Cracking the nut industry: how Kenya adopted the world’s most valuable nut, with Charles Muigai


Do you know what the world’s most expensive nut is?

It’s the macadamia nut.

Similar in shape and colour to a chickpea, but up to twice the size, it’s originally from Australia and is now grown in several tropical locations around the world.

In Kenya, the first trees were grafted and planted in the 1970s with a few disparate growers and aggregators each individually trying to generate a market.

Ten years ago Charles Muigai founded Nutpak an industry body for nut processors in Kenya.

They deal with peanuts and cashews too, but the real business in macadamias where they represent Kenyan producers both at a national government level and internationally.

Charles and I chat about all angles of how this industry is growing in Kenya including the minimum “farm gate” price set for macadamia farmers, the process by which they are packaged and ultimately exported, and lessons other burgeoning industries can take for their role on global stage.


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Sam:                                      00:08                     Intro

Sam:                                      01:58                     Cool. So we’re here today with Charles from nut pack, Charles welcome to the show.

Charles:                                02:03                     Nice. Thank you Sam.

Sam:                                      02:06                     And so to get started, can you tell us a bit about you and a bit about Nut Pak?

Charles:                                02:10                     My name is Charles Muigai. I’m the chief executive officer of Nut processors association of Kenya. The association that is the umbrella body for industries that are processing macadamia, cashew peanuts and also adding value to the same for the end market. The industry is as old as, say 45 years old. But the initial years it was a more of a monopolistic industry. But towards the year 2005 more players came into place and the industry from then started to expand. By 2009, there were four processors and based on the competition and the competitive lobby of the industry, there was need to consolidate. And this is when, now we founded Nut Pak or nut processing association of Kenya, in 2009. And the main thing was to create a platform that one will back, will support production and make the industry more sustainable in terms of what it produces and through our smallholder farmers and also to interact globally. So it was now back and forward from production to the marketing and also placing the Kenyan product at the global level as a competitive product that can compete alongside South African or Australia. The major driver of the industry in Kenya is macadamia, however, peanuts and cashew nuts are still allied to the same because most of these processes are composite and, they do these three nuts. So this platform has, over the years, engaged the government about policy influence also advocacy. And in 2009, we managed to lobby the government to put a ban on export of unprocessed macadamia nuts and cashew nuts. And that has seen the industry grow five fold because at that point the industry was producing around 10,000 metric tons of macadamia. But right now we are towards 45 to 50,000 metric tons. So, and the plantings across the small holder farmers in Kenya is growing by leaps, then it’s growing very fast.

Sam:                                      04:48                     Very good.

Charles:                                04:49                     So what you can say, that the consolidation of the industry and this platform has done a lot to bring the industry to the limelight because hitherto the registration of this organization, not to many people knew about macadamia. Right now as we speak, we have 27 licensed processors. So you can see from 2009 from 4 to 27, that tells you a story that many people came to understand the industry, found it attractive. They have come in. But now the next challenge is how to create a sustainable industry.

Sam:                                      05:25                     Yeah. So we’ll perhaps go into some of those a bit later in the interview. So just to be clear, Nut pack is a, like an industry body like you said. Yeah. So you basically represents the process but not processes that exist. And whereas before it might be difficult for one individual company to go and lobby the government, when they, when they come as part of a group, you then have much more power.

Charles:                                05:49                     Have legitimacy and the voice.

Sam:                                      05:51                     Exactly. Is it, out of interest, is your, is your background in nuts?

Charles:                                05:56                     No.

Sam:                                      05:56                     Alright. How did you, how did you come into it?

Charles:                                05:59                     I would call myself an agribusiness you know, consultant.

Sam:                                      06:04                     Okay. Alright.

Charles:                                06:04                     I’m an exert in trade and also agribusiness.

Sam:                                      06:07                     Sure.

Charles:                                06:07                     So, and I think that at that point, that’s where I came to organize a workshop for the industry. And…

Sam:                                      06:14                     Why did you choose nuts?

Charles:                                06:17                     Well, it just happened by chance. I was facilitating a workshop on sustainability of the industry, sponsored by their ministry of agriculture as a consultant. And then the thing we discussed then was that why should we look at it as a hostile competition arena? But I said it can be complimentary again. So it’s a question of how you look at it. And I think the wisdom that revealed then was that we can bake a bigger cake and then we would get a healthy slice of it.

Sam:                                      06:47                     Yeah.

Charles :                               06:47                     So and that is how, now they, want called the focys of NUT pak is, create a more sustainable industry, stimulate more plantings, stimulate more production, and then everybody gets a share of a sizable amount of produce.

Sam:                                      07:05                     So basically you said you should do this. And they said, go on the Charles, you do.

Charles:                                07:12                     And here I am, 10 years down the line, I’m still doing it.

Sam:                                      07:14                     Very good. Okay. So for people who are perhaps unaware could you give like just a brief overview of, of like the Kenyan, Kenya’s’s history with nuts. So you mentioned macadamia cashew and peanuts. So those are the three. Historically, those always grown here or have they been a recent recently like…

Charles :                               07:35                     Macadamia was first introduced in Kenya by an Australian, Bob Harris early seventies, in Thika.

Sam:                                      07:46                     Thika is like an hour from Nairobi?

Charles:                                07:48                     Yes, an hour from Nairobi. And from there the first plantings were not commercial but eventually the commercial production started, by around 1974. That’s when the fast company, the Kenya nut company started processing macadamia.

Sam:                                      08:05                     Okay. And what does it look like? So nuts are grown on trees or are they not plants, is they, how are they when you say that the first macadamia nut were brought here…

Charles :                               08:17                     It was brought as a seed, a seed nut.

Sam:                                      08:19                     Brought as a seed, and then…

Charles:                                08:20                     Then it was planted. And then multiplication through propagation and grafting, that now gives, multiplies the seedlings. So macadamia is a tree.

Sam:                                      08:32                     A tree, Okay.

Charles:                                08:33                     Right.

Sam:                                      08:33                     Is it a big tree?

Charles:                                08:34                     It’s a big tree yes. Is a sizeable tree. So medium, medium sized tree.

Sam:                                      08:38                     Okay.

Charles:                                08:38                     Yeah. That can produce even up to 50, 60, 70 kilos depending on how you feed the tree. Is a tree that has a lot of longevity.

Sam:                                      08:47                     Okay.

Charles:                                08:48                     In terms of the tree can span 50, 60 years still in production. So once you farm the siblings, it takes around five, six years for optimal production.

Sam:                                      08:58                     Okay.

Charles:                                08:58                     You’ll get enough produce from the sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, 10 year, all the way to maybe another 50 years the tree will still productive.

Sam:                                      09:05                     Okay. So the first macadamia trees were planted when Bob, was it Bob Harris, when he came, they are still producing.

Charles:                                09:14                     They’re still producing.

Sam:                                      09:15                     Yes.

Charles:                                09:15                     Yes. And they’re still okay. And what’s sort of, and then eventually the tree will die?

Charles:                                09:19                     Eventually the tree will die, yes as…

Sam:                                      09:20                     As altruistic.

Charles:                                09:23                     Yeah.

Sam:                                      09:24                     Okay. And so what does it with the macadamia nuts, is it like a pod? How does, I’m trying to visualize whether or not it’s all on the tree.

