Meet Peris Muriuki, Wamu Investments- a successful Kenyan exporter and social entrepreneur who has built a successful business including and impacting rural women. Peris is a founding member of African Women in Agribusiness Network and took part in the Spicy Kitchen Roadshow arranged through the CTS-AWAN partnership where she met and secured new trading partners in Sweden.
Peris, how did you start Wamu? The company was started out of sheer love of farming and interacting with rural folks in my upcountry home. Often we would meet and the women told me the tribulations they were going through by lack of market for their cabbages, carrots, potatoes and local peas. Sometimes I would carry a few bags of assorted produce and sell them to my colleagues and friends in Nairobi.
Our company is a family-run company with five directors which are me and my husband and our three adult children who have all taken positions in the company with marketing, finance and IT.
We have many employees stretching from the farms to the pack house. In the four farms we are running there about 50 permanent staff with a majority being women. In the pack house we have an additional 50 permanent staff but in busy periods we hire between 70 to 150 packers, who most of them are women.
We deal a lot without growers who have helped us to produce and we have also moved them many miles in their lives. We are at the moment working with the marginalized communities -Masai and Turukana. Their children are now going to school, they have food to feed the families and also permanent homes.
The products we carry are french beans, snowpeas and sugarsnaps, passion fruits, chillies, baby corn, tender stem broccoli, avocados, mangos, okra and a long list of Asian vegetables. The company has market in many countries eg UK, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Norway, France, Sweden and Italy which is a seasonal market. With the participation of the young directors we see a big future especially in European countries
When did you start to export and how did you find the market?
After sometime there was a need to look for a better market and commit these rural women to grow something that was more profitable than the cabbages and carrots that did not fetch good money. This idea was researched and brought about the export business to be born.
Getting customers has been succeeded through several ways like attending exhibitions such as Fruit Logistica or partake in trade missions. One of them being Spicy Kitchen roadshow with Chamber Trade and Virke last year.
Former employees of our old partners have also approached us for business in their new business. We have also been contacted through being part of Business organisations such as AWAN and FPEAK (Fresh Produce Exporters Kenya) and also directly through internet.
We have been able to retain customers by being consistent in quality, loyalty, having a good working relationship with our farmers and also being honest to our buyers.
How did you connect with Everfresh?
My meeting with Everfresh was in through the Scandinavian Spicy Kitchen Road Show made in august 2014. That was the first time I went to their office and met with them. There was immediate follow up but the response came much later. The process has been tedious where we had to go through due diligence and many other demands from them. We are only starting with our first shipment but we are positive for future business with them.
What would you recommend companies to do if they want to get into the EU market?
For anyone wishing to get into EU market my recommendations is to be patient and learn your prospective customer well. There are ‘’ many customers’’ but to get a genuine one you will need to take proper preparation. You need to have your own production (or secure supply chain), learn the demands for different markets eg UK market or customers are completely different from Scandinavian customers. Interact with other exporters to learn about details in the business. Attending trade shows or B2B marketing also helps. Capital for business is also crucial so as to be able to give your customers the credit they will ask. It is important to have a good relationship with your suppliers –in our case especially with the rural women.
What would you recommend women entrepreneurs in East Africa looking to grow their business?
To have their own invention to be able to compete in the business. Export business is big and will always accommodate newcomers but it is not in export that one can make money. One needs to do a business with passion and dedication to be able to reap good results. Do a bit of market research before starting the business. Seek for advice if needed from those already in the kind of business. Networking will help to improve both local and export market.
My parting words I have even as I prepare to hand over the business to my children is the joy I have had for doing the business in the last 26 years especially the impact created to the rural people by this company.
Find more about Peris and Wamu at www.wamu-investments.com
To learn more about how CTS and AWAN works to increase trade and women economic empowerment contact firstname.lastname@example.org
/ Peris Muriuki and Sofie Wikander