mathai, he pitched his idea of sourcing meat on credit, selling it, and using the proceeds to settle his debts and payments. This marked the inception of Jojen Butchery – a fusion of “John” and “Jennifer,” his wife.
The venture soon began attracting notable clients, starting with institutions like Lenana School, Parliament, and Kenya Railways, and eventually expanding to Jacaranda Hotels, Safari Club, and more. The esteemed client list further grew to include the likes of State House, the Department of Defence, Co-operative College, and Utalii College.
Reflecting on his interactions with past and present presidents, Mr. Mbugua praised Daniel arap Moi for being a good business partner. While business with State House experienced a slight decline during Mwai Kibaki’s tenure due to the former president’s lesser appetite for meat, President Uhuru Kenyatta is hailed as a gentleman who understands and relates to matters well.
Mr. Mbugua describes the path of entrepreneurship as long and challenging, demanding unwavering patience. He attributes his success to presenting competitive quotations to clients and delivering quality service.
Reserved about his earnings, he asserts that despite fierce competition, Jojen Butchery thrives and progresses. The business, which initially employed three, has now expanded to 15 employees, including those working in a restaurant within the establishment.
Notably, Jojen Butchery draws attention from prominent figures, including politicians and senior government officials, due to its simple setting in Dagoretti.