Charles:                                09:32                     No, they’re not. It’s a fruit. Let’s say it’s a fruit.

Sam:                                      09:35                     So basically, so you’ve got a macadamia tree. It has these, so imagine that it’s a fruit that’s growing on it. And then within that fruit, when you crack it open, they’re really, they’re nuts. Similar thing with cashews?

Charles:                                09:45                     Yes, similar thing with cashews. Cashew is an apple, is an apple like, but with an offshoot of a nut also that you you crack again to get the kind of insight. Yeah.

Sam:                                      10:01                     Yes. And then what do you do with the Apple?

Charles :                               10:03                     Well, in other places in the world, especially West Africa, I have seen they’re making apple, you know, cashew apple juice.

Sam:                                      10:10                     Cashew apple juice?

Charles:                                10:11                     Yes. Making that they are also making cashew wine…

Sam:                                      10:15                     Really?

Charles:                                10:15                     From the apple, yes. So…

Sam:                                      10:17                     Do you do that here?

Charles:                                10:18                     No, we don’t do it here.

Sam:                                      10:19                     Why not?

Charles:                                10:20                     We are not doing it because we don’t produce enough cashew. There are challenges that are particular to where it grows, especially at the costs. They think…

Sam:                                      10:29                     Cashews grow at the coast?

Charles:                                10:29                     Yes, majorly grows at the coast. Although we have some belts in the Eastern province in Tharaka Nithi county where we also growing some cashew nuts.

Sam:                                      10:40                     What is a reason why they grew at the coast?

Charles :                               10:43                     I would say because of the Sandy soil. It’s also a coast base crop, I think that’s the ecological zone for it? Yes. So are there other parts in East Africa or Africa where…

Sam:                                      10:54                     It’s still growing at the coastline?

Charles:                                10:56                     If you come from Kenya, Tanzania all the way to Mozambique, you will find, yes. If you go to the coast of West Africa from Cameroon there you will goal the way to Senegal, are not native to…

Sam:                                      11:16                     So macadamia is not native to Kenya. It’s native to Australia.

Charles:                                11:19                     Australia.

Sam:                                      11:20                     So they’ve come, are there any…

Charles:                                11:21                     And Kenya is a first African country to start macadamia production.

Sam:                                      11:26                     Are there others that have now followed.

Charles:                                11:28                     Then South Africa followed and then other smaller countries. Mozambique, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Rwanda have now started and Uganda is coming up also.

Sam:                                      11:42                     Yeah.

Charles:                                11:42                     But Kenya is the third major producer of macadamia in the world.

Sam:                                      11:48                     So Australia…

Charles:                                11:48                     Australia number one, South Africa number two or thereabout, Kenya number three. Then we have other countries like Guatemala, we have Brazil, we have Vietnam. They also grow macadamia.

Sam:                                      12:00                     And so they’ve all taken this, this seed from Australia and taking it and began their own production in other parts

Charles:                                12:08                     In other parts of the world, yes. Yes.

Sam:                                      12:10                     Okay. So it takes about, so from the, it’s quite interesting. So 1970, this is when the first macadamia nut came and since then it’s been sort of flourishing who, who is growing the macadamia nuts?

Charles :                               12:24                     Right Macadamia in Kenya as opposed to the rest of the world, especially the big two South Africa and Australia. They grew macadamia through plantation, large scale plantations. But in Kenya we are majorly on smallholder scale and these small holders, you’re talking of a farmer with 10 20 trees, whoever is doing it more is maybe putting one Hector or two hectares, but majority you you’ll see it’s a number of trees that is a main denominator here as in we have 10, 50, 30, 40 or something like that.

Sam:                                      13:02                     Yeah.

Charles:                                13:03                     And macadamia grows within the central Mount Kenya region.

Sam:                                      13:06                     Okay.

Charles:                                13:07                     That is the home of macadamia.

Sam:                                      13:09                     And so what happens, so the, the farmer, smallholder farmer, they will buy some macadamia seedlings and develop a tree and then five years later it begins to…

Charles :                               13:22                     Yeah. What happens is that most of the processors in their own interests propagate seedlings.

Sam:                                      13:28                     Okay. So the process. Got it, so it’s not the farmer that starts the process. It starts the cycle…

Charles :                               13:35                     It is the processor who propagates the seedlings and then they avail the seedlings to the farmer at some price. Then the farmers, now plant the trees take care of the trees. Then the processors of take the produce from the farms process package.

Sam:                                      13:51                     Yeah.

Charles:                                13:52                     Export.

Sam:                                      13:52                     Export.

Charles:                                13:53                     Yes. The main export destinations being Europe and the US.

Sam:                                      13:58                     Got it.

Charles:                                13:59                     Though, also, Japan is also a buyer.

Sam:                                      14:01                     Really?

Charles:                                14:01                     Yes.

Sam:                                      14:02                     Japan. Is that a recent thing? Japan wanting to buy macadamia nuts?

Charles :                               14:07                     Yes, it’s a traditional buyer of macadamia since macadamia processing started in Kenya.

Sam:                                      14:11                     Okay.

Charles:                                14:11                     Yeah.

Sam:                                      14:12                     Okay, so the main agents to sort of the main person to get this thing going is macadamia nut processing plant. Nobody said, right, we’re going to set us up and then right. In order for us to process, we need to get some macadamia so we’re going to go out into the local community and give people these trees to them.

Charles:                                14:33                     Yeah. I would call macadamia processors the epicenter or the business as in the business both ways oscillates or revolves around them. In terms of, as I said, the production, they reach down or upstream, whichever you want to call it. And they go down, shoot to the market after they process. So they are in between.

Sam:                                      14:56                     Got it.

Charles:                                14:56                     Meaning that there needs to be, and this is what the association is up for, to make sure that the farmer and the processor are tied to the hip. They must collaborate because the processor doesn’t have his own orchard. He’s relying on what the smallholder farmers producing. The smallholder farmer doesn’t have his factory to process so the two must work together. Right. So it’s a partnership of win-win and that is why now the processors find it in their interest to propagate the seedlings, supply the farmers, create some intimacy with the farmer to make sure that the farmer is supported on production and best practices. And then the processor will off take the produce right from the farmer through different buying stations across the farmlands. And then after that they will bring to the factory process and then forward the processed material now to the end markets in the US Europe or wherever.

Sam:                                      15:59                     Very good. Okay. What does, in what state do the processes by the macadamia nuts, as in are they still shelled? They still in their shell?

Charles:                                16:11                     Yes. They macadamia. Macadamia is ideally supposed to drop on the ground when it’s ready for harvesting.

Sam:                                      16:17                     Okay.

Charles:                                16:18                     Yes.

Sam:                                      16:18                     The farmer just goes around and collects.

Charles:                                16:20                     Yes. They’re supposed to drop.

Sam:                                      16:21                     How many seasons does it have exactly once a year? Does it happen all year around?

Charles:                                16:26                     There are trees that are all year round, but there is a peak and the peak season for macadamia is between April, June, July and August. Then we have a short crop. November, December. Yes. So, but basically what happens is that the farmers now will consolidate the produce, they will remove the outer casing. We call the, the outer casing, the green outer casing, so that now they, they, they can now produce the nut itself, right. Once they get the nut, the nut itself is what the processor will buy.

