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How passion to serve others birthed a lucrative catering business for former nurse

How passion to serve others birthed a lucrative catering business for former nurse

As a practising nurse in Australia with up to eight years of experience, Michel Alusiola had always felt rewarded when she would lift the spirits of both the sick and their family members by serving them.

During her service, she noticed that one of the things that lifted the spirits of her patients on some days was the type of food that was being served.

“The mood was always good for most of my patients on Tuesday especially when we served hot chocolate and there was always a dip in the mood on beef stew and mashed potatoes day. This pattern fascinated me a lot,” said Alusiola.

Her career took a turn when she had challenges balancing her time between work shifts and being a new mum, she then opted to be a full-time mum and relocated back to Kenya. 

As she took care of her children, she noticed a similar pattern to the one she had experienced with her patients in terms of their mood when it came to preparing meals for them. 

 “My children would get excited and in a good mood before and after some meals and in bad moods when it came to other foods,” said Alusiola.

With her nursing career behind her Ms. Alusiola still had the desire to achieve the same satisfaction she had in the past from serving others and this drove her to start her enterprise PinkPurple a catering service in 2016.

 “I started with no capital, all I had was my kitchen. I received one order and from the down payment made, I started growing my business. I started catering for weddings and private functions during the weekends and then expanded to breakfasts and lunch orders for offices during the week,” said Ms. Alusiola.

PinkPurple started with four to five orders a day and one additional member of staff making small wedding and private function food. As they introduced breakfasts and lunches, the business progressively grew its orders to 15. With its customization of meals and the introduction of dinners PinkPurple currently employs three additional members of staffs and receives 30 to 35 orders a day. 

“I do have a menu but I primarily focus on listening to customers request and tailor-making the meals according to their requests. Once, a customer requested an evening meal with specific servings and he made it a daily routine. From that order, I began doing weekly dinners for customers and it has made a major impact on my catering service,” said Ms. Alusiola.

She says her interest in making weekly dinners was driven by her assessment that most working-class people arrive late from work and find it difficult to prepare proper meals on a daily basis and the cost of eating at restaurants may be high for some people. 

“I had a challenge at the beginning with setting up the rates for the meals at a completive rate to the restaurants but still have the customers enjoy the meals at the comfort of their homes. I decided to range my dishes between Sh250 and Sh350,” she said.

She explains how she sets up her weekly dinners and how she contributes her expertise to the customers’ orders.

“I receive orders at the end of the week with customer specifications on the type of food, the number of servings, and when they want to eat the food in the course of the week. From my experience with patients, I have always believed there is a link between the type of diet someone has and their physical and mental health. There is no superfood for better health so we try to create a whole dietary pattern through the food preparation and inform the client of its importance “said Alusiola

“I make some deliveries on my own to give me an opportunity to engage and receive feedback from my customers. Sometimes I engage courier services such as SafeBoda Kenya and Glovo to make fast deliveries” she added.

Her biggest challenge has been to market her business. With major players seeking the expertise of marketing specialists to promote their food service she still relies on word of mouth and tried to progressively learn how to use some social media platforms.

“I get recommendations from my clients and I keep trying to put video tutorials of the food PinkPurple cooks on social media platforms like WhatsApp, Facebook, and Instagram but I hardly find the time to consistently do the marketing for myself.


Agripreneur Blog business

Farming tips: marketing your small farm products

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You have started your small farm producing wonderful vegetables, herbs, fruits and some value-added products and you are wondering how, where and to whom will you market and sell to.

You are not alone as this is one of the challenges that various producers face; marketing and selling their farm products.

There are various ways in which you can reach consumers but first of all you have to understand the nature of the products you are producing whether they are highly perishable or not. 

This will help you know the urgency you are to treat them in order to reach them to consumers before they go bad and avoid post-harvest losses.

Here are some of the marketing tips:

 

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Direct farm sales

First you may consider selling your produce directly at the farm via a farm stand or even just from a barn or other structure on your property.

This is more convenience especially if you have built your customer base with traders who know your production cycle and just call in to buy or put orders. You can grow your customer reach during social gatherings by carrying with you samples to show.

In this, you will not have the worry of transport costs not to talk of other eventualities such as failing to sell even after moving the products to the market.

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Farmers markets

You can easily identify these markets within your farm location and they always happen on a weekly basis. Most often, the markets are staggered through the week, so that farmers can sell at multiple markets.

Lucky enough, the cost of setting a shop in such market centres are not overwhelmingly high for an average farmer.

Alternatively, you can just use a table or a canopy to display your products but if you have your car or a trailer you use for transport, that can also act as your display structure when you reach the market.

Because most of these markets are open-air, you will find that the fee charged is spread through a given season so that you are not charged any money on every market day.

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Community-supported agriculture (CSA) shares

This is a more structured way of selling your produce directly to consumers than a farm stand. CSA are community supported farming systems where a group of consumers come together to support your farming course for a given season or throughout a given year.

