Marketing Strategy Helps Client Obtain Essential Funding
Kwithu Kitchen is a company with a social mission. Located in Malawi, Kwithu Kitchen is a 100% women-owned cooperative to provide improved livelihoods to rural women. The company started by processing tomatoes including tomato puree and chopped tomatoes, and recently received approval from the Malawi Bureau of Standards to sell tomato sauce and tomato jam. Furthermore, in a very short period of time, the company has quickly become one of the country’s largest honey processors and suppliers. Despite the early adoption of Kwithu Kitchen products in the community, the company still struggles to reach profitability.
“Kwithu Kitchen has enormous potential,” said John Keys, business advisor for Kwithu Kitchen. “PFS’s broad and extensive network of volunteers in a range of disciplines was very attractive to us. With one partner, we could get help help in a variety of areas.” To help Kwithu Kitchen gain a better understanding of their market, guide production, and develop marketing strategies to improve business growth, DSM’s Angela Bowman and Swayam Kher signed up to support a honey and tomato research project.
“I have been a senior analyst for business insights within DNP at DSM for the last seven years and am based out of India,” said Swayam. “I joined PFS because I wanted to share my learnings and knowledge with African clients who can improve food security, build better products, and serve customers with a good purpose.” Together, Swayam and Angela suggested a framework and established milestones for the project so the client could focus their efforts on developing key business tools such as a website, sell sheets and the Kwithu Kitchen “story.”
“Kwithu Kitchen has definitely seen the benefits of our marketing strategy project,” said John. “The volunteer’s advice was critical as we updated our website, produced more engaging collateral material, and thought through our retail supermarket marketing and advertising strategies and plans. What we appreciated most about Angela and Swayam is that they were able to take their experiences working with huge multinational corporations and distill their personal and company’s best practices to a much smaller company like Kwithu Kitchen.”
Angela, who is a Regional Key Account Manager in the Early Life Nutrition Segment at DSM, said it was rewarding to see the enthusiasm of the Kwithu Kitchen staff and the progress they were making in selling their products. “It can be easy to get caught up in our daily personal and professional lives,” said Angela. “My experience with PFS was a refreshing reminder that there is a larger world out there with opportunities to connect with others for the greater good.”
In part, because of Angela and Swayam’s support on the marketing research and strategy project, Kwithu Kitchen was able to update their marketing plans and financial forecasting methods, which are the basis for their updated five-year sales and cash-flow plan. This plan helped the company secure a concessional loan for approximately $90,000 at a 10% interest rate (commercial interest rates in Malawi often exceed 25%), so securing this subsidized loan is critical in helping Kwithu Kitchen secure essential capital requirements.
“We want to be a major financial and economic force in Malawi that can help increase the incomes of more than a thousand beekeepers and smallholder farmers and at the same time become a socially responsible and profitable company,” said John. “We are extremely grateful to PFS and its network of volunteers. Please keep an eye on us – you will be proud of where we end up!”
PFS Volunteer Visits Client, Then Hits the Dance Floor at First-ever PFS Wedding
When Niels van Mossevelde signed up to volunteer with PFS he knew he wanted to work with a client in Kenya. That’s because his good friend had recently moved there and Niels wanted to learn more about the country and its people.
A scientist with DSM, Niels was matched with Simba Mfalme Millers in Nairobi to serve as their client lead, acting as a project manager for all of the different PFS services that the client is engaged in. “I do project management in my job and it’s a good thing to develop further, especially across different time zones, working with different cultures, working with different realities on the ground,” he said.
After two years as their client lead, Niels visited Simba Millers while in Kenya late last year and was able to see that the recommendations that PFS volunteers had made were implemented and have made a significant impact on their production capacity. There had been a bottleneck in the production line because of mismatched equipment. The volunteer team recommended a new conditioning tank be installed to fix the issue and the client has now purchased the tank, shown behind Niels in the photo above. “He had a conditioning tank that was maybe one twentieth of the total capacity of the rest of the plant…it's an intervention that actually works and he’s now had a capacity increase of I think about 30 percent.
For Niels, the opportunity to meet in person was special. “I’ve known John [the client] for a couple of years now but seeing someone and shaking their hand is a whole different thing…being there, seeing the whole setup and seeing the improvements he made after our project was really great,” he said. “Seeing that he is working incrementally toward good manufacturing practices, through the certifications he wants, and to professionalize the company further, that’s really awesome.”
In addition to the client visit, the timing of Niels’ trip to Kenya coincided with two other very important events in Kenya. The wedding of his friend who had moved there, and the very first PFS wedding.
Three years ago, Faith Ngila and Chenge Wandabwa both started new jobs at PFS as program associates in Nairobi on the same day. In their roles they work closely with volunteers and help them through every part of the volunteer journey. For Chenge that has included working with Niels. It also led to another wedding for Niels to attend in Kenya.
