Nigerian Entrepreneur Visits Hershey Headquarters and Meets Mentor in Person
Ebun Feludu has been entrepreneur from her early days in college when she was designing and sewing clothes for her peers. She also started a marketing firm at one point, but the desire to build not just a business but a legacy lead to the birth of the JAM Coconut Company in 2016. Today, Ebun has a staff or 31 and her company produces coconut oil and other coconut products.
About a year ago, Ebun joined the PFS program through a serendipitous encounter with our program manager in Nigeria, Toju Ukubeyinje. They got to work on several projects, including an ‘Ask-an-Expert’ to evaluate equipment for coconut ball production. Additionally, PFS offered Ebun a spot in our leader-to-leader mentorship program.
Ebun was matched with Dan Mohnshine, Hershey’s vice president of marketing for US confection, grocery, and protein snacks. She was connected with Dan who was thinking about a way to use his expertise beyond his everyday work. Together they partnered on what has become a journey of learning and growth for both of them.
“While I’m incredibly busy with my day job, I’ve found working with Ebun to be very rewarding,” said Dan. “She’s a very spirited entrepreneur and I love hearing when she has a big ‘win’ for her business.”
In February, an opportunity arose for Ebun to travel to the U.S., and Dan graciously agreed to host her at The Hershey Company headquarters. The three days were incredibly rich for her, filled with meetings with scientists, marketing specialists, branding experts, and business development experts from across The Hershey Company. These specialized teams helped Ebun consider new and different ways to grow her business, develop her product and better position herself on the market. Another major highlight was having endless Icebreakers to chew on, a mint that Ebun is particularly fond of which is made by Hershey.
The distance between the US and Africa makes this type of immersive experience rare, but is one that can help clients reimagine the possibilities for their business, reignite that entrepreneurial spirt within them, and also provide practical advice.
Planning for a Bright Future with a Facility Upgrade
Following Australia and South Africa, Kenya is the third-largest producer of macadamia nuts in the world. Known for being rich in vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats, macadamia nuts are widely popular in international markets. Sagana Nuts has been processing macadamia nuts in Kenya since 2013 and has recently begun expanding their operations to a new facility to increase process automation. Supporting them in establishing their new facility is William Hajek, an installation supervisor at Bühler.
“The main part of my job is to receive flour milling roller mills from the Bühler manufacturing facility in Switzerland and supervise the mechanical contractors to install the machinery correctly,” said William. ” At this point in my career, I have learned a lot about streamlining the process of efficiently moving large quantities of bulk food from storage bins to the actual equipment that cuts and/or mixes food before it is packaged. It wasn’t long after I heard about PFS and signed up to volunteer that I was placed on the Sagana Nuts plant layout and process flow documentation project.”
One of the main challenges with the Sagana Nuts project was determining the best solution based on the budget available for their material handling issues. “We started out suggesting an expensive solution to load the storage silos and as the process continued through our bi-weekly Microsoft Teams meetings, we were able to find a workable solution that was affordable,” said William. “It was really fun to work with a group of professionals from all over the world. Everybody had an equal share in creating the solution for Sagana Nuts.”
“The PFS project team was essential to our success,” said Sagana Nuts Factory Manager Dickson Wachira. “We have a vision of being a globally recognized food processing company and it is important to us to learn from those ahead of us in the field. The team provided crucial reports relevant to the project and also gave us guidance in not just the details of the project but more than we expected: they gave us a platform to think deeply about process and facility improvements.”
Since the project closed in December 2022, the client is using the facility diagram provided by the volunteer team to map out the new facility’s layout. The client is also preparing for and setting up the chute for nut delivery into the dryers for a more efficient and automated process.
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.