When the produce is ready you commit to supply them on a regular basis, mostly on a weekly plan. 

This strategy is beneficial for both the farmer and the consumer. For the farmer, it gives you time to market your food during off-season before you embark on serious production.

It also helps in lowering your production costs owing the support you get from your consumers whom through the group you get to know better with which foods they like from you.

For consumers, they know and trust the origin of what they eat besides not getting exposed to high food prices by brokers.

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Restaurants

Look around, there could be eateries within your locality you can find to sell foods to, not once or twice but regularly by securing a supply tender with them.

In this, you will have to convince them on your reliability and quality of your produce. Strive to know what chefs need and sometimes try them with alternative rare produce for an extra cash.

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Internet

You may not necessarily need a website but just a social media presence is enough. Ensure that people who see your posts on Facebook, twitter or WhatsApp groups knows how and where to find you.

Be ready to answer their questions as this will boost you reach and possibility to make more sales.

Finally, make sure that you are consistent in your production venture and be in consistent communication with your usual customers so that they can count on you for their regular food supply.

 


Agripreneur Blog business Entrepreneurial Stories

Kiambu youth group creates over Sh100,000 pawpaw production venture

Kiambu youth group creates over Sh100,000 pawpaw production venture

Starting off a serious agribusiness venture is still a challenge for many youth groups in Kenya due to lack of capital and the hustle to access loans from financial institutions has even made it harder as they lack collateral asked for by the institutions.

This has seen only the determined few who have members with passion in agriculture live to push through to realise their life dreams.

One such group is Vineyard Kilimo which comprises of 10 members who were previously into maize production, a venture which just earned them enough to feed their families with nothing left for trading.

“Maize has been a crop that our parents earned a living with but seemingly things have changed, an acre can no longer yield enough and probably it is because of the change in weather conditions caused by climate change,” said Jactone Mwaniki, the group chairperson.

In February 2018, they decided to come together, consolidate whatever capital they had to start producing something else. 

However, what they collected could not measure up to the pawpaw production project they had settled on as there was the setting of the nurseries, buying seeds, and registration fee required.

After looking for a financial boost from people and institutions they knew to no avail, finally, Juhudi Kilimo, a microfinance institution in Kenya granted them their loan request of Sh100,000 to begin the project.

They were then trained by two non-governmental organisations, Solidaridad and Heifer International which impart vital skills to various youth groups on seedlings production and other types of farming in general.

Today, the group has a nursery within a three-acre piece of land located 2km from Ishiara Centre where they have three big pawpaw seedling nurseries each with 2,000 seedlings at the moment.

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Beginning last year, they also decided to plant pawpaw fruits within the farm and currently, they have 500 plants in the remaining part of the farm that they have started harvesting.

“We sell a seedling at Sh10 each to local farmers and other growers from other parts of the country who call for their orders before organising transport either through public or courier services for them,” said Mwaninki. 

The group also sells 1,000 kilos of pawpaw fruits of Malkia F1 variety after every two weeks with a kilo going at Sh50.

At the end of this rainy season and if all go well, they are expecting to earn about Sh60,000 from seedlings and at least Sh65,000 from the fruit sales.

This means that every member of the group will have over Sh10,000 in his or her account.

“Depending on our season proceeds, we always withdraw a portion of the money and give to the members for their daily needs while the rest are left in the group’s account for our farming expansions, members savings and our general welfare,”’ said Mwaniki.

The group is now planning to incorporate other fruit seedlings and crops such as mangoes, oranges and apples as they have realised the areas can support the fruits and that there is the ready market being close to Kiambu and Nairobi’s big markets.


Agripreneur Blog business Entrepreneurial Stories

Women groups growing their enterprises by cheap loans

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In Kenya, for many years women in business especially in the rural areas have had it hard accessing financial support from various financial institutions which see their businesses as more vulnerable to risks.

This, according to experts, has been attributed to women’s limited financial literacy, lack of clarity of bank terms of access and the inability to provide collateral or personal guarantees.

However, things are changing for the better for these women thanks to efforts to train rural women on bookkeeping skills to increase their financial literacy, facilitated workshops to link women-led businesses and financial institutions, such as national and county government affirmative funds, banks and microfinance institutions.

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Madaraka Self Help Group, for instance, is a group of over 10 women members from Kimutwa in Machakos County who came together after noticing that over-relying on their husbands who are casual workers to win daily bread and other family needs were becoming too much.

From their small casual engagements, the women decided to form joint saving and group (Chama) investments with the desire to improve the quality of life for their families.

“Our main objectives included pulling together financial resources for investments, non-collateral loans to members and to use the group as an opportunity to access government and non -governmental benefits which can only be channelled through a group,” said the group chairlady.

By 2013, the group had collectively saved Sh300,000 which at the beginning of 2014, they decided to spend part to purchase water tanks of 3,000-litre capacity for each member to end their water challenges. This left the group with Sh70,000.

