Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Our joys and pains of starting new plantain crisps production company

Triza Karimi Mwaniki is the Managing Director and Co-founder of Lynt’s Limited, a manufacturing company in the snack industry.

Our primary focus is on Plantain Banana Value Chain Management optimization and Value Addition with utmost efficiency and sustainability. Our company started from a unique concept that originated from the company’s founder and CEO, Lynn Mumbi Mwaniki, during her nursing studies in Uganda in 2016.

Plantains were an integral part of her daily diet. She proposed the idea of distributing and enhancing the value of plantains while I was still a university student. I enthusiastically joined in the idea.

Our initial step involved procuring the first batch of unbranded plantain chips from a renowned manufacturer across borders. We conducted a market trial in Nairobi, and the response was notably positive. We pursued a distributorship agreement with the same manufacturer, which unfortunately didn’t materialize.

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As a result, we decided to establish our brand, initiating product development, although not immediately. We registered our company in 2017 and product development commenced in 2019.

Throughout 2020, we encountered a multitude of trials, errors, failures, and frustrations. Nevertheless, we were determined to keep the dream alive, which led us to explore the option of product development and business incubation at KIRDI.  Unfortunately, the plan did not come to fruition.

Nevertheless, we managed to create a solid product, Lynt’s Plantain Chips by 2021. To expand and legitimize our business, we rented a production facility, but our location posed major challenges in obtaining KEBS and food handlers’ certification.

Consequently, we made the decision to relocate, leading to the construction of a state-of-the-art production facility at our headquarters in Kahawa West, Nairobi, which became operational in 2022. We have procured all the essential legal documents for our business operations, ensuring full compliance, and we are now operating at full capacity.

We initially invested 2 million shillings to establish the company. We have not yet reached a break-even point. We have recently expanded our team to scale up our business.

We anticipate reaching a break-even point within the next 2 years given the prevailing market trends and business environment. We have encountered challenges, particularly in sourcing raw materials-plantains. Our products are sourced directly from local farmers.

However, there is limited supply of quality plantains in the Kenya compared to the demand thus prompting us to import from Uganda, Tanzania and Congo during the low seasons which is a costly affair.

This is my first and only work experience. I have several mentors in my network who assist in honing my knowledge and skills to run my company. For instance, Lynn Mwaniki has been a significant resource for me in this sector, having worked as the Business Development lead at Sinco Medical Supplies in South Sudan and currently serving as the Managing Director and Co-founder of Surgident Limited in Nairobi, Kenya.

My biggest financial mistake was in January 2020 when we imported 500kgs of plantains from Congo, without a clear marketing plan. We had no knowledge of making plantains chips or where to sell raw plantains. The impulsive decision led to significant waste, as my family of five couldn’t consume all 500kgs in such a short time as plantains are highly perishable!

My greatest business moment was when I produced my first batch of crispy, well-dried, ripe plantain chips. Finally, we successfully developed a product! I was overwhelmed with joy and fulfillment. Another was when we secured our first corporate client in the Kenyan market. We celebrate the smallest victories to mark progress, motivate and keep the fire burning.

If I were to start over, I would emphasize the importance of a well-structured business plan and adhere to my action plan. Instead of acting impulsively and incurring unnecessary expenses on commitments I’m unprepared for, I’d exercise prudence.

I save money through reinvestments in the money market. This approach ensures my money is both safe and allows for the compounding of interest over the long term. I once had a piggy bank; didn’t work for me since it was limiting the amount of money I could save over a long period of time.

I am committed to entrepreneurship. Although I have faced challenges and considered stepping away, I find inspiration and resilience from my mentors and peers in the entrepreneurial community.

Creating job opportunities, bridging plantain farmers to end-consumers, and redefining the snack industry with innovative products is my driving force, fueled by my passion.

Risk takers are history makers. Don’t fear failure; It’s an integral part of entrepreneurship. Consider your failures as opportunities to Learn from your mistakes, adapt, and persevere. Many successful entrepreneurs have faced setbacks on their journey to success.

Stay curious and keep learning because the business landscape is always evolving and those that adopt and acquire new skills remain competitive.

Finally, manage your finances wisely keeping a close eye on your cash-flow. Budget effectively and plan for both short-term and long-term financial goals.

 

A version of this profile feature on Triza Karimi who runs a plantain chips production company was also published in the Saturday Magazine. The Saturday Magazine is a publication of the Nation Media Group.

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