Friends strike gold in ready-to-cook indigenous vegetables

Lynne Odiwa and Fiona Morema

Nature’s Best founders Lynne Odiwa and Fiona Morema.
 

Photo credit: Lucy Wanjiru | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Fiona Morema, 27, and Lynne Odiwa, 31, acquired a loan of Sh83,000 from a friend and invested it into the business.
  • With the capital, they bought a freezer, two cooking gas cylinders, sufurias, cooling basins and vegetables for the first batch.

If you love indigenous, (kienyeji) vegetables but are wary of the tedious task that comes with sourcing and preparing them, relax because help is at hand.

Nature’s Best is an online organic kitchen plug which offers precooked or partially boiled indigenous vegetables to residents within Nairobi.

The entrepreneurs behind the business, Fiona Morema, 27, and her business partner, Lynne Odiwa, 31, in July 2021 acquired a loan of Sh83,000 from a friend and invested it into the business.

With the capital, they bought a freezer, two cooking gas cylinders, sufurias, cooling basins and vegetables for the first batch. What was left they used for branding.

The two explain that they chose the business because they believed it was a viable one since it offered convenience, something that busy city professionals look for.

Fiona holds a Bachelor of hospitality management and marketing from Kenyatta University while Lynne holds a bachelor in communication and public relations from Moi University.

Fiona explains that they source the vegetables, which include sagaa/saget, managu, terere/mchicha, kunde, mrenda, pumpkin leaves/susa/seveve fresh from farmers in Kisii County.

Kienyeji vegetables

“We source our vegetables directly from farmers, once they are delivered, we handpick, sort and clean them before they are partially boiled and packed for sale. We want people to enjoy readily available kienyeji vegetables but we also want to ensure that they are healthy and nutritious,” says Fiona, who explains that a kilo ranges from Sh350 to Sh450 depending on the type of vegetable, the cost of purchase and production.

They make a profit of about Sh100 to Sh200 per kilogram.

The two have been actively running the business for a few months, and so far the business has been able to sustain itself. What keeps them going is the positive response from their clients, which motivates them to keep going.

You could say that second time is a charm – this is the second time they are giving the business a go. The first time was in February 2020, but it collapsed a few months later due to poor planning and poor strategy having failed to conduct extensive research regarding the business and market.

That failure taught them important lessons, which they applied when they revived the business. They explain that when the Covid-19 pandemic was reported in the country, it became impossible to source from the farmers they worked with due to inter-county lockdowns, forcing them to get them from Athi River and Isinya.

“A few months into the business we started losing customers, so we had to take a break to re-strategise and research on pricing.”

Biggest challenge

After thorough research on the workings of the market and pricing of their vegetables, they went back to the drawing board.

A few months after relaunching, they sold not less than 100 kilograms, currently, they supply at least 500 kilograms of vegetables every month.

Their business employees seven people who help in production and packing of the final product for delivery.

The two market their products through their various social media platforms and also depend on referrals from repeat clients, adding that they sometimes get clients who buy and take their food outside the country.

As the business continues to grow, the two are planning to open a shop within Nairobi to attract walk-in clients.

“The biggest challenge was convincing prospective clients that we sell fresh organic vegetables fresh from the farm, people had so many misconceptions about this type of business, but there are those who believed in us before we were fully accepted,” says Fiona, who advises against starting a business without conducting extensive research on the line of business.

“Exhaust everything you need to know, don't just start a business because you see someone doing it or because you have the funds, understand what you are getting yourself into.”

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