"Faith and I met when we both started our jobs at PFS on the same day, so our wedding was truly the first 'PFS' wedding,” said Chenge. “It was very special to have one of our PFS volunteers, Niels van Mossevelde, attend our wedding in Kenya. It was such a special day, and everyone especially enjoyed his dancing!"
“It was magnificent. I was very honored to be invited. The first day I arrived, Chenge and I went to his tailor to get measurements to get a Kitenge suit made.“ said Niels, describing the colorful fabric of Africa. “I attended with the group of PFS staff from the US and Kenya and it was like being part of the PFS family. At the wedding we had lunch and then you go straight for dancing for the rest of the afternoon. I tried my best, but still some people laughed at my moves. The aunties and the grandmas laughed. I had great fun and that didn’t bother me at all,” he said with a smile.
You never know where PFS volunteering can lead you.
Small Commitment Leads to Big Impact
East African Basic Foods (EABF), based in Kampala, Uganda, was established more than 60 years ago but has not seen the growth it could expect for a company of its age. In an effort to get back on track and establish a growth trajectory, the company reached out to Partners in Food Solutions for help. “In order to drive our vision and mission forward, it is critical that we build the capacity of the team to manage our processes efficiently and effectively, and develop a strategic business plan,” said Joseph Mutenga Guloba, the business development manager at EABF. “PFS and its volunteers fit well with this strategic thinking which makes it a worthy strategic partner.”
Supporting EABF with this key business development is Brian Williams, VP of marketing and business development at Bühler. “My main motivation for volunteering with PFS is to live out Bühler’s purpose of ‘innovations for a better world’. I also enjoy sharing my experience and expertise to help start-ups and learn about their business challenges; many of which we take for granted in the developed world,” said Brian.
Over the course of eight months, the project team spent about one hour per week collaborating, mapping out EABF’s path for the next five years, and identifying strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats which enabled them to plan how best to position the company to serve customers beyond expectations. “My teammates from DSM and I provided some structure to the business planning process and documentation, asked a few guiding questions, and the EABF Team did the rest. Even though it wasn’t that much work from my perspective, I gained so much energy from this project. I am always impressed with the creative ways in which they make use of the resources available to them to obtain their goals,” said Brian.
Joseph said his favorite part of the project was the opportunity to work with world-class professionals at almost no cost and appreciating their way of thinking. “Additionally, I got the opportunity to work with a global team and was even able to achieve some of my own professional growth objectives,” he said. Joseph is proud of the strong foundation he and the team have developed for EABF, and believes the company is better off thanks to PFS and the volunteer team’s support.
Last week, Jeff Dykstra, Kojo Amoo-Gottfried of Cargill, and Purbita Ray of General Mills joined Global Minnesota for a panel discussion on food security. They shared how PFS clients have been seriously impacted by supply chain challenges, inflation, and the devastating invasion of Ukraine, and how PFS helps them mitigate those shocks. "The ripple effects of fuel prices or being able to import the raw materials you need, whether that be packaging or food materials like wheat that come from regions like Ukraine, we're seeing hit these companies hard and ultimately that means higher-priced food for the people who can least afford it," said Jeff.
Click HERE to learn more about how Minnesota food giants Cargill and General Mills are helping strengthen the African food system through their partnership with Partners in Food Solutions.
Along the west coast of Africa, where more than 2 million smallholder farmers are responsible for producing 70 percent of the world’s cocoa supply, cocoa farming is a way of life. Despite being one of the world’s top producers of cocoa, most of the value is created after the cocoa beans reach the Global North for additional processing. To supply consumers with safe and delicious cocoa, and add value on the continent of Africa, Ivorian entrepreneur Olga Yenou launched Tafissa, or “to lick your fingers” in the Baoulé language, a cocoa processing company based in Côte d’Ivôire.
“The smile of a child or the satisfaction of an older person after consuming our chocolate is priceless in our eyes,” said Olga. “Our vision is to see Côte d’Ivoire become the leading cocoa processor and consumer.” In order to achieve their goal of sharing their chocolate with everyone, Olga reached out to Partners in Food Solutions and their network of expert volunteers for support in improving their food safety systems. “HACCP training is very important to us because it ensures that Tafissa chocolate is manufactured safely and our customers can feel good about purchasing from us. Partnering with PFS and its volunteers enabled us to put together a program that was just right for us.”
For several months, a team of project volunteers from Cargill, Hershey, Ardent Mills, and General Mills worked together to prepare Tafissa for future HACCP audits, including training their operators. “The whole project was very pleasant,” said Olga. “We learned a lot about different hazard assessment methods and our need to make some equipment purchases such as metal detectors. What we liked most was when the volunteers shared their various food safety experiences and the fellowship we had throughout the project.”
Tafissa’s journey to achieving its food safety goals continues. Tafissa is currently looking at certain equipment investments, guided by volunteer recommendations, and is in the process of making improvements to its processing systems to prepare for a future HACCP audit.