Sam:                                      17:03                     So the farmer will remove the outer pack. The outer casing?

Charles:                                17:06                     Yes.

Sam:                                      17:07                     Okay. And then take a, take a bag and go to the processor.

Charles:                                17:12                     They will go to different buying centers that are located within the villages.

Sam:                                      17:19                     Okay.

Charles:                                17:19                     Who watch are sponsored by respective buying companies.

Sam:                                      17:24                     The smallholder farmers, they can choose which processor…

Charles:                                17:27                     Which processor to sell to, they’re at liberty to sell to any, they are not bound by one. However, they are processors who have contract farming arrangements with particular farmers, especially those farmers who are producing organic macadamia. So they have a pact between the two.

Sam:                                      17:48                     And if they were to do contract farming, the processor would say I promised so long as they meet certain quality,

Charles:                                17:55                     Yes,

Sam:                                      17:55                     I promise…

Charles:                                17:57                     They’ll put the parameters in.

Sam:                                      17:58                     Yeah.

Charles:                                17:59                     And then they’ll put the price index for it and then the processor will go for the nuts probably the nearest point. Where the farmer is.

Sam:                                      18:10                     Okay roughly how much does it cost for, let’s say, kilo of unprocessed macadamia?

Charles :                               18:17                     We call it farm-gate price for the clients, and farm-gate price for macadamia in Kenya is, I think the closing price for the season 2018, 2019 was $2

Sam:                                      18:32                     $2? So $2 per kilogram?

Charles:                                18:35                     $2 Per kilogram.

Sam:                                      18:35                     Is the Farm-gate price. Okay. So the, the processes there, if they want to buy a hundred kilograms, they’ll pay $200 and they got up cooked

Charles :                               18:47                     And that makes macadamia the most lucrative crop in this country. Yes.

Sam:                                      18:52                     It’s a pair of kg, basis,

Charles:                                18:54                     On per Kg business, is the most lucrative.

Sam:                                      18:56                     And why. Is that? Just because it’s…

Charles :                               18:59                     It’s just purely an export. Next port. It’s 97% export. Okay. So what I can tell you is that the global production of macadamia, is under 220,000 metric tones.

Sam:                                      19:12                     Okay.

Charles:                                19:13                     Yeah. And it represents 2% to 3% of the tree nut or the tree nut family.

Sam:                                      19:24                     What do you mean the tree nut family them.

Charles:                                19:25                     Any nut that grows on the tree cashew included, peanutnut, walnut yeah.

Charles:                                19:32                     So it’s 2%, 3%. Okay. So the farm is Ivanka is $2. What are the main things that the processor is doing?

Charles:                                19:41                     The main thing is that because the farmers don’t have that technology to, to preserve macadamia at the farm level because macadamia is sensitive, you need to dehydrate.

Sam:                                      19:53                     Okay.

Charles:                                19:54                     To remove moisture from it. So the first of the first thing that we need to do is to remove the moisture. Most of the times that farmers will give their produce at 20 to 30% moisture content and the processor has to drive that down to 1.5.

Sam:                                      20:09                     And how do do that?

Charles:                                20:11                     They do it through dryers , there are dryers that are blowing out. I could be the first year with a fund years on boilers and all that to kind of expel the excess moisture in the nut to around 1.5.

Sam:                                      20:23                     But what happens then? So they’ve be en dried out. What’s the next step.

Charles:                                20:26                     Then? The next step is a cracking crack.

Sam:                                      20:30                     Cracking?

Charles:                                20:30                     Cracking. Yes. Cracking is now. Shelling, removing moving the shell.

Sam:                                      20:34                     Okay, so you drive them whilst they’re still in their shell.

Charles:                                20:36                     Yes. You dry while the’re still in shell.

Sam:                                      20:39                     I would’ve thought it makes sense to do it.

Charles :                               20:42                     No, no, no. It will change its biochemistry if you are to break it and then you’ll be roasting it and the roasting is the last stage.

Sam:                                      20:49                     Okay. I’m getting ahead of myself. Alright, so then you crack the shell.

Charles:                                20:54                     Yes. You crack the shell and then from there you start the grading process. Yes. Remember you have bought from everywhere, macadamia is graded according to sizes, they are like seven or so grades from stair zero to stair seven.

Sam:                                      21:13                     Okay.

Charles:                                21:13                     Yeah. Well that is Kenyan, but the other origins that have different classification for it.

Sam:                                      21:19                     And the basic thing they’re looking for is like size.

Charles:                                21:23                     Size is the basic premium size.

Sam:                                      21:26                     The bigger, the more expensive?

Charles:                                21:27                     The bigger, the more expensive.

Sam:                                      21:28                     Okay.

Charles:                                21:29                     Yeah.

Sam:                                      21:29                     So you get graded and then what happens? So then does that mean there’s like the all the grade seven going one bucket, all the grades…

Charles:                                21:36                     No. You see different customers require different sizes for different purposes. For instance, the small that pieces and all that may be required to go for the ingredients market. Well you want to make cakes using macadamia, you want to make cookies using macadamia as an ingredient?

Sam:                                      21:51                     Ingredients. Yes. Sorry. So they, yeah, they don’t care if it’s a really big executive, just what…

Charles:                                21:57                     You see now for the snacking sector of the market, you want to have that good appealing big nut.

Sam:                                      22:06                     And then they get roasted or was there…

Charles:                                22:08                     It gets roasted, salted and whatever people want to do with it up there.

Sam:                                      22:13                     This all happens in the same?

Charles:                                22:14                     No, it doesn’t happen basically in one factory because some of the buyers in the US would want to roast it near the end market so it will be sent to the US or the Europe in that intermediate form.

Sam:                                      22:26                     At which stage do they normally get sent off?

Charles:                                22:29                     At the kernel, we call it the kernel, kernel meaning you have removed the shell.

Sam:                                      22:36                     Okay.

Charles:                                22:36                     And you have graded based on size and then you can send it as such. Then it will go on the final step in the end market. We are by now the final value addition will be done.

Sam:                                      22:47                     Some so…

Charles:                                22:50                     But some are done here and that’s why you find their products in the supermarket, the finish products that you can, ready to eat.

Sam:                                      22:56                     Do you export to some countries when you have rest of it?

Charles:                                22:59                     Yes, there are some people who are sending their brands to Europe.

Sam:                                      23:04                     Okay.

Charles:                                23:04                     Yeah.

Sam:                                      23:05                     So that means that, so you, you basically said, you know, here it is. Did you package it for those European…

Charles:                                23:13                     Yes. You package for them. You will find them also in the airlines. You find British airways is using Kenyan macadamia product, go to Kenya airways, you’ll find they’re using Kenyan macadamia products.

Sam:                                      23:26                     But the branding is…

Charles:                                23:28                     Yes. The branding is, is a joint branding between the airline and the local company.

Sam:                                      23:33                     Yeah.

Charles:                                23:33                     Yeah.

Sam:                                      23:34                     Okay. There were four, there are now 27.

Charles:                                23:36                     27 players right now and counting.

Sam:                                      23:40                     And counting. Alright. Have you got some new ones?

Charles:                                23:42                     Well people get into the business every year. New people. We definitely have to get excited.