When Konza sub-location Chama chairman called for the training of all the groups in the location in April that year, Madaraka Self Help Group which was also represented invited officers from Women Enterprise Fund (WEF) officer from Machakos Town to give them more training.

This would become the group’s connection to credit source for a project that would later lift their livelihoods.

At the end of the training, the group successfully applied for Sh100,000 from WEF which they used to lease an acre piece of land, buy some water pumps and pipes and began growing tomatoes.

 

Their first sale of the crop was in mid-2015 when the group sold tomatoes worth Sh400,000, with expenses of Sh159 000 thus making a profit of Sh241, 000 enabling them to repay the loan and apply for the second funding of Sh200,000.

This came in February 2016 which they used part to lease another acre of land and the rest in production as they had two acres so far.

As per their expectation, they were able to earn Sh800,000 making the group be worth Sh550,000 after repaying their second loan and other expenses which include some two farmhands and casual labourers.

78With the increasing income, the members have so far decided to use part of their savings to begin individual members businesses such as foodstuff shops, charcoal selling businesses and motorbike businesses.

They can now contribute to their family needs and Improve their livelihoods without necessarily depending on their husbands for financial support.

For Tushibe Mtama Women Group in Nakuru’s Rongai Constituency, they took their first loan of Sh50, 000 in 2010 to start in the bakery business.

The group which has been growing sweet potato seemed to have found a solution to their market woes because since they used the money to buy an oven, they have established their business of baking cookies, buns and cakes from the produce’s flour and tubers. 

As they repay their previous loans, they become more eligible for more loans and funding, which has enabled them to increase the acreage under sweet potato production and improve their value addition enterprise.

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Since registered with the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS), they have developed product labels and packaging that is now enabling them to reach their goods to formal markets and improve their incomes.

Interestingly, the group members livelihoods have also improved and they can support their families.


Agripreneur Blog business

Meru Duo Breaks Through Financial Challenges to Build an Agribusiness Empire

15. Muriithi. Photo by NMG

Access to agricultural financing has always been a problem for most smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa due to the high risks associated with the sector especially in the wake of global climate change.

In fact, financial institutions such as banks do not disburse loans to the growers without surety and most of the time the interests charged are always high limiting many of them.

Because of this, many of these small-scale farmers turn to their friends, family members, relatives, and farmer groups for capital.

This is the situation in which Musa Muriithi and his brother Edward Mucheni found themselves three years ago when they wanted to raise some money to start an agribusiness venture.

According to Muriithi, it all started when he wanted a loan of Sh0.5m from a financial institution and all he had as a surety was a 3.5-acre piece of family land in Meru County.

As the institution delayed taking him through rigorous processes, he decided to look for a private land evaluator who told him that the land had a much higher value than the money he was looking for.

He, therefore, decided to consult with his brother Mucheni and the duo agreed to spend some of their savings to buy 200 banana tissue plants.

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They panted and after the plants did so well, they decided to incorporate poultry, rabbit farming and fish production.

‘’The reason to begin this way was the idea we had to use the rich-in-minerals fish pond water and manure from the livestock to grow arrowroots, passion fruits farm, mangoes and the bananas,” said Muriithi.

They would soon spend the money drawn from poultry, fish and bananas to construct four greenhouses; two that major purely on strawberries, one has garden peas while the last one has assorted crops that range from cucumbers, beetroots and courgettes.

They have so far inter-cropped cassava and mangoes in one part of the farm while the other has tree tomatoes.

‘’The benefit of the tree tomatoes is that once they matured, we can harvest throughout the year and they require little attention,” said Machine.

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According to him, the fruits’ market is also good and the farm cannot even satisfy the demand from Jatomy and Maguna Andu supermarkets in Chuka town they supply to.

These many integrated farm productions cushion us from price fluctuations in that in case of the glut of one commodity the other could be in great demand, he said.

The two have also gone into dairy goat farming to tap into the animals’ rich nutritional milk spiking its demand among consumers to supplement their income.

Beekeeping at the edge of the farm to increase their crops’ pollination besides harvesting honey for income is something the duo have not forgotten.

They have also learnt to turn farm weeds and wastes into valuable products for sale or using within the farm.

For instance, banana trunks are mixed with wastes from the poultry, rabbits and goats’ farm and are all preserved in a pit to make compost manure.

‘’This style of farming is rewarding and before embarking on it, one should do proper research to know what is working and does not besides knowing your markets well,’’ said Muriithi.

The farm they have since named Kagumo-Hort farm is indeed a host of activities, making it a frequented place by customers and learners.


Agripreneur Blog business

Process of becoming an organic farmer in Kenya

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Since 1950s during the Green Revolution when there was an upsurge in crop yields due to introduction of chemical fertilisers and pesticides to boost crop production, the use of natural means to grow crops have become less popular among farmers.

