Elana Laichena founded Acacia Innovations in October of 2016. Based in Bungoma County, the enterprise manufactures biomass briquettes made from sugarcane waste to be used as an alternative to firewood and charcoal fuel sources. Their main clients are schools in Nairobi and 19 other counties.
They joined KCIC in early 2017, where they benefited from access to media coverage, use of facilities, business advisory, and mentorship. Specifically, Laichena was interviewed on KTN, and the company was able to use KCIC’s office space to conduct team meetings and interviews. In December 2018, Acacia Innovations signed an Early Stage Finance (ESF) agreement with KCIC of USD 45,000. According to Laichena:
“We received the funds to import a new briquetting machine from India in addition to a hammermill and a grinder to make the process go more smoothly. We were awarded the funds in December and placed the order then. We just got the machine installed earlier this month, so we are doing tests to get it up and running.”
The ESF will assist Acacia Innovations in expanding their impact in the community and for the environment. So far, they have employed 70 people, most of whom would traditionally have difficulties with finding employment. For instance, they have hired factory workers who are illiterate and/or did not finish school. As Laichena says:
“Creating employment is one of the most direct ways that people see a benefit from our operations. It’s meaningful to provide jobs for people of all skill levels. As we pay our employees fairly above the minimum wage, it’s an opportunity for whole families to get support.”
Additionally, sugarcane briquettes have numerous environmental and health advantages. The use of traditional firewood for cooking leads to deforestation; every ton of sugarcane briquettes saves 25 trees. Furthermore, the product has almost no smoke. In the short term, this means that cooks do not suffer as much from coughing, watery eyes, etc.; in the long run, they are less at risk for respiratory illnesses.