Sam:                                      23:48                     I mean, how attractive is it as a business, like what’s the sort of rough startup capital you’ll need? What are the sort of returns?

Charles:                                23:58                     I think that the major challenge to new entrants is what I can call “barrier to entry” because you have to buy the produce from farmers upfront.

Sam:                                      24:13                     Okay.

Charles:                                24:14                     You either have the cash or you don’t.

Sam:                                      24:16                     Yeah. And typically in order to make it, in order to do it properly, how many kilograms do you think you’re going to need to buy?

Charles :                               24:23                     I would say you will be sustainable, you’ll breakeven at around 300.

Sam:                                      24:29                     300 tons?

Charles:                                24:29                     300 tones.

Sam:                                      24:31                     Okay, so you need, you need to pay $600 of raw material if it’s 300?

Charles:                                24:36                     So what we’re saying is that you need 300 tons. The metric tons.

Sam:                                      24:40                     Tons not Not kilograms?

Charles:                                24:41                     No.

Sam:                                      24:42                     So three, so 300 times a thousand times two. Alright. So you need one that’s about 600 600 thousands?

Charles:                                24:50                     Yeah.

Sam:                                      24:50                     Six. Right? So in order to be valued…

Charles:                                24:52                     US dollars.

Sam:                                      24:54                     $600,000 dollars, that is what you call a barrier to entry. Yeah. Okay, so…

Charles:                                24:58                     You can see the figure is prohibitive.

Sam:                                      25:00                     Yes.

Charles:                                25:01                     Yeah.

Sam:                                      25:02                     And then how much would the equipment cost?

Charles:                                25:05                     Depending, you can go manual and crack with a ball pain hammer, which is now labour intensive again, that pushes the cost of labour high and they also, there is food handling and all that where you can go now for roller crackers that now are mechanical that you will now crack, crack bigger volumes at a time, you know, bigger batches at a time. It depends on the size that you’re buying, but I think at the processing point you will need to probably put $20,000.

Sam:                                      25:43                     Okay,

Charles:                                25:43                     $20,000. Maybe the infrastructure you need at the processes stage.

Sam:                                      25:49                     Okay.

Charles:                                25:49                     You will need to put down…

Sam:                                      25:50                     So looking at roughly $620,000 to get going, but what, what’s the upside? So how, let’s say you’ve got 300 tons, let’s say, so a kilogram costs $2 at the farm-gates. Once it’s processed, how much, how much might you be selling?

Charles:                                26:09                     You are starting to understand for you to process one kilo, you need 4 to 5 kilos.

Sam:                                      26:16                     Really, Oh there’s that much?

Charles:                                26:17                     Yes. There’s that difference because you see the shell is heavy also and you don’t need the shell. You need the inner.

Sam:                                      26:22                     Okay.

Charles:                                26:22                     Yeah. So it’s not kilo to kilo.

Sam:                                      26:25                     Okay.

Charles:                                26:25                     There’s a ratio between now the kernel you get that is now the consumable part and now the fruit, the farmer sales to the processor. And then remember you bought this macadamia at 20 to 30% moisture content. You’re going to dehydrate that to 1.5. So it’s not, as in corresponding, there are several processes that are here and that’s what I’m saying, a factor of four.

Sam:                                      26:52                     Okay, so…

Charles:                                26:53                     One to four.

Sam:                                      26:54                     So for every four kilograms of macadamia.

Charles:                                26:56                     In shells, in not form will yield.

Sam:                                      27:02                     Okay.

Charles:                                27:02                     Yes.

Sam:                                      27:03                     So when you say they need to buy 300 tons, they need to get 300 pounds…

Charles:                                27:07                     Divided by four.

Sam:                                      27:09                     Okay. So they’re going to end up with 75 tons making. So, okay. So how much does a kilogram of processed.

Charles:                                27:20                     It depends again on a good and a bad year, but I could put and again the grades that I could probably put per kilo at around $15.

Sam:                                      27:35                     Okay, so four to one. So basically you’re saying you need to pay roughly $8 at the farm-gate to gets $15. Okay. Is this what most companies, most procssors are doing? They’re basically playing the volume game.

Charles:                                27:52                     It’s a volume game. If you’ve seen the minimum is like 300 tones, what’s the maximum capacity that a processor has?

Charles:                                28:01                     The big processors are doing a 8,000,

Charles:                                28:05                     8,000 okay.

Charles:                                28:06                     8,000 metric tons. But then you will find that people who are doing 1000, 2000, 3000, 4,000, but the largest in Kenya is doing around 8,000.

Sam:                                      28:17                     You said that most of is going to exports.

Charles:                                28:21                     Yes, it’s 97%.

Sam:                                      28:24                     How’s that sort of like facilitated as in, is this, is this the sort of thing where you need to have trade ageements or is it? Buyer to buyer so to speak? As in, I’m there several buyers in the U S and commodity traders or brokers who are linking to the end users and supermarkets and such.

Sam:                                      28:48                     Okay. So it’s made me going through, it makes me a minute. So basically you’ve been treated as a commodity, so it’s going to say that…

Charles:                                28:56                     It goes as a commodity. So it’s not like distributed in different places. I see. So is that like the macadamia nut exchange? I’m sorry, is that like no,

Charles:                                29:05                     There’s no formal exchange like the coffee.

Sam:                                      29:08                     Okay. There’s not, there’s no auction.

Charles:                                29:10                     It’s not auction driven. What there is is that they are commodity brokers who collect and then sub end markets.

Sam:                                      29:18                     I see.

Charles:                                29:19                     Yeah. Or there are also directives to supermarkets. Big supermarkets that are, will go on value and even roasters, independent roasters who also will buy go and roast and then have their own, they’re a retail brands.

Sam:                                      29:32                     Okay.

Charles:                                29:32                     In the end markets.

Sam:                                      29:33                     Is it that the macadamia nut industry is still in its infancy and that one day it will get like an auction like there is with coffee and tea or is it that the dynamics are, or the characteristics different?

Charles :                               29:49                     I would say that maybe there would be an auction market for macadamia, but again, it must be voluminous for it to modify to be in an auction system.

Sam:                                      30:04                     Okay.

Charles:                                30:04                     It must also attract enough players for, you know, enough players to, for it to qualify to be at that stage. So it’s a volume and players kind of dynamics that are critical here.

Sam:                                      30:16                     Okay.

Charles:                                30:16                     And again, it depends, will it be necessary? What solution will it be solving because if the market to market, business to business model still works, then maybe the need for an independent auction system, is not necessary, because price discovery between major buyers and sellers, the interacting one on one and still they’re finding it comfortable because the price points they get is agreeable. So again, that may not make the auction necessary.

Sam:                                      30:50                     Yeah. Okay. So the fact that there is enough transparency in the market.

Charles:                                30:54                     Yes.

Sam:                                      30:54                     Doesn’t, doesn’t probably make it necessary. Okay. Interesting. And when you say things like the supermarket, so we’re talking about like a US supermarket.

Charles :                               31:06                     Yes, you’re talking of the Costco.