However, despite the potential of the convectional type of farming in boosting crop production, the use of these synthetic fertilisers and pesticides have been found to be the main cause of environmental degradation and worse of all, food contamination.

It is because of this that many consumers especially from the west are now moving towards organically grown food crops as consumers are shying away from crops laden with pesticides.

The trend is slowly picking up in Kenya due to lack of proper mechanisms to control pesticide use in farms despite concerns of the risks they pose.

This has created increasing demand for organic foods as Kenyans especially of middle class drifting towards consumption of these foodstuffs.

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Even as many farmers are now trying to adopt the use of natural processes, compost manure and biological pest control methods to boost soil fertility or manage pests and diseases to cash in the growing demand of organic foods, there is need for them to follow due process to be able to trade well with their foodstuffs both locally and internationally.

Organic farming certification process

For farmers to be able to sell they organic produce especially in the export market, it is a requirement that they register their enterprises with the world governing body, International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) which has its presence in almost every part of the globe.

In Kenya, IFOAM is represented by EnCert Limited.

According to EnCert, the process of certification starts by the producer changing his or her mind-set to go organic then applies for certification by filling a form from EnCert for organic farming. The form is available online.

After submission and verification, EnCert inspectors then come to the respective farm or enterprise of the applicant to verify if the producer adheres with the organic production requirements.

Among the things they check on include record keeping, the surrounding and inside of the farm/enterprise, seed and seed treatments, fertilizer and plant protection scheme, storage facility and finally packaging and labelling of the produce.

If the inspector is satisfied with all the above conditions, he or she presents the findings to the registration committee for approval. 

If the committee approves the enterprise, the owner is issued with an international number and later organic farming certificate is issued.

The certificate is thereafter required to be renewed annually.

Now, because this can be tedious for small-scale farmers, it is recommended that they may come together and produce intensively for domestic markets as they advance to international markets.

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“This can be a good beginning,” said Ronnie Vernooy, a Genetic Resource Policy Specialist at Bioversity International adding that such farmers can work in groups, specialise in producing particular crops and target specific markets.

Meanwhile they can work closely with Kenya Organic Agriculture Network (KOAN) which can help in knowledge building among other support. This is because there has been less recognition of Kenyan organic farmers despite the pick-up of organic farming in recent years.

According to Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL), one of the world’s leading institutes in the field of organic agriculture, organic farmland in Africa has doubled in area in the last decade, to 2.1m hectares, with the biggest organic centres in East and North Africa and the crops they grow enjoyed the world over.

But, in Kenya, certification of smallholders who avoid synthetic fertilisers and pesticides has remained difficult due to a lack of information, scant government support and the high cost of getting certifying documents.

To become a member of KOAN or Association of Organic Agriculture Practitioners of Kenya, which helps in training of organic farmers and facilitation of the certification process, farmer groups pay a Sh10,000 registration fee.


Blog business

SMEs’ Take: How to manage cash flow and late payments during these hard-economic times

Kuza Blog Header

Despite being pertinent cogs to economies of developing countries and other economies, offering employments and jobs creation, Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) are faced with many challenges one being difficulties in managing cash flow which may end up causing their collapse within the first few months of operation.

According to a 2014 research by Ms Avika Mungal, Lecturer, Department of Management Accounting, Faculty of Accounting and Informatics, Durban University of Technology, South Africa on Cash Management Challenges of Small Businesses in a Developing Community, one aspect that keeps small business owners awake at night is the management of cash flows with nearly 71 per cent of such businesses experiencing cash flow problems.

The research which targeted small retail businesses in the Tongaat area in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa further indicates that the biggest mistake SME owners make is confusing profits of the business with the cash flowing into the business with lack of bank accounts, bad debts and lack of cash budgeting among other key problems.

For Dickson Mulli, CEO of Synergy Solutions Kenya Limited, a company that deals in real estates, Milele Fresh dairy products, agribusiness consultancy and more, difficulties in managing cash flow by most SMEs is a common challenge but a smart approach to it is what creates the difference.

“We as a company have faced financial problems here and there since December and the COVID-19 pandemic has even made it worse as there are 30 per cent cases of defaults in payment by our clients generally due to these tough economic times,” said Mulli. 

“Wwe have since decided to changed our approach by selling less on credit and employing pay-on-cash policy where we encourage our clients to pay cash upon delivery of goods and services.”

This, according to Mulli, may not go well with some clients as most of them are interested in a longer credit period so that they may use the money to reinvest in their businesses, make profits then pay later unaware of the effect they impose on the supplier.

“Some clients lie on their financial status and when you become strict on cash payment upon delivery, they become reluctant doing business with you and sometimes you may lose them.”

Since late payment causes delay in the company’s settlement of its bills, sometimes Mulli opts for internal borrowing from the company’s savings account or negotiate the best rate of payment by clients whose debts seems overwhelmingly big.

