“If managed well, your agribusiness will grow and you will see the returns on your investments,” vows Faith Mwende. She is among the 15 Kenyan women entrepreneurs who participated in a high-level training initiative presented by Corteva Agriscience and Strathmore University.
Hard-work truly has been paying off for Faith Mwende. She is currently the head of business development at Agrisel Limited, a family-run Kenyan business. Venturing into agribusiness has opened doors she never thought she would be able to go through.
“I never thought that I would get to travel,” she tells FoodForAfrika.com.
“For the suppliers, they always call us for meetings in places within and outside the country. We are always given targets, once you achieve the targets there is always a reward. We travel to both learn and relax so that when you come back you are also able to motivate your team to achieve more.
“Through this business I have been able to travel to Egypt, Mauritius, Rwanda, India, Europe, just to mention a few. The trips have really motivated me not to miss out on the next one. We get to visit farms there and also other shops, I have learnt different cultures and how businesses are done out there, then come and incorporate what I’ve learnt. It has really broadened my mind.”
Exploring the corporate world
After graduating with Bachelors of Business Information Technology from Strathmore University in 2011, the 35-year-old decided to first explore the corporate world. She did this to polish her business skills before joining Agrisel.
“I was in charge of IT at MSCSK for two years. I went into employment to gain the experience of the corporate world. I had planned to first work elsewhere so that I’m able to network, learn and gain experience out there but at the back of my mind knowing that I would come back home and join my parents.”
Learning from the best
“The transition was smooth because I started right when I was in primary school. We were raised by helping out after school or during holidays. I would be assigned duties here and there. So I grew up knowing how the business runs. Not really in details, but at least I had the idea of what is done on a daily basis. Sometimes my parents would be away and I’ll be the one in charge of running the simple tasks.
“I came in with the business aspect but then I was able to learn the agricultural bit and slowly with help from agronomists and other stakeholders who take us for trainings and field works. And from where we started to where we are now, I can say we have made a tremendous improvement.”
Agrisel has been running for the past 28 years. They are distributors of agro-chemicals, certified seeds, fertilisers, vet products and farm equipment. It has two branches in Thika Town and a third in Matuu.
Even with her years in the industry being fruitful, Makena has also had her share of challenges.
“I have faced a lot of challenges. Agribusiness mainly depends on weather. Sometimes rains fail, so no crop no business. You also find that right now almost all prices from suppliers have gone up and this was as a result of Covid. We mostly outsource our goods from all over so with that challenge of Covid and restrictions we experienced the issue of hiked prices and sometimes the farmer is not able to afford as the economy is not so friendly. Even the basic things have become so expensive. The little they would have saved ends up being used on other issues. So the farmers’ pockets are becoming smaller and smaller.”
“Other challenges are low availability of products, taxation making products so expensive, unhealthy competition where you find other people we work with decide to sell at undercut prices. Also with this being a family business sometimes parents are not able to separate that we are now independent, I come from my own place, they still want to tell you everything you need to do. Sometimes you need a day off to handle your own family business. There is always that friction sometimes because they want things done the way they are used to. You have to keep explaining why you are bringing new changes.”
Faith is mong the 15 women entrepreneurs trained last year by Corteva Agriscience and Strathmore University, and has a few pointers to other aspiring agripreneurs.
“As women we face a lot of challenges but we should not fear getting into this male dominated industry. It is all about believing in yourself, do not look at only the negatives and setbacks. Agribusiness is something you should venture in if you are able. It is a profitable business. If managed well it is going to grow and you will get to see the returns of your investments.”