Sam:                                      31:08                     Okay. And so they will say they will be wanting to do Costco own brand Macadamias. So I’m trying to think. So if I own Costco I’m like, but I’m the head of Costco and I say, right, we need to get our own in brand macadamia nuts and I’ll, I’ll then say, right go out and find a broker, someone who can go and source them. That broker will be speaking directly with the macadamia nut processes in Kenya.

Charles:                                31:36                     Yes.

Sam:                                      31:37                     Understood, understood. And then they’ll say, okay, well these are the conditions we’re going to buy. We’ve been engaged in a contract, we’ll buy this many tons for the next 12 months and where does Nut pak play in that sort of interaction that’s happening.

Charles :                               31:53                     What happens? You see we are, what we can call, we’re also are trade facilitator.

Sam:                                      31:57                     Okay.

Charles:                                31:58                     Right. Because as the association that, our interest is to make the business environment, local and international conducive and supportive of the entrepreneurs and the processors to do business.

Sam:                                      32:13                     Yeah.

Charles:                                32:14                     Right. And we also are the voice of the Kenya macadamia, Kenya nuts family with other origins because others associations, there’s SAMAC of South Africa, there is AMS of Australia and other others in different countries. You see all of us now form the international macadamia symposium, which is our biannual meeting point to share best practices in terms of production and, especially majorly on production.

Sam:                                      32:53                     Okay.

Charles:                                32:53                     Then we have the annual meeting that is under the auspices of the international, nut council.

Sam:                                      33:00                     International nut council?

Charles:                                33:01                     Yes. That now is what we can call the market benchmark.

Sam:                                      33:05                     Yes.

Charles:                                33:06                     Whereby now the buyers and sellers and all, you know, meet annually, kind of to share their experiences, the love innovations their statistics.

Sam:                                      33:15                     Where do they meet?

Charles:                                33:17                     We meet in different capitals of the world.

Sam:                                      33:19                     Okay. Where was the last one?

Charles:                                33:21                     The last one was in the US. We met in the United States in Miami, Florida.

Sam:                                      33:26                     Miami, okay.

Charles:                                33:26                     Yeah.

Sam:                                      33:26                     International nut council. That sounds quite a fun organization.

Charles:                                33:29                     Yes. It’s a huge organization that is based in Spain, Barcelona.

Sam:                                      33:34                     Based in Spain, okay. And so that’s basically any nut people, anybody in the nut industry would want to attend.

Charles:                                33:43                     Wow! That is the mega, you know, the Mecca of the nuts industry, everybody wants to do, to do that.

Sam:                                      33:53                     Did you go?

Charles:                                33:53                     Yes, I was in there.

Sam:                                      33:54                     I mean, was there, is there any sort of rivalry between nuts, if you meet someone and they’re like I’m a macademia nut farmer, and they’re like Oh, and I do cashews or, or someone’s like, I’m wondering purely of like, are there certain nuts which are seen as more prestigious?

Charles:                                34:14                     Definately. Macadamia is more prestigious than all the other nuts, it’s called the King nut.

Sam:                                      34:18                     So in, so when someone meets and you say, I do macadamia nuts, Oh my gosh, I only do walnuts like you’re not.

Charles:                                34:24                     Not necessarily to that extent. Because you see when you talk all the walnuts and you talk almands, you know the dynamics of how they grow is different from macademia. So they are voluminous like produce a lot.

Sam:                                      34:38                     Yeah.

Charles:                                34:38                     So it’s not a question of which is superior than the other.

Sam:                                      34:43                     Okay.

Charles:                                34:44                     Not necessarily, so.

Charles:                                34:45                     Okay. Alright. And there’ll be various people who are giving talks about best practices. What I’m interested, what are some of the innovations that are happening in the macademia nuts industry?

Charles:                                34:56                     You see the major innovation and especially at the international nuts and dried fruit council is looking at nutrition research, is looking at different ways and cuisines that can take macadamia. How many other ways can we consume the nuts in general?

Sam:                                      35:18                     Okay.

Charles:                                35:18                     Right. Do we go heavy on snacks? Do we go heavy as ingredients in other food items? So it’s a question of the versatility of consuming these nuts in different forms in different homes, in terms of also demographics, how your children find there nuts more palatable. So that’s a research point, right? If you’re talking about nutrition challenged people, in what form is it pulpy, how do you give it to them and all that. Again, that’s a research point? We’re talking about now that people want to eat more nutritious foods, we want to run away from issues of heart attack from issues of cholesterol, you see you got, that’s a research point again because we’ll say macadamia is cholesterol free. So you see, you need to disseminate that research needs to be done. So most of the things is about doing research across the board. Innovations in terms of processing what are the new machines that are more efficient, more cost effective and all that, that require. So what I can say is that the conference around international nut council is around the innovations, production, marketing, consumption, data sharing, statistics, what’s the market outlook. So it’s quite dynamic it’s full of information that is across the industry, that makes you now more prepared to do business.

Sam:                                      36:56                     Got it.

Charles:                                36:56                     If you’ve got now to the international macadamia symposium, it is majorly now on the production side, the agronomical post-harvest management systems around it just to see how can we produce the best nuts. What is the research on the best yielding varieties, what’s the best research on crop husbandry, best practices in crop post-harvest management and all that pest management. You know, there’s all those issues around production. How do we optimize production. So that is majorly the symposium issue.

Sam:                                      37:31                     Very cool. Okay. Has one of the, the themes recently been this trend of people eating less meat and nuts being a good source of protein?

Charles :                               37:44                     That’s the thing we’re talking about, it’s substitute. They’re saying macadamia oils or macadamia nuts themselves, it has unique nutritional parameters that are better than animal proteins or animal fat or something. Right. But anyway, that is the progress now of the medical nutrition research people. Yes.

Sam:                                      38:07                     Okay. Alright, cool. Okay. Is there a, is there scope, do you think that if and more, you know, if supply was able to increase…

Charles :                               38:19                     If supply was able to increase and the farm-gate prices what to go down, then the end market shelf, supermarket shelf price or retail price would go down.

Sam:                                      38:30                     What do you recon is a realistic farm-gate price?

Charles :                               38:34                     We did a gross margin on macadamia production at farm level and it cannot go beyond 0.4 of a dollar, right?

Sam:                                      38:46                     So currently it’s at $2 and they weren’t able to go below…

Charles:                                38:49                     It’s good. Their production costs can not go above 0.4 of a dollar.

Sam:                                      38:54                     I don’t quite understand when you say the production costs.

Charles:                                38:55                     You’re talking of, you see production cost means all the investment you put in place before you harvest or before you sell.

Sam:                                      39:06                     Before you sell. Okay.

Charles:                                39:07                     And I’m saying it cannot in any way be more than 20% of the sale price.

Sam:                                      39:17                     When you say it cannot…

Charles:                                39:19                     Because we have done the gross margin analysis for the crop, what does it take for you to produce a kilo of macadamia, and we’re saying in Kenya for you to produce a kilo of macademia, your investment cannot go beyond 0.4 of a dollar.

Sam:                                      39:37                     Okay.

Charles:                                39:37                     Yes.

Sam:                                      39:39                     What are some of the ways in which macademia nuts are being eaten?

Charles :                               39:42                     It’s majorly, the major market for it is snacking, the way you get a snack on the way, but the growing one is macadamia being incorporated in other speciality foods.

Sam:                                      39:58                     Okay.