“Because shutting down is not an option, we always call some of these clients for an arbitration meeting where we suggest to them a moderate payment percentage over a given period over which we continue doing business with them and we have seen this work well,” he said.

Since SMEs operations greatly depend on the owner, he advises that such businesses should have about five accounts that include revenue collection, paying creditors, savings, recurring expenditure and reinvesting accounts.

“Even at that, business owners should be careful to draw money from any of the accounts for personal use, paying all staff before earning their share and avoiding spending more than a third of income just in case of any eventualities,” advises Mulli.

Some SMEs like Viffa Consult Limited which deals in consultancy, business process outsourcing, research and analytics to other companies diversify their sources of income as one of the ways of managing their cash flows and late payments from clients during these tough economic periods.

According to Victor Agolla, the company’s managing director, it always occurs that two in ten of their clients pay late and the late payments affect staff salary, office rent, taxes and other statutory obligations.

“Since we know that late payment by clients is almost unavoidable, we have diversified our sources of income by dealing in a number of income-generating activities to raise additional funds besides tightening credit policy by asking bigger deposits of 80 per cent and offering discounts to cash buyers,” said Agolla.

He says in case of problems in cash flow and late payments causing even the loan market becoming expensive and unsustainable, decision to lay off staff and moving to smaller offices are other ways of bouncing back.

Nevertheless, other SMEs strictly abide by their basic budgets and allocating an emergency fund to avoid any future complications as they believe that the lack of proper planning represents a central problem that affects business growth, profitability and sustainability.

Edward Mbogo, Operations Lead at Myride Africa, a company that deals in public transport system, says late payments and cash flow difficulties are always there but being obedient is key.

“Late payments will always be there even from big players. We do get them once in a while but when changing our priorities and adjusting the budget by using cash meant for something else in a different docket all must be done following the company’s procedure,” said Mbogo.

To him, late payments and poor management of cash flows have always thrown the company off-target ending up in debts, however, having an emergency fund and also doing strict agreements with clients in matters payments avoid such inconveniences.

For Crest Fine a Kenyan company that makes and distributes bread, it was forced into asking clients to pay for the products before delivery after accumulating debts amounting to Sh100,000 a day. 

“When faced with late payments, we have to find other sources of funds such as bank loans in order to be able to meet cost of operations. Due to their frequent occurrences, we have had to take measures in order to mitigate them; we outsource debt collectors who we pay a percentage of the fee when the debt is recovered and paying before the service,” said Alex Ndungu, the Managing Director of Crest Fine.

he says that with the expected new normal situation post COVID-19, the majority of small business ventures would require some external funding at some point in the business with banks being the first option many would approach in order to bounce back.


Blog business Entrepreneurial Stories

Love for Cooking Turns into A Lucrative Bakery Business for Graduate

Love for Cooking Turns into A Lucrative Bakery Business for Graduate

Turning what you love doing into a profitable venture can really be enjoyable given the excitement it comes with while operating it.

Sharon Sang is one such entrepreneur who has converted her cooking hobby into a bakery business which is now earning her some tidy sum of money.

The Bachelor of Commerce graduate from the University of Nairobi had learned how to bake cakes when she was a little girl from her mother and elder sisters.

And as she was waiting for her graduation in 2014, she realised she had some free time that she could utilise to earn her some pocket money.

“I did not want to continue asking for some cash from parents or siblings for my personal effects because I was through with my course and I could hustle as well,” said Sharon.

She, therefore, decided to spend Sh50,000 money she had won from a 2015 beauty competition where she became a runner-up to start off the business.

She used part of the money to buy baking equipment and the raw materials she had to start with.

Some of the equipment she bought include measuring cups and spoons, a weighing scale, baking tins, a blender, hand mixer, spatula, leveller, and mixing bowls, among other necessary items.

“My first product was a vanilla cake of two kilos which I sold to a friend at around Sh2,200 and that is how I got motivated,” said Sharon.

The more she continued baking good cakes and selling to people who were well known to her the more she got referrals until it reached a point her customers became her business ambassadors.

In addition, she invested in social media platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp groups and Instagram to reach her usual and prospective clients.

Soon she started getting orders online which she could deliver in time earning her more trusts.

In 2018 she decided to register the business at a cost of Sh3,000 as Dessert Palace where she now bakes a variety of cakes such as wedding cakes, cupcakes, and birthday cakes among other pastries.

Since baked goods such as cakes are perishable and thus the need for the ready market so that they are sold when they are still fresh, Sharon prefers baking on order.

“I have learnt to execute the business skills I acquired from college very well and I am able to manage the business when I am faced with challenges.

Other than vanilla, Sharon also make banana cakes and carrot cakes and her prices depend on the size and the level of decoration brought about by food colouration if need be.

Nevertheless, her prices per kilo of the cakes ranges between Sh1,600 and Sh2,200 two-kilogramme cakes go for Sh2,500 to Sh3,100 each.

