Hadija Jabiry

Age: 28 • Agribusiness • Eat Fresh, Tanzania

“Having the right people not only in your organization but also in your network is very important for business success ”

 Hadija did not dream of becoming a farmer when she finished her degree in Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting. However, after her failed attempt in the soap making business, in 2015 she took a leap of faith and ventured into agribusiness. Over the last three years, her company Eat Fresh has managed to export good quality produce to international markets and supplying locally in Tanzania. She says her success has been attributed to networking, applying skills she has learned in uni and hard work. Read the rest of her story below.

1. As a graduate in Business Administration in Accounting, what sparked your interest in farming?

Just like many young people in our country and many other African countries, I never thought of becoming a farmer. Farming is seen as something which is done by failures and old people. In our country, more than 85% of farmers are small scale holder farmers and these are people who live in rural areas, using poor farming tools and there is nothing fancy about their life styles which can attract young people. My interest in agriculture came after seeing ways of making money in farming and learning that agriculture is among viable sectors that one can choose to start small with a high chance of scaling up a business and becoming a successful brand. Although I had no background in farming, I took time to read about it and I believed I could hire professionals to help me grow a successful agricultural venture.

2. You started your business in 2015 with an 8-acre vegetable production area with a vision of feeding the world, and within three years your dream has come to life. What have you learned through this process of starting and managing your own business?

I have learnt a lot of things, but to mention a few;

  1. Having the right people not only in your organization but also in your network is very important for business success.
  2. It is important to believe in yourself and in what you do, especially in early stages of the business when things don’t look promising and people don’t understand your vision.
  3. You can’t separate success from hard work and smart work.
  4. Any successful venture needs to start from market research before going into production.

3. What sort of produce do you grow on your farm and is there any specific reason why you chose these produce in particular?

We are currently growing French beans, snow peas and sugar snap, we selected these crops because of supportive weather and favorable altitude (2200 m above sea level) which enables us to produce all year round. And the second reason is the high demand for these vegetables in the export market.

4. How did you secure funding to invest in your business or was it all bootstrapped?

It all started with little saving I had. Whatever that I was making as revenue from sales I reinvested it back in the business. The business is now in expansion stage where we have considered other ways of financing the project like Loans, Investors, Grants etc.

5. In terms of market study, what strategies did you apply to really understand your market needs & size before venturing into agri-business?

We started with market research, this helped us to understand the gap in the market and the needs of our potential customers. We clearly understood our target customers; we understood the following; what they are looking for, when they want the produce and the way they want their produce to be packaged. Mostly we have been using innovative and different tools found online to retain customers and expand our distribution.

6. What challenges do you currently face in reaching your market and is this something other farmers are facing as well?

One of the major challenges we are facing is meeting customers’ demands (producing enough volumes which are needed by our customers). Although this is not the similar challenge many farmers are facing, most of them are struggling with market share for their produce. But for us, the challenge has been making sure we produce enough volumes needed by our customers. The second challenge is agro-logistics, as a country we still don’t have cargo flights, so we are using passengers’ flights where we normally pay high flight rates compared to our competitors from other countries who use cargo flights.

7. Your first attempt in business was soap making, which did not go as planned. What key learning points did you learn from this failed attempt that you can share?

On the soap business we were supposed to invest a large amount of money on equipment, e.g. plodders, cutters, mixers etc, with the intention of increasing volume of production which could lower cost per unit and enable us to compete in the market. Unfortunately, I had no money to invest in machinery. I tried to approach banks, but it was not possible for banks to finance the business because we had no collateral and numbers to support the funding request. From this previous experience, I have learnt to put my numbers in place. I know financiers are not convinced by words but numbers. They read your business and decide to invest or not by looking at your financial statements, so it’s very important to keep accounting records in order regardless of the size of the business.

8. What is your advice to young people who are unemployed and waiting for jobs from private sectors and government?

They should start looking at farming as an alternative option, there are so many opportunities in agribusiness. On a continent like ours which has more than 65% of arable land, good climatic condition, countless water bodies and highest population growth rate, farming is one of the solutions to reducing unemployment rate. They should not be idle and complain. As young people, we must ask ourselves, what skills have we acquired that can be applied in starting businesses. The skills could be soft skills like the ability to NETWORK, generate great IDEAS etc. Also, young people should be willing to start small and work hard to accomplish their dreams.