Charles:                                39:58                     Yes. As an ingredient. Yes. And that is now the growing area.

Sam:                                      40:02                     Cause what is it about macadamia nuts which makes them, what do they have which other nuts don’t have?

Charles:                                40:08                     One, they have a very nice taste profile. Probably that’s why you like eating them, they have a superior taste profile, they are crunchy very palatable. They have quite a good character around it. And then as I say, the nutritional analysis for it, they are one cholesterol free, they will give you, I don’t know how they, all the nutritional parameters, but you will see…

Sam:                                      40:35                     It’s very good.

Charles:                                40:36                     It’s very good. Yeah. It’s recommended as a healthy snack, especially for weight, choolesterol lowering and all that. So it has a good position in the nutritional matrix.

Sam:                                      40:50                     Okay. So we’ll just do a few more questions if that’s all right. What I’m interested in is, as you said, 10 years ago, you were an outsider. You didn’t, you didn’t really know much about the industry and now your here sort of the head of the industry body. What have been some of the biggest insights you’ve had along that journey?

Charles:                                41:13                     I think the thick of the insight is that it’s looking at the sustainability factor for an industry and for you to make an industry competitive, you got to understand the issues of the denominator.

Sam:                                      41:31                     Of?

Charles:                                41:31                     Denominator issues.

Sam:                                      41:33                     Okay.

Charles:                                41:33                     Understanding that you must protect denominator issues and then fight above or compete above the denomination and denominator issues means the fundamental issues that you need to sort out first.

Sam:                                      41:46                     Okay.

Charles:                                41:46                     You need to sort the issues of production. You must produce enough in terms of good quality. You must produce enough also in terms of good pricing points, right? You must produce through smart agriculture so that, you know, whatever you’re doing is in tandem with best practices for it. You must also work within an environment, create the conducive environment for you to be able to acquire the raw materials. Remember most of the processors here don’t have their own farms. So they are relying on the farmer. So they must do production support and that’s what I’m calling the denominator issues first. Then you compete when you have sorted the fundamental issues. If you start fighting below the fundamentals, you collapse the industry. Right? So to create competitiveness, the word competitiveness is very important. Competitiveness at farm level, let the farmer earn their due margin then let the processor earn he’s due margin and let the customer get the best value for the product they buy. Yeah. So that trajectory is what will create a stable industry. Then again, the learning point is about the collaboration with government. Government requires to understand that for an industry to thrive, you got to provide the right policies for it. And as I have said, I have seen the ban on exporting unprocessed macadamia in Kenya has accelerated the growth of the industry from four to 27 from 10,000 metric tons to 45,000 metric tons in a span of 10 years. That tells you the growth factor is good.

Sam:                                      43:38                     And I mean, and I guess that also means that rather than selling produce at $2 a kilogram and selling it at $15 a kilogram.

Charles:                                43:46                     That’s the thing, value extraction is high.

Sam:                                      43:48                     And that all the extra $13 is kept.

Charles:                                43:52                     It’s captured here, it’s retained in the country.

Sam:                                      43:54                     Yeah.

Charles:                                43:54                     So value addition is important in my view because they retain the value to the origin country’s high. Why would you want to export dollars and jobs?

Sam:                                      44:07                     I mean was, was there any backlash?

Charles:                                44:09                     There was a backlash because you see people will have their own vested interests around every issue, but you see the bigger picture or the bigger agenda will always prevail.

Sam:                                      44:19                     I was about to say how did you overcome it?

Charles:                                44:21                     We lobbied the minister responsible for, for agriculture to really understand what is this value capture that we are fighting for? Because what you’re saying is that can we keep as many jobs local? Can we earn as many dollars and bring them to the country? That’s foreign exchange and such. How do we do that? We do that by manufacturing. There’s no country that develops by exporting raw materials.

Sam:                                      44:52                     And what, what do you think is next for Nut Pak, in the next…

Charles:                                44:55                     The next thing is now to consolidate the industry further.

Sam:                                      44:58                     Okay. We say consolidate, what do you mean?

Charles:                                45:00                     Consolidating means that we are looking at the success factors and how those success factors hinge on making the entrepreneurs and processors more profitable.

Sam:                                      45:12                     Okay.

Charles:                                45:13                     Right. We are looking at how rather than having it fragmented is a question of how do we bring everything together so that everybody benefits from the synergies that accrue from joint effort.

Sam:                                      45:26                     What does that look like in practice?

Charles:                                45:28                     In practice. What we mean is that we are looking at what are the issues that we need to address. We need to have early warning systems around the crop. Will there be a crop failure and next year we need to have an early warning system around it. We need to understand what are the agronomical challenges facing our farmers and address those issues including extension. How do we go and disseminate best practices across our farmers, crop quality, how do we manage the crop quality across these diverse farmers, what are the programmings that we need to put in place to make sure that we consolidate and standardize production across many farmers so that we can have a crop that is as good as what you find in Australia, as good as you find in South Africa because all of it is competing in the same marketplace. Yes.

Sam:                                      46:23                     And that’s something which nut pak will probably…

Charles:                                46:25                     Yes. That is a cutout for the association to make sure that synergies are brought together and people are achieving the grand picture or the strategic picture together.

Sam:                                      46:42                     How does nut pak make money?

Charles:                                46:44                     The association gets its money from subscriptions.

Sam:                                      46:48                     Because of the 27 processors.

Charles:                                46:49                     They each pay based on the size.

Sam:                                      46:54                     Okay. So you’re basically saying based on your production?

Charles:                                46:57                     Based on the, not production, processing, the amount of nuts you process.

Sam:                                      47:03                     Okay.

Charles:                                47:03                     So we have a formula.

Sam:                                      47:05                     And now they’ll pay an annual fee.

Charles:                                47:06                     They pay us at an annual fee. Yes.

Sam:                                      47:09                     And so just to sort of finish up, you know, fit people who are looking to learn more about what, nut pak does or looking to perhaps you know, buy some very nuts, buy nuts that grown in Kenya. What are some of the best ways that people can learn and learn more about what it is that you do and perhaps get in touch with some, some other producers?

Charles:                                47:28                     I think what do is that we have our learning platforms especially at the farm level. We do a lot of field days to educate farmers on the emerging best practices and giving them my expectations as processors on what we required them to do so they can produce the right quality material. We also disseminate the research, the new research that we get from our international partners that are doing macadamia and such. We also lobby and educate government, especially the county governments to really understand the position of the crop and how it can change and impact the lives of the common person, especially the farmers in the radius. As we have said, it’s one of the most lucrative crops on our farms. That means it’s an engine that can be very formidable in poverty eradication and such. So more resources needs to be put there naturally if something has the potential to change the lives of people. But you see that comes from awareness. We need to disseminate this picture, quote to the value proposition across to the counties so that they can see the value of the crop also. And then again to kind of support the environment around processing lobbying issues on energy, costs of power, cost of doing business across a country, licensing law that, you know, we will get involved where we feel that it’s adverserial to doing business.

Sam:                                      49:09                     And people who are listening at home, how can they learn more about some of these things, is there…

Charles:                                49:14                     We have radio programs that we do with vernacular radios that disseminate our information.

Sam:                                      49:19                     You have radio programs?

