Enterprise Clinic enlists experts to help budding businesses get off the ground. In this issue we feature a young woman who wants to
manufacture Kenyan condiments.
Our entrepreneur: Gillianne Obaso
Gillianne is a professionally trained make-up artist with 20 years in the local film industry. She is the single mother of a baby whose growing needs require a parent around the home and not away on location for consecutive months on end. This called for a revival of a dream she has long nurtured. She’s in the process of setting up Ma Phoebe’s Sauces, which are healthy, homemade food condiments that will complement Kenyan food. She hopes to encourage Kenyans to appreciate our local cuisines. Having attended Craft Afrika – an entrepreneur’s incubation programme – she gained invaluable knowledge on the steps required to set up a viable business, but needs help scaling it to develop the bulk production required to produce profitable returns.
The challenges: How to convince Kenyans that my product is for them, how to fund production on a large scale, and the best way to go about marketing it.
Our expert panel
Barry Tonks, Executive Chef, Hemingways
Barry has been cooking in some of London’s finest kitchens for almost 20 years. During that time he has accumulated awards, accolades, press acclaim and a Michelin star, and he has brought this exceptional culinary reputation to Kenya.
Simon Wanjau, Executive Sous Chef, Intercontinental Hotel
Wanjau has a wealth of experience in the hotel industry. Prior to the Intercontinental, he worked at The Hilton Dubai (where he won gold, silver and bronze medals in various competitions) and at The Cardoso in Mozambique, where he helped set up the Fiamma Restaurant.
What is your opinion of the indigenous food condiment industry and what should a local producer do to compete effectively against the American, European and Asian imports in the market?
TONKS My opinion is that they have no body, no flavour and they contain too much sugar! I think you should not be looking at the competition at this stage of your business inception. Instead focus on using good ingredients and the quality of the product rather than the bottom line.
WANJAU Many might say that our food is bland. Which it is. Unimaginative? True. Too much sugar? Again, true. But indigenous food is full of body. For example, take coriander; take a bite of the leaf and even if you’re blindfolded you will know it’s coriander. Our sweet potato is not bland. My point is, our indigenous food is not bland – it’s just the cooks who are not creative. We are too afraid to experiment. Our local producers just need to be creative and not be copycats. My advice: don’t compete with the West.
Once you have a product you believe is viable, what is the best way to go about funding?
TONKS Draft a business plan with initial investment, operating costs, overheads, turnover and return, and visit your bank manager. You should be able to get funding from banks if you have a sound business plan.
WANJAU In Kenya you need to first start out small, and have some concrete returns before drawing up a business plan to present to your bank manager or a reputable financial lender.
Is the term ‘condiment’ too elitist for the Kenyan market, and what would be an option?
TONKS Not at all. The term ‘condiment’ basically means to ‘enhance’ or ‘complete’ a dish. It’s not confusing. Keep it.
WANJAU To some the term might be completely new.
You may target an upmarket customer but find that your product has wider appeal – how do you address all the various market segments with the same product?
TONKS Provide a good quality product and keep it affordable: don’t over price yourself. For example, take Heinz Tomato Ketchup – you will find it all over the world, from cafes to 5-star hotels, because it’s a product that appeals to all markets.
WANJAU If your brand attracts across the board, you have hit the jackpot. For goodness sake don’t be greedy and increase the selling price; just maintain the quality and see your empire grow.
If you plan several products in your range, what is an advisable frequency to introduce each onto the market?
TONKS My theory is that less is more. Start perhaps with a few of your top products. If they are well received then start trickling out others. Gain your consumers’ trust with quality and consistency first.
WANJAU Start with the product you are most confident with. Grow it and in time it will be your flagship product. Then you can introduce others.
Glass jars versus plastic – any advice?
TONKS Both. But then again, whatever your targeted markets require.
WANJAU For glass, make sure it is reinforced and is used mostly for cold dishes (to avoid breakages). For plastic, make sure that it is recommended for use in microwave if used for hot dishes. In case fatty foods are stored, do not refrigerate to avoid migration of plasticisers. According to some research these might cause cancer.
Social media as a sales and marketing tool: what is the smartest way to go about it?
TONKS Get a PR company involved and seek the advice of someone who understands social media. Send out samples of your products to certain media houses or professionals who could help get your brand publicised.
WANJAU I am not really for it, but social media is an easy way to reach audiences, especially young people in Kenya.
What is a realistic and reasonable period of time before profits start trickling in?
TONKS Ninety days. This would potentially give you enough time to fight off your creditors and suppliers before they start asking for payment.
WANJAU Well, it all depends on the initial investment and who funded it, and the magnitude of the business, but generally 90 days is a reasonable bet. However if it’s a case of self-funding, you can set your own the timeframe.
Got a business idea of your own? Then get in touch! We can put your plans to a panel of experts, to give you the best possible start: email firstname.lastname@example.org or Tweet us at @kenyayetumag