On 16 October 2018, Nigerian entrepreneur Ope Olanrewaju emerged as the winner of the first ever SUN Pitch Competition. Here, he outlines the impacts of the Competition for his cold chain business, as well as his key advice for this year’s participants.
“The competition process was as exciting as it was enlightening. We gained lots of insight during the process as to how we could improve our business,” enthuses Ope, almost two years after winning the competition’s technical assistance and mentorship prize for his innovative enterprise Kennie-O Cold Chain Logistics (KCCL).
Ope established KCCL in 2014 in response to the problem of agricultural post-harvest losses in Nigeria. The company’s refrigerated trucks transport perishable fruit and vegetables from the farms directly to urban consumers, thereby reducing food loss and increasing fresh produce availability in the country. “The business is innovative as it meets a very pressing need of farmers plagued by a lack of appropriate storage and cool transportation, leading to spoilage of their agricultural products. It is commercially viable and also addresses a nutritional gap,” Ope continues.
As the overall competition winner, Ope attended a week-long training course at the Base of Pyramid (BoP) Innovation Centre based in the Netherlands, during which Ope gained critical insights into how to improve his business plan. “The most important aspect of the training was learning how to structure our business for longevity, to strengthen our record keeping and learn how to scale the business to attain more impact,” he explains. Whilst undertaking the BoP training, Ope was also able to interact with cold chain actors and investors in the Netherlands. As a result of this networking experience, Ope is now looking to introduce innovative technology to the KCCL trucks as a means to further improve services: “We have added wireless trackers to monitor the truck location and route in real-time, as well as to track the temperature inside the trucks, monitor how often the truck doors open and close, and any subsequent impacts on temperature.”
“From the training we received, we have been able to increase our customer base and hence our revenue and the company started receiving offers of investment,” says Ope. He also explains that, since the competition, KCCL has been able to reach more farmers and organisations to increase the amount of produce transported from 10,000 tonnes to 25,000 tonnes. The company is also expecting its first tranche of investment this year following an introduction to an investor – based on his participation in the SUN Pitch Competition and the business planning support KCCL received. With this funding, Ope plans to purchase 12 more cold chain trucks (up from three) before the end of 2020.
KCCL and COVID-19
Despite the current global COVID-19 pandemic, KCCL has been able to remain relevant and even increase employee numbers due to increased company exposure provided by the competition. Throughout the lockdown, KCCL has been involved in moving fresh produce from the north – where most fresh fruits and vegetables are grown – to the south of the country on behalf of several organisations and government initiatives, including the Lagos State COVID-19 Emergency Food Response. “People are locked down but our stomachs are not. We must eat and logistics are critical at this time,” Ope says.
Winning the SUN Pitch Competition has thus enabled Ope to build the resilience of his company and to better meet the changing needs of consumers. To this year’s finalists, Ope’s advice is to: “Innovate, innovate, innovate to improve the business in ways that improve the lives of people around you. Embracing a culture of continuous innovation is so important, now more than ever.”
Article written by Emmanuel Maduka
Maduka has over four years’ experience in agricultural communication and, as the Founder of Agrostrides Magazine, is an active advocate for youth engagement in agriculture. He also works in food processing innovation through his company LifePro Food Mills.
Maduka produced this article in collaboration with WRENmedia in the UK, which is supporting the SUN Pitch Competition communications.