A team of St. Paul’s University students made headlines internationally after winning the Hult Prize Trophy in New York in September 2022.
Keylie Muthoni, Brian Ndung’u, Lennox Omondi, and Shiltone Ogutu were awarded the grand prize for their innovative approach to producing biodegradable sanitary pads from banana fibres through their company, EcoBana Limited.
However, six months after their win, the students have been struggling financially, urging their family members, relatives, and community to refrain from asking for money.
“Everybody thinks we have the money. The other day my grandmother asked when I was starting to build her a new house.“
“I cannot tell people that I am broke because no one believes me,” Muthoni remarked during an interview with Weekly Review.
The group expressed that they had been facing intense pressure from societal expectations since winning the prize, receiving incessant calls from people begging for money or seeking ways to exploit them.
When asked why they were broke despite winning such a hefty sum, Muthoni explained that the money was received in batches, and a detailed proposal had to be submitted for each batch.
She added that misusing the grant through frivolous spending would be detrimental to their plan of ending period poverty.
“There is a lot of documentation involved and we have to account for every coin.”
“If we misuse the money on anything other than the project, we will be cut off completely,” she explains why there are stringent spending measures.
The students are working hard and believe that by the end of 2023, they will have started mass-producing biodegradable sanitary pads.
READ: St. Paul’s University students win Sh. 120 million for genius invention, biodegradable sanitary towels
“Banana pith has a high absorption rate and is biodegradable, which is why we settled on it as a solution.”
“Our business model is a social enterprise; we aim to generate profits while creating social and environmental impact, which could mean selling our product directly to non-governmental organisations that align with our mission,” the team revealed their production and marketing strategy.
The team has already purchased a parcel of land in Kisii County for cultivating banana stalks and has hired 25 employees to aid in the production process.
They plan to import high-tech manufacturing machinery worth Sh. 10 million, producing 200 pads per minute.