newton owino

How Newton Owino Earns Big From Dried Fish Skin

newton_owino_black_owned_fish_skin_leather_businessEntrepreneur Newton Owino is a resident of Kisumu, the third largest city in Kenya, known as the “principal city of western Kenya.” His line of business is fashion and accessories, and, like many others in that line of business, he makes bags, shoes, and belts. However, he doesn’t construct these accessories in a conventional manner.

His choice of material? Fish scales, fish skin, and fish innards. 

We kid you not.

How He Does It

Each week, Owino, 35, tans approximately 15 tons of fish skins, turns them into marketable products, and exports the products to Italy, Denmark and America. The tanning, which is done entirely by hand, is a meticulously carried out process which turns the skins into fine leather. Salt and banana extract are added to reduce any bacterial infection present on the skin, get rid of fish odor, and make the fibre more durable.

The cost of these products can range between Sh1,500 and Sh6,000 each (about $14 to $58 USD), and  the materials that Owino uses are always  easily available to him, as they are considered primarily fish waste that would have been discarded of. The bonus? Owino’s fish-skin shoes are waterproof and do not require being polished.

Trained in His Field

To ensure that he knew his business inside out, Owino studied leather chemistry  G. B. Pant University of Agriculture and Technology (Pantnagar) in India. In addition to this, he worked as a research scientist for 11 years  at the International Center of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE).

Though some thought his idea was crazy, he went ahead and put it into motion, and soon discovered that he had made the right move in doing so.

He commented,

“In 2013, I started exporting my products and made Sh13.7 million. In 2014, I made Sh14.1 million and last year it reached Sh21 million.”

Owino’s company currently has a staff of seven full-time employees, and his ultimate goal is to open a shoe manufacturing company in which he will utilize his refined process.

By: Danielle Dixon

Follow her on Twitter: @tooprettydani


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