She also sells a packet of cupcakes comprising six pieces at Sh550.

In a week she can receive up to 20 orders of cakes. In this, she is sure of Sh5,000 profit a week.

“My main challenge is the many orders I get per week which when working alone I find it difficult to meet hence I am thinking of employing at least two people in the near future to help in baking,” said Sharon.


Blog business Experiences Learning Team

Five tips to run a successful business

Five tips to run a successful business

Kuza biashara had a community engagement day on the 3rd of October 2018, where a number of entrepreneurs were invited to learn, connect and grow their business. The speaker, Mr. Edward Ndegwa was invited to give the topic of the day, “How To Grow Your Business”. As an entrepreneur who has built five successful businesses and one failed one, Mr. Ndegwa gave several tips to the entrepreneurs who attended the workshop.

Evolve

As an entrepreneur, it is important you recognize that the world is dynamic. Technology as well as techniques keep changing. You have to make sure that you are up to date with current trends. If you were using the traditional ways of marketing, then you would need to change to the new ways such as social media. In other words, do not get stuck in one way of doing things. Just because you think your way is the best doesn’t necessarily mean it is the best. So constantly keep up to date with what’s happening around you and be willing to learn new tricks.

Reputation

Reputation is everything when you are starting out. Create trust between you and the people you interact with. No one wants to do business with an untrustworthy person. Having a good reputation will come in handy when you need financial support or someone to vouch for you when you’re engaging with clients and investors.

Resources

As an entrepreneur, use what is readily available to you at the time. Do not use scarcity of resources as an excuse as to why you haven’t started your business. Start with the idea and the little resources (financial or human) that you have and work to expand them.

Alignment

Make sure to align your goals with who you are and your values. Live within your means as it will take your startup some time before it starts making you money. This means that most of the initial profit will need to be recouped back into the business. Do not be in a hurry to acquire  the latest car model or move to a posh estate because you feel that your new status of ‘entrepreneur’ requires you to. Who you are at this point is a startup and your  goal is to take it off. Shake off anything that does not add value to that process.

Pitch

You have this great business idea, what is the next step you think you should take? Find investors and clients abroad? Wrong. Pitch to the people closest to you before you can take the idea farther. Also remember business don’t do business with business but people do business with people so pay attention to details by listening and pitch according to client. Each client is unique.

Final word

Mr Ndegwa emphasizes that entrepreneurship should be about solving a problem rather than just making money if the entrepreneur is to succeed.

 


Blog business Learning

12 Ways to Promote Your Business Online

Image courtesy: Freepik

Throughout my marketing career, I have heard almost every excuse in the book as to why some business owner was not marketing his or her business.

I have no time, I don’t know what to do, it costs money, I don’t need to market, etc.

But the excuses I’ve heard most often relate to how expensive marketing is. So I decided to write this change your mindset. Because the truth is there are a whole bunch of ways to market your business for little or no cost.

1. Start a Website or Blog

Although you might think that you need to hire a professional web design company to develop a website or a blog for your business, this isn’t the case. Yes, if your business has been around a while or if you want a tailored look or special features, such as high-end design or an e-Commerce platform, you will need to hire a company.

But if you are on a tight budget, you can probably do it on your own. There are free platforms out there that you can use to create an attractive, fully-functional site without paying a dime! For example, you can get a totally free, high performing blog from WordPress. You will have to pay for a domain and Web hosting, but you can find these things for about $5 a month (such as from GoDaddy). For this minimal investment, you can build a reasonably good home base for promoting your business.

2. Get Active on Social Media

If you haven’t used social media (Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+, etc.) to promote your business yet, you are missing on an opportunity to potentially have your company or its products go viral. Although you might have seen advertisements for pricey social media marketing campaigns and social media tools, you don’t need any of these things to get started to promote your business. You can sign up for business pages on LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest for free.

By creating complete business profiles and pages, working to gain followers by regularly posting interesting and informative content is a great way to make your business more well-known and to keep your audience base satisfied. It may not necessarily lead to more sales or leads directly. But it is great for public relations and brand awareness.

3. Get Added to Internet Directories

There are a ton of highly reputable website and business directories out there, and you need to make sure that your business is listed on them. For example, Yahoo and Google offer these listings, as do Yelp, TripAdvisor, etc.

The listings are mostly free and you might be surprised by their value. Many of these sites have top search engine rankings. So people looking for your business will find these links quickly because they end up on the first page of search results. You can also gain traffic and potential customers from those who are viewing these sites looking for businesses that are similar to yours.

4. Get Active with Online Communities

No matter what your business or industry niche might be, chances are good that there are plenty of related online communities out there that you can check out. From forums to social media groups and more, these communities can provide you with many great opportunities to promote your business.

