Kenya Women Billionaires: The Story of Tabitha Karanja

  • An undated photo of Keroche Breweries CEO Tabitha Karanja
    An undated photo of Keroche Breweries CEO Tabitha Karanja
    (COURTESY)
  • The story of award-winning Keroche Breweries CEO, Tabitha Karanja, is a true definition of inspiration, resilience, discipline and pushing the limits to become one of the most accomplished movers and shakers in the country’s business ecosystem.

    Born on August 26, 1964 as the first born in a family of 10, Tabitha developed the hunger to achieve, leave a mark and create a path her siblings could follow.

    In past interviews, Tabitha narrated that her parents earned just enough to secure an education for all the 10 children. Her mother was a farmer and her father, a government driver.

    Taking no chances, Tabitha grabbed the opportunity handed to her and ran with it. She worked extremely hard in her primary school education and secured an admission at the highly regarded Bahati Girls Secondary School.

    After passing her examinations at the school, she joined the University of Nairobi where she pursued a degree in Business Administration.

    An undated photo of Keroche Breweries CEO Tabitha Karanja
    An undated photo of Keroche Breweries CEO Tabitha Karanja
    (COURTESY)

    Profession

    After six to seven months, Tabitha landed a job at the Ministry of Tourism as an accounting clerk. 

    So great was her entrepreneurial mindset, however, that she quit the job after two years and decided to open a hardware business with her husband Joseph Karanja whom she had met in the course of her job with the government.

    In 1997, they closed shop and decided to venture into the wine making business. With the locally available raw materials and a capital worth Ksh 500,000, the couple started their business.

    “One day I felt that we really wanted to shift to full manufacturing, but I didn’t know which sector exactly. So we had to do a bit of research and know which direction to take," Tabitha stated in a previous interview.

    After making a debut in the market, the couple noted that the lower income earners had been neglected by the players in the market then.

    "So we thought; why don’t we come with a product that is hygienically produced, that meets international standards and was affordable?" recounted Tabitha.

    In the course of their business, the couple also realised that the upper income earners did not have a variety of drinks to choose from. Hence, they came up with Summit Lager and Summit Malt.

    "We were largely accepted in the market and after this, we started our expansion plans," she added.

    Keroche Breweries CEO Tabitha Karanja speaking during a past press briefing
    Keroche Breweries CEO Tabitha Karanja speaking during a past press briefing
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    Challenges

    The gutsy woman had by now made a name for herself. She was playing in the same league as the tycoons in the country.

    This was not without its challenges.

    When the company was only six years old, rumours begun that her drinks were not healthy. In 2007, the company was forced to shut down after the government enacted heavy taxes on locally made wines.

    Tabitha was asked to pay a tax debt of Ksh1.2 billion in 14 days but she managed to win the case in court.

    Yet again, in 2019, the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) ordered the arrest of Tabitha and her husband over tax evasion.

    "The audit established that Keroche Breweries Limited had evaded the payment of tax totaling Ksh14,451,836,375," read a part of the statement by the DPP.

    In quick succession, Tabitha responded saying that no investigation officers had been seen at the breweries. She added that it was a gross violation, harassment and intimidation by the DPP.

    Keroche Breweries owners Tabitha Karanja and husband Joseph Karanja
    Keroche Breweries owners Tabitha Karanja and husband Joseph Karanja when they launched a new beer in July 2019.
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    Family

    While still working with the Ministry of Tourism, Tabitha met her husband Joseph Karanja.

    Together, they are blessed with four children namely; James Karanja, Anerlisa Muigai, Edward Muigai and the late Tecra muigai.

    Muigai died after she allegedly fell off a flight of stairs on May 2, 2020.

    In previous interviews, Tabitha was quoted saying that despite all the money and wealth, her family will always come first.

    "We will create wealth, money but at the end of it, creating a good family is everything."

    From left Anerlise, Tabitha and James Karanja pictured at the funeral of Tecra Karanja, May 16, 2020.
    From left Anerlise, Tabitha and James Karanja pictured at the funeral of Tecra Karanja, May 16, 2020.

    Awards

    In 2010, Tabitha was honoured with a Moran of the Order of the Burning Spear for her efforts in liberalizing the liquor market by retired president Mwai Kibaki.

    Her brand has also gained international and continental recognition.

    died harass arrest tax evasion