Charles:                                49:20                     Yes. Yeah.

Sam:                                      49:23                     You’ll go on the radio and talk about?

Charles:                                49:25                     Yes, we gone radio, we do announcements based on when we expect the crop to be ready and all that.

Sam:                                      49:31                     Okay.

Charles:                                49:31                     So we do announcement to say where we have some educational platforms, you know in collaboration with key stake holders. So the messaging to farmers. We also use mobile phone, a s ystem whereby we disseminate now SMSs based on different parameters or different information points that we feel are necessary to farmers.

Sam:                                      49:53                     And if people want, if people want to buy macadamia nuts in Kenya, what’s the best way for them to do that?

Charles:                                49:59                     The international buyers?

Sam:                                      50:00                     Yeah.

Charles:                                50:01                     The international buyers, as I said, we have a platform for the international nut council where the buyers and sellers mingle make their deals.

Sam:                                      50:10                     Okay.

Charles:                                50:11                     So yeah.

Sam:                                      50:12                     Fantastic. Very good. Cool. Well Charles, thanks so much.

Charles:                                50:14                     Thank you Sam, excellent.


(Chia) Seed Investors: the surprising story of how chia seeds came to be grown in Africa


In this episode, I speak with Sabina Karumba about how she and her husband started Chia Africa.

Most businesses have an interesting formation story, though this one is one of the best I’ve heard in a while.

Sabina and her husband were watching TV one evening in 2012 when a doctor came on the show and explained the health benefits of chia seeds.

Compelled to learn more they undertake research and a few months later are planting their own chia plants in Western Uganda.

This is the first commercial plantation of chia seeds on the continent, and after going around with samples of what they grew they both quit their day jobs and go full time on the business.

A few years later and they are the premier producer in the region, trying to keep up with demand despite other people entering the market too.

Sabina and I talk about lots of interesting things such as how chia seeds should only be grown within 5 degrees of the equator, the genesis of becoming Africa’s first chia seed producers (despite never having farmed), and keeping up with the demand for the superfood.

One thing which Sabina downplays, but I thought was particularly impressive is her attitude to sales.

Two of the biggest breaks for the company came with being listed by a major supermarket, and then one of the region’s largest distributors.

In both cases, she just turned up unannounced at their offices, asked to see the owner and after sitting down with them, sold them on making big orders for Chia Africa in just one meeting.

The reason I think is that Sabina is clearly incredibly passionate about the power of chia seeds, and believes everyone should have them in their diet.

Her pitch is pretty simple: it has amazing health benefits that can change people’s lives,  people just don’t know about it yet, make sure you have some in stock.


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Pictures from the farm

Preparing to plant the chia seeds
Preparing to plant the chia seeds
Chia plants growing in Western Uganda
Chia plants growing in Western Uganda
Scouting for places on the Chia Africa chia seed farm
Scouting for places on the Chia Africa chia seed farm
Chia Africa's Dr Chia range
Chia Africa’s Dr Chia range

Social Media Links




Sam:                                      00:00:00               Intro.

Sam:                                      00:03:37               Cool. So we’re here today with Sabina from Chia Africa, Sabina welcome to the show. So just to get started, could you tell us a bit about you and a bit about Chia Africa.

Sabina:                                 00:03:48               Thank you so much Sam, as you’ve heard, my name is Sabina Wanjiru Karumba, I am a Kenyan. We do run Chia Africa with my husband who’s also my business partner. His name is David Kisembo and he’s based in Uganda. Chia Africa is registered in Kenya with offices in Kenya, but our farmlands are in Uganda. That’s where we do our farming since the 2012, that’s when we started, or that’s when we first heard about chia seeds. Amazingly, we heard about chia seeds from one program on TV called the 700 Club. There’s a gentleman who had been brought in, who is a medical doctor who was talking about chia seeds, and we were like, what wonder seed is this? We were so excited and were like, let’s find out more about this seed, what this seed is all about because it was so amazing. Whatever they talked about the chia seeds, it was so amazing, it was something like everybody must know about. So our journey began and the research began. Initially, we were calling it chai. Chai in Swahili or in East Africa is tea, that is tea. And we were like, we’re looking for this chai, chai, but we couldn’t find the chai.

Sam:                                      00:05:14               Looking for tea?

Sabina:                                 00:05:14               Yes. Yes. So we had to replay The 700 Club once again, and then we released it is chia.

Sam:                                      00:05:20               Okay. So a TV program?

Sabina:                                 00:05:23               Yes, The 700 Club.

Sam:                                      00:05:23               Why is it called the 700 club?

Sabina:                                 00:05:26               It has its membership probably, I believe its membership. They started with a membership of about 700 people who were supporting, it’s a Christian program.

Sam:                                      00:05:35               Okay.

Sabina:                                 00:05:35               With somebody called Pat Robertson, yes.

Sam:                                      00:05:38               Okay. It’s a Tv program and Pat, he invites some guests?

Sabina:                                 00:05:44               Yes. They do talk about politics, they do talk about health, they do talk about business so amazingly on this particular day, besides the normal question they do and all that, they also discussed about the health, human health.

Sam:                                      00:05:57               What was the medical doctor, what was he saying about chia seeds?

Sabina:                                 00:06:01               He was talking about how amazing this chia seed is and what it does? What it is able to give the body from very small quantities of what you consume? The minerals in it, the vitamins, the proteins, the omega 3 in it. We were like from that one tablespoon or 20 grams that you consume in a day, and you’re able to get all this, it was amazing. Yeah.

Sam:                                      00:06:22               Wow. Okay. So this is in 2012?

Sabina:                                 00:06:27               That was in 2010.

Sam:                                      00:06:28               And how long was it before you realized it was called chia and not chai?

Sabina:                                 00:06:31               Amazingly, at around that time, we were, me and my husband were discussing about career change and all that. He’s a mechanical engineer by profession. I am an accountant by profession. But we wanted to venture into something that we would be able to do and work on together? So actually at that time, we were thinking about the agribusiness and amazingly, this important information comes to us so immediately we didn’t take long. We started finding out what this chia seed is, so we went like three, four days. We were not able to find out what this chia seed is because we’re looking for chai and we’re like, the chai we know is the normal chai I take every morning. It has never given me, yes, of course, it has benefited me, but it hasn’t even given me these amazing benefits as what I heard from the 700 club, so eventually were able to find out that it is not chai, it is chia and the research went on and barely a month after that we’re able to even get contacts of some Americans who had come to East Africa. They had done a bit of groundwork, some research to try and find out if they can introduce this seed to the East African region.

Sam:                                      00:07:42               Okay.

Sabina:                                 00:07:42               Yes.

Sam:                                      00:07:44               And what did they say?

Sabina:                                 00:07:44               They had just engaged the first group of farmers, of which sometimes because of probably the education background and all that, people up country in rural areas, they find it difficult to embrace new crops that they don’t understand about.

Sam:                                      00:08:02               Yes.

Sabina:                                 00:08:02               But amazingly because we had already heard about it and when we looked around and were able to talk to them, actually we talked to them, we were in Nairobi, they were somewhere in a place called Masinde, that is West of Uganda. They were there at that particular moment, this the same place that my husband, area. That’s exactly where he was born.

Sam:                                      00:08:19               Really?