When interacting with others on these sites and communities, it is important that you contribute useful and helpful information and not promote your business overtly. But in the process of doing so, you can post a link to your website and say with which business you are associated. This can help you gather up a nice network of connections and establish you as a local expert in your field.

Once people get accustomed to seeing your name and recognize you as an expert, they may want to give your company a try or send business your way.

5. Email and Forum Signatures

Whether you’re posting on forums or sending an email to your grandma, you should always keep your websites URL and your company’s contact information in your email signature. It’s free and easy to do, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a powerful tool. It can spread awareness about your business and help people connect your name and face with the name of your company.

With most free email programs and on most forums, you can set your signature once, and it will appear at the bottom of all of your correspondence without you having to take any additional steps. Quick, easy promotion.

6. Ask for Reviews

Review sites like Google+ and Yelp make it easy for people to rate their experiences with your business. By asking your valued customers to leave feedback on these sites, you can help spread awareness about your business and get valuable feedback from your client base at the same time.

Plus, you might be surprised by the number of people who use these sites. Positive reviews can help encourage users to give your business a try rather than checking out what your competitors have to offer.

7. Create an Email List

Building an email list is vital for marketing. An email list is essential. With a signup form on your website, you gather the names and email addresses of people who are interested in your product or service. You can also add the names and email addresses from business cards of prospects that you have gathered. Or any other list of people interested in your business.

Mailings to these lists are tremendously effective. The list members are prequalified because they have already expressed interest in your business by signing up or getting in contact with you. Your mailings let them know what your business has to offer, and you can keep everyone up-to-date on any special deals, offers or sales that you might have.

It is easy to get started with an email service like MailChimp. Most have free versions. As your list builds and your needs become more sophisticated, you can upgrade your account.

8. Blog Comments

Checking out blogs that are related to your industry segment can be a lot of fun. Not only is it entertaining, but it can help you network and spread the word about your own business.

Sharing helpful, insightful comments are a great way to become a part of the conversation on a blog. It shows to others you are an expert in your industry.

Don’t just leave a quick comment and a link to your site. That’s bad form and just spam. Make sure that you provide some sort of value to the community and the conversation. People will be more likely to be interested in who you are and what you have to say and just might check out your website.

9. Offer Deals or Giveaways

People love free stuff. So offering a good deal or a giveaway on your website or social media business page is a great way to get more interest and business. You don’t have to offer anything big. Often, a small item will do the trick.

These can be something like a coupon code for free delivery or a percentage off an order. But the business this generates can be great and people often share the good news with their friends.

Don’t put yourself in the hole with the offer. But offer something.

10. Affiliate or Referral Program

Start an affiliate or referral program so you can reward your loyal customers for sharing the news about your business with their friends and associates.

There are free online programs out there that you can use to keep track of these programs.

You only have to offer a small percentage of your sales or a set cash amount to those who refer customers to your business. But those loyal customers are sure to appreciate an opportunity to make a little bit of cash for sharing the good word about a product, service or business that they like and use.

11. Check out the Way Your Staff Interacts with Prospects

Review how your prospects and customers are dealt with by staff or messaging software for improvements you can make:

How are people greeted by you and your staff when they call in?

When someone sends an email how fast do they get a response?

Is it the kind of email you would like to receive?

When you call to reach someone and leave a voicemail, will the message entice the recipient to call you back as soon as possible?

These improvements to your sales line are not only inexpensive for you to implement, they are a necessity because you are hemorrhaging sales if they are wrong.

12. Publish an Information Pack

You should put together an information pack on your business or products that someone can download from your website. It can be as simple as a PDF document.

The key is to leave some information off your site and offer it only through the info pack. That way the prospect will have to reach out to you, by online form, email or phone, to get a copy.

For example, you can have testimonials on your website or blog, but leave off any case studies and put them in the info pack. Or you can have tips on the use of your product or how-to information or recipes, etc. and use them for the pack. Just ensure the information is valuable and worth the download.

Final Word
While you may be a bit uncertain about doing some of these strategies yourself, learning how to promote your business with little or no cost is a great way to increase traffic, improve your bottom line and help you achieve your goals.


Author: Johana Mutegi


 


Blog business Experiences Learning

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Let’s talk food. Have you ever stopped to think about where it comes from? Have you ever sat and contemplated about the farmers and all the struggles they go through? We all need food to survive so it is imperative that people understand some of the challenges the farmers go through so they can leverage on their skills and technology to come up with solutions.

Last week together with different stakeholders in the agricultural sector including German Cooperation, Make -IT, Africa Agency for Business and Economic Development, Strathmore University, IBM among others, the Kuza Biashara team had the privilege to meet a few farmers in Ngong to learn about the issues affecting them. One thing that stood out was the passion these farmers carried for their work, despite how it seems like a game of gambling when it comes to their farms considering the risks they have to endure.  For example, they don’t have access to relevant information like weather patterns and market information, which are two of the most important aspects of farming.

