Ruth Kinoti

CEO & Founder of Shalem Investments, Kenya. 2SCALE business champion

“Get the right business idea and then never ever give up.”

Shalem Investments

“I wanted to help my parents who are farmers. I know the need of smallholder farmers. For example, I know why they cannot wait for their money for months because they have to pay for school fees.”

Ruth Kinoti, Founder and CEO of Shalem Investments, is a social entrepreneur, married and mother of two grown children. Being raised by parents who are farmers, Ruth understands the challenging environment that surrounds farmers in Kenya. That is why she started her own company: Shalem Investments. Shalem Investments is a Kenyan family-owned business, operating out of Meru. “I wanted to find a way to sell what farmers were producing. My first job was selling beans to schools. I did that for 7 years”. 

Now, Shalem Investments is a successful company, selling the produce for over 7000 smallholder farmers. “The products we market for smallholders are mostly maize, beans, sorghum and soybeans. We identify markets for the farmers we work with and sell their produce with a good profit, towards larger buyers such as food producing companies and animal feed producing companies.”

Keys and barriers to success

One of the keys to Ruth’s success is her family: “My husband was very supportive, even when I had to quit my former job for Shalem.”

However, being a female agribusiness entrepreneur is not always easy. Ruth explains: “I have not seen many of us as leaders or senior people. Most decision makers are still men. ‘...’ Not many of the men believe in women and when the idea seems too good or too ambitious they almost always look for the man involved. It can be very challenging for women who do not have a supportive man to help them.”

Being a female entrepreneur can also be a strain on your family. “It is difficult and my children sacrificed a lot in this project because it demanded a huge amount of time. So what I did is I involved them every step of the way, so everyone in the family knows what is happening. ‘...’ Now they are older, I am proud they now want to be part of the business”

Even though Ruth’s path to success was not easy, she remembers some very proud moments that will always stay with her: “I remember the feeling when I first saw the flour package on the market that had our brand. Oh, I was so proud! And so were the farmers.”

Essential skills for female entrepreneurs

“I think what is useful is resilience. Also, it is important to be patient. Keep your focus and be resilient.” According to Ruth, having business skills is not the most important aspect to your business. “If your business is solving a problem, then things will fall into place.”