Two years since she launched her nutrition business, Neema Lugangira’s startup has grown in product portfolio, sales and partnerships. Neema attributes these successes to the mentorship and financial support she received as a winner of the BoP Inc Award at the 2018 inaugural SUN Pitch Competition.
Neema Lugangira’s enterprise Healthy Maisha, meaning Healthy Life, operates in Tanzania’s commercial city of Dar es Salaam and seeks to bridge the nutrition gap – and iron deficiency in particular – by providing cold-pressed juices made from local fruits and vegetables, which are free of preservatives, water and sugar. The juices are processed on order for her client base of hospitals, schools and government offices. Each juice variety has a minimum of three ingredients depending on the nutritional needs of the customer. ‘Iron Rich Juice’ for example is one blend that consists of carrots, spinach and parsley.
“Our juices are different because they are cold-pressed. This means that there is absolutely no water added, no chemicals, no sugar. If you drink our juice, you are getting the real deal,” says Neema.
As part of her award for winning the 2018 SUN Pitch Competition, held in Nairobi, Kenya, Neema underwent business training and mentorship, a process she says that prompted her to revise her business model and operations with a view to cutting costs and exploring innovative ways to expand. The BoP Innovation Center team evaluated her operations and advised her on the steps to take to cut rental overheads and reduce her workforce. “I didn’t realise I was spending so much money on rent and staff, two overheads that were eating into my margins. My mentors advised me to tame my expenses and channel my profits into growing the business,” Neema adds.
Advocating for nutrition initiatives
The BoP mentorship she received was also pivotal in helping Neema to merge Healthy Maisha with her not-for-profit organisation AgriThamani, which offers complementary services. AgriThamani seeks to end malnutrition in Tanzania by providing nutrition education and counselling to schools and health centres. Part of the juice sale proceeds of Healthy Maisha are now channelled into AgriThamani initiatives. One such initiative is with TMJ Hospital and Ocean Road Hospital, a cancer facility in Dar es Salaam, to provide nutrition counselling and juice products to doctors and patients. Her company also promotes vegetable gardens and suitable school feeding programmes in regions where children are suffering from acute malnutrition, and works with the parents to create home vegetable gardens. The merged enterprises are set to expand to Kagera in the North-Western region, an area with the highest number of stunted children in Tanzania and which has limited nutrition interventions by development organisations.
Since the bulk of Healthy Maisha’s clientele are government officials, the enterprise is also in the process of opening an outlet in Dodoma to tap into the recent government decision to move operations and offices to the capital city. Neema, who says she has learnt invaluable lessons in networking from the SUN Pitch Competition, was able to get guidance on nutrition advocacy, which she has applied in training leaders in three political parties in Tanzania. The parties are now exploring how to include nutrition in their manifestos as the East African country heads towards the Presidential elections later this year. Healthy Maisha is also discussing a partnership with Dodoma University to train students on nutrition entrepreneurship to encourage them to start their own nutrition-focused businesses.
In recent weeks, Neema also participated in an Instagram live workshop on Cold Chain Logistics and Food Safety organised by another 2018 SUN Pitch winner, Ope Olanrewaju of Kennie-O Cold Chain Logistics. Besides meeting potential partners in the online forum, she was able to connect Ope with a seasoned Tanzanian entrepreneur involved in the milk and yoghurt cold chain logistics. “Being part of the pitch competition gives you a platform and access to very resourceful people. Always capitalise on them,” she enthuses.
Building up business with added value
Since winning the competition and expanding her business, Neema has been able to significantly increase her production capacity by setting up a larger production facility. She also started using motorbikes to make deliveries across the city instead of delivering on foot or using public transport, which she says has been cost effective. And the business has increased its sales, delivering up to 200 bottles of juice every month – up from about 10 before taking part in the competition.
Recalling the processes of the pitch competition and preparing her juices to serve to the judges, Neema advises the 2020 finalists to use the advice and exposure they get as a launchpad for scaling and adding value to their businesses. “Believe in your business then work on bringing it to life. In a very competitive world, work on remaining relevant by offering products and services that add value and respond to the needs of your target markets,” she concludes.
Article written by Bob Koigi
Bob is editor at Startup-Weekly.com and Africa Business Communities, and has won multiple awards for his coverage of agriculture, business, the environment and rural development, including Journalist of the Year by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations.
Bob produced this article in collaboration with WRENmedia in the UK, which is supporting the SUN Pitch Competition communications.