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Friday, 4 December 2015

A Kenyan Female Entrepreneur's Inspiring Journey Into Business

Meet Mary Cherop Maritim, Kenyan female Entrepreneur and founder of Cherebut Foods, a company that supplies frozen grains and legumes. Her business has its own factory, employs 11 people and serves 7 grocery chains in Kenya. She is also one of the 4 finalists for AFIF’s Entrepreneurship Award 2015. Read below how this working mother quickly worked on an idea she received which today has become a full fledged business. Go here for full article.

Maritim came up with her product idea in 2007, while working as a secretary for a government official. She often had to work late and this meant having to prepare supper for her family ahead of time. But one day she found herself working later than expected and with no idea what to feed her family.

“I got home and my husband and children were waiting. So I rushed to the freezer and found some beans that I had cooked, frozen, and forgotten about it. I cooked some rice really fast, made a sauce and threw in the beans – and within minutes we were sitting eating,” recalled Maritim.

“I wondered if other women knew this trick because it is really a great idea to have frozen beans around for times like this. But then I thought some might even be too busy to cook the beans in the first place and to then freeze them. And maybe this was a good business idea.”

Armed with this thought, she moved fast. She found a box of tea and read the label to see what information companies provided, from brand name, to ingredients, to net weight. Having recently lost her mother, she decided to name the company after her. Once she had printed a few labels, cooked her beans and maize, she then sealed them in a packet using her clothes iron, before freezing them.

The next day Maritim walked into the offices of Nakumatt, East Africa’s largest supermarket, with her products in a cooler box. She asked reception who to speak to, and was taken straight to see the retailer’s managing director, Atul Shah. She will never forget her first meeting with him, nor how he told her to place her products which were at that point half melted and dripping with ice on his wooden table. But he seemed interested.

“He asked for my papers, and when I said I didn’t have any he laughed and said: ‘Madam, I require papers to do business with you.’ So I took out a pen and paper and said: ‘Sir, I have never done business in my life, what papers do I need?’ He mentioned 5 documents.”
After the lengthy and expensive process of registering her company and getting the required documentation, Maritim returned to Shah who agreed to try her products for 60 days in two branches.
“They took so long to sell. I remember I used to go and just look at the products, and the next time I would visit it seemed nobody had even touched them.”But then slowly things changed, and Maritim started getting orders for larger amounts, and expanded to other branches.

Her advice to others hoping to venture into entrepreneurship is to start small, look to address basic needs, and keep the business as uncomplicated as possible. “Start small, don’t start big. When you start big, you are met with big challenges and they can easily knock you down. So by just starting small and growing, I was able to meet challenges I could manage. Had I started too big, I would have met challenges I did not yet measure up to.”

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