Covid start-ups thriving beyond the pandemic

Tuesday March 22 2022
Ukulima Tech

Elizabeth Onyango, Ukulima Tech CEO, showcases one of their hydroponics, vertical step gardens, in a backyard. PHOTO | POOL


Businesses that were started to solve pandemic-related economic problems are today thriving as Covid-19 enters its endemic phase and life creeps back to normal.

Technology start-ups addressing the challenges of working from home and contactless transactions were among the many, but even as countries lift vaccine and mask mandates and employees troop back to the office, these start-ups remain resilient.

When the pandemic hit, Brian Nyagol, a software engineer, and his team of developers, quickly built Startup Suite, a software to enable companies centralise their departments and simplify remote working.

“Many firms that had been operating manually faced difficulties sharing information and files from wherever their employees were working from. Our system provided a solution,” Nyagol told The EastAfrican.

In two months, Startup Suite had 80 sign-ups, most of them small and medium enterprises. Currently, the system has about 137 users, six of whom are premium users, paying between Ksh1,999 ($17.47) and Ksh4,999 ($43.68) monthly subscription.

As the pandemic raged in 2020, Afya Boost Care, a 2020 start-up banked on people’s increased desire to boost their immunity.


Judy Mwende, Afya Boost co-founder and project lead was then a student of Food Science and Technology at the University of Eldoret in Uasin Gishu County. Mwende and team came up with a nutritious porridge mix flour formula.

The flour mix formula is made of sorghum, mushrooms, amaranth grain, pumpkin seeds and pumpkin flesh. A simple portion is packed in one-kilogramme packs, sold at Ksh300 ($2.62).

To make the product readily available, Afya Boost came up with a smartphone application that allows buyers to make an order and request delivery. They also have a website and present on all social media sites.

“Covid-19 has taught people to be more health-conscious and mindful of their immunity. People are generally shifting towards organic foods and we expect to be in business long after the threat of Covid-19 is gone,” said Mwende.

Another start-up, Ukulima Tech, found a niche in urban farming, giving city residents value for their time when lockdowns forced many to stay at home. They built vertical hydroponic gardens for balconies and backyards.

Like Afya Boost, Ukulima Tech also created an app that their clients can use to get information on their vertical gardens.

“Our start-up started a few years before the pandemic, but it didn’t do so well until Covid-19 struck. Many people found themselves stuck in their homes and wanted something meaningful to occupy their time and our vertical gardens offered them a perfect solution,” said Sheila Etam, Ukulima Tech’s head of operations and marketing.

Currently, Ukulima charges at least Ksh15,000 ($131) to set up a balcony or backyard garden at the client’s desired location, but might be higher depending on the size. The price covers growing containers, structure support and seedlings.

The company also has an agronomist who designs hydroponic structures and advices on the best plants to be grown based on proximity to water source, availability of sunlight or shade, and lay of the land or space.

“Initially, we only targeted urban households interested in domestic farming, but the market has evolved to include vegetable vendors and other urban farmers who want to utilise unused spaces in their homes to set up a commercial vertical garden for sale of vegetables to supplement income,” Etam told The EastAfrican.