Adja Sembene Fall, a 29-year-old Senegalese businesswoman, defied financial constraints to establish her luxury brand tea company, Contanna, which recently clinched victory in the African Development Bank’s AgriPitch competition.
Fall’s journey, from a small online start-up to a celebrated entrepreneur, is a testament to her unwavering spirit and the power of digital entrepreneurship.
Launching her venture with a meagre $200, Fall was forced to take the digital route due to financial limitations.
“Due to [lack of] finance, it was not possible to get a physical shop. We started out in the backyard of my brother’s house. We sold our teas via social media for three years,” she revealed.
Contanna’s success story is not just about exquisite tea; it’s about offering a “Senegalese experience.” Fall’s brand promotes a women-owned, 100% locally sourced, and processed product rooted in family and cultural traditions.
Digitization played a pivotal role in Contanna’s growth. Fall emphasised, “Digitising our buying process was really important. We [were] also able to present and adjust packaging of our product online, [to emphasize] it was premium and different from what was available in Senegal.”
Contanna’s innovative approach led to impressive online sales, soaring from $5 000 in the first year to $12 000, along with a loyal clientele of 2 000 customers.
Contanna’s success journey reached new heights when it won the African Development Bank’s AgriPitch competition in January 2022. The contest, a part of the Bank’s ENABLE Youth Program, received a staggering 750 entries from agripreneurs across 38 African countries.
After a rigorous selection process, 25 semi-finalists, with 68% being women-led businesses, were chosen for a comprehensive virtual boot camp. This immersive program honed their skills and business acumen, preparing them for a pitch session where nine finalists were ultimately selected.
Adja Sembene Fall’s impressive pitch, held right in front of her shop, resonated with the judges.
“I was pitching in front of my shop – where customers were passing by. They were so encouraging when they discovered that [my business] is a 100% Senegalese company and especially that the founder was a woman,” she shared.
Fall’s exceptional presentation earned her $25 000 as the winner in the AgriPitch competition women-owned business category.
With the prize money, Fall plans to invest in upgrading Contanna’s digital payment system and providing computers and digital skills training for her employees, all of whom are women.
“We are training them to build capacity to use Google Sheets [and other digital software],” she explained. Contanna and the other finalists will continue to benefit from the AgriPitch “deal room,” offering post-competition digital expertise, business development, and investor engagement.
As Contanna continues to thrive, Fall’s story stands as an inspiration for aspiring entrepreneurs in Senegal and beyond. The AgriPitch competition, with its commitment to fostering innovation and supporting youth-led agribusinesses, remains a beacon of hope for the future.
Entrepreneurs are encouraged to watch for the next call for applications, slated for 2024, as the competition continues its mission to fuel innovation, create jobs, and transform lives across the African continent.