Let’s take the case of Pauline Ndumi who grows vegetables in Ngong area. Having grown up with a very strict father, Pauline was introduced to the world of farming by her father who owned a coffee plantation and it was mandatory for Pauline and her siblings to tend to the farm every day.

“I went into farming because I had been doing it all my life, I did not need any training as an adult as my father took care of that, I started going to the farm at an early age of 3 years and so growing up I knew I wanted to do something I was familiar with and also good at.”

Pauline’s parents may have taught her a lot in regards to farming but none of that prepared her for the challenges that farmers face. This she has had to tackle on her own as every season came with its own challenges. These include unpredictable weather patterns that make it difficult to know when to plant. Low market for her produce and the struggle of getting labor force as most of the youth in the area have taken to alcoholism and therefore cannot be trusted.

In an effort to create a bright future for her children, six years ago Pauline decided to buy a greenhouse for one of her sons so he could be able to sustain himself but that did not work out so well for her.

‘I bought the tent for my son Maverick who is mentally challenged to give him a better chance at surviving in this world. It has been such a disappointment. I bought it at a price of ksh. 400,000 nevertheless it is yet to recover the capital I invested. All it has been doing is take take and I see very little progress.”

viewing Pauline's greenhouseVarious stakeholders at the event viewing Pauline’s greenhouse

Clearly Pauline is not giving up as she has already prepared the land for another planting season. She mainly plants spinach but says its market is very low since most people in Ngong plant spinach. She also plants capsicum and tomatoes that tend to do better in the market since they are seasonal vegetables but with her green house she can plant them anytime especially when they are out of season.

“We are still struggling with different issues though. For instance, we use the normal weather applications to know when it will rain and most of the time they fail us because they are not localized. If we could get access to localized weather applications and market information that would be great as it will allow us to focus on farming knowing that other important issues have been handled.”

Kuza biashara has an agripreneur program where farmers are provided a platform to access the agricultural content such as crop advisory, quality inputs, credit and insurance etc .The most unique aspect of this program is its distribution. The content is easily accessed via mobile phones and is distributed through an edge computing device that provides a local Wi-Fi connection that can be accessed even in remote areas.

With a visit from different stakeholders in the agricultural sector Pauline is hopeful that some of the challenges she has been facing will be a thing of the past.

Alice enjoying pumpkinsKuza team member Alice enjoys freshly made pumpkins with some new friends she made at the event.

 

Related article: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/agripreneur-program-case-study-kuza-biashara/

Related Video; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lVL3JQ9fl2o&feature=youtu.be


Blog business Learning

Keep the fork the best is yet to come

Keep the fork the best is yet to come

In Business Daily last week, our Chief Mentor wrote an interesting story which said, “Mildred was diagnosed with a terminal lymphatic cancer and had been given three months to live. So, as she was getting her things “in order”, she contacted her pastor and had him come to her house to discuss certain aspects of her final wishes. Everything was in order and the pastor was preparing to leave when the woman suddenly remembered something very important to her.

“There’s one more thing,” she said excitedly.

“What’s that?” Came the pastor’s reply.

“This is very important,” the woman continued. “I want to be buried with a fork in my right hand.”

The pastor stood looking at the woman, not knowing quite what to say.

The woman explained. “In all my years of attending church socials and pot-luck dinners, I always remember that when the dishes of the main course were being cleared, someone would inevitably lean over and say, “Keep your fork”.

It was my favourite part because I knew that something better was coming, like velvety chocolate cake or deep-dish apple pie. Something wonderful, and with substance! So, I just want people to see me there in that casket with a fork in my hand and I want them to wonder “What’s with the fork?”

Then I want you to tell them: “Keep your fork, the best is yet to come.”

Recently, I found myself thinking of this story within the context of graduation. Last week saw many students graduate after years of grueling work and determination. They had put in their best and now was their time for the next step; searching for a job and all the tasks it entails. This could be drafting a CV, searching online for job vacancies and even walking from office to office to check for job opportunities. Then there is the part of asking for advice from those who have gone before them. Pieces of advice will come pouring in and the sad part is that some of it will be negative. ‘There are no jobs in Kenya, welcome to the world of tarmacking’. This will demoralize some and rejuvenate others just because they want to prove the advisers wrong.

But who says you have to listen to them? They may have had a tough time getting a job or starting a business but your fate is not tied together. Go out into the world with your head held high. You may not know what the future has in store for you but still get excited about it. Prepare for it and believe that it will be a great one.Many are the times you have been afraid of the unknown never thinking that it could be a great time of your life. Moving forward with fear limits you from giving your best. Whether it’s a new job or a new business or anything else really be confident and have a positive attitude towards it. In so doing you will also inspire others to face their fears head on. You will leave a legacy!

https://www.businessdailyafrica.com/corporate/enterprise/Keep-the-fork-the-best-is-yet-to-come/4003126-4752940-jrfdk1/index.html