Sabina:                                 00:08:19               Yes. So it was very easy for them to understand and to, for us to integrate and they were also excited because they were like, no, we’ve gotten people who are willing to, understand this whole project that we are getting into. Yeah.

Sam:                                      00:08:34               Cool. Okay. Wow. So I mean there’s lots to sort of talk about but I think, sort of, let’s keep on the supply side of the business.

Sabina:                                 00:08:42               Yes.

Sam:                                      00:08:43               What does it, what does the chia plant, is it chia plant, chia seed from chia plant?

Sabina:                                 00:08:48               Yes, the chia seed comes from the chia plant, and, okay, chia seeds, it’s generally South American, basically Mexico, but its scientific name is salvia Hispanica.

Sam:                                      00:09:03               Salvia Hispanica?

Sabina:                                 00:09:03               Yes, that’s the scientific name.

Sam:                                      00:09:05               Okay.

Sabina:                                 00:09:05               But the common name, which is known everywhere, and it’s embraced, if you go to North America, go to South America, go to Europe. It’s been called chia, come to Africa, we’re calling it chia and not chai anymore.

Sam:                                      00:09:15               Yeah.

Sabina:                                 00:09:15               Yeah, exactly.

Sam:                                      00:09:17               Okay. What does chia, what does a salvia Hispanica plant look like?

Sabina:                                 00:09:21               It’s just a plant that grows that with, let’s say not very big leaves, medium-sized leaves, which grows to about two to three meters in height.

Sam:                                      00:09:35               That’s quite tall.

Sabina:                                 00:09:35               Yes, yes, yes. And you achieve that if you having good weather, the soils are good, but if your weather is not good, the rains are not coming well, it will flower, even when it is like even one foot high, which is not good. Yes, it will flower, but if you put that in the labs, you are going to find that the nutritional content is very low. But in good environment, actually it can go even as high as a three meters.

Sam:                                      00:09:59               Okay.

Sabina:                                 00:09:59               Yeah.

Sam:                                      00:10:00               Cool. And how long does it take to grow to three meters?

Sabina:                                 00:10:02               It takes about three to four months on the higher side, four months. If you have some delay in the rains because we are using rain feder, it’s rain farming that we are doing, if you have a bit of delays, within four months, at most four months, you will have harvested. But if there’s no delay with the rains, even three and a half months. You’ll do your havesting.

Sam:                                      00:10:23               And can you do all year round or does it have to be, so can you do, if it’s four months, can you do three cycles a year?

Sabina:                                 00:10:34               Okay. First, let me take you a little bit back on the good conditions for the growth and germination of the chia seed. Basically the seed, the reason why it has gotten this high popularity, It is because of its nutritional content. It also has to be in an optimal area, where it can develop or manufacture these particular nutrients that you’re looking after and basically it needs about five degrees within the Equator, North or South of equator. Exactly.

Sam:                                      00:11:07               Really?

Sabina:                                 00:11:07               Exactly.

Sam:                                      00:11:07               Not very many places are conducive?

Sabina:                                 00:11:09               And that is why you see, it’s around the Mexico area. The South America. That is where it does very well and that is why the group of first people who came to invest here, they came from North America and they came in the region of East Africa, reason why, East Africa generally lies between five degrees, North and South of Equator. That’s where you get the optimal.

Sam:                                      00:11:34               Yeah.

Sabina:                                 00:11:34               Exactly. So if you come here, you will find that even within the Equator, there’s Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, we are lying within the Equator, but in some regions, the rainfalls, they vary, for any seed basically to germinate, it needs some moderate reasonable amount of rainfall. Some regions they do get rainfall like twice, two good seasons in a year, although in as much as we’re falling within the Equator, so where we are farming it in Uganda, we are able to do it comfortably. We can do it twice. Although there’s another short season in the month of June, July in Masinde, but it’s quite unreliable. So basically we do opt to do it between February and then we harvest by end of April, May, latest by June. And then the next season we start it in October and we do our harvesting by December, January.

Sam:                                      00:12:25               Got it.

Sabina:                                 00:12:26               Yes. So two seasons in a year comfortably. Although when the rains are sufficient, we can do three seasons. Yeah.

Sam:                                      00:12:34               If you could irrigate, could you definitely do three seasons?

Sabina:                                 00:12:38               You can do it all around. If you can do irrigation, you can do it all around because the sunshine within the Equator is more or less consistent throughout the whole year.

Sam:                                      00:12:49               Yeah.

Sabina:                                 00:12:50               Yes. Yeah. Now, unfortunately, the part that comes with farming chia, the productivity per acre. If you look at the product, the yields are not as high because when the rains are good under optimal weather, you get about 400 Kgs, 400 kilos per acre.

Sam:                                      00:13:08               Yeah.

Sabina:                                 00:13:09               People who do maize farming, that is corn. They’re able to do like 40 bags of a hundred that is like a 40 bags. You’re doing here four bags of chia, with the maize, you’re doing 40, you’re doing 10 times.

Sam:                                      00:13:26               I see.

Sabina:                                 00:13:26               Yeah. So, because the seed is equally very, very small. You have a look at it, it’s a very, very tiny seed. So the productivity is low. So what does it tell you? You need a very high acreage for you to be able to produce a lot. Likewise, when you do irrigation it means you’ll be irrigating a very vast area and investment on that will equally be very high.

Sam:                                      00:13:52               If the potential for it to yield, if it had a greater potential to have high yields, it would make more economical sense to do irrigation.

Sabina:                                 00:14:00               To do irrigation.

Sam:                                      00:14:01               So at the moment, it’s not quite a good investment?

Sabina:                                 00:14:04               Unless, let’s say, because for me I can say we as Chia Africa, we’ve had so many enquiries, especially from Europe. Europe is a very big consumer of the East African products. Like for Kenya we are doing a lot of horticulture and if you look at the flowers which are being done now in Europe, like almost I think four out of ten roses in Europe are from Kenya, actually basically in Kenya. So Europe is a good market for the East African agri-products. We’ve been having enquiries here and there and very, very positive, because we do send small quantities as they’re developing also their markets because they also need consistency, but I do believe in a very short time sooner than later because we are having very advanced discussions with quite a number of big time suppliers with some huge supply chains in Europe, we should be able to get to a point where we can say. We are not willing to invest so much into irrigation to harbour an all year round production.

Sam:                                      00:15:04               That’s very interesting so at the moment is Chia Africa exporting?

Sabina:                                 00:15:08               We do export. We do export small quantities. We’ve sent to Germany, we’ve sent to our clients who were still based in Nairobi, but has clients in Europe, but It’s a US company based here. They do oil, crude oil-pressing.

Sam:                                      00:15:25               Cool.

Sabina:                                 00:15:26               Yes.

Sam:                                      00:15:29               Are you selling it to them packaged in your packaging or are you selling it just as a commodity?

Sabina:                                 00:15:35               It depends on the preference of the customer. There are those who are ok with our packaging. There are those, because of also the regulations within their area, they need to have different kinds of packages and also language barriers. Like for clients who are coming from Arabic regions, we do translate our stickers and everything, even our own, the same, same branding, but we do translate it into their, into the commonly used language wherever they’re coming in, they’re coming from. Yes. And for that who are not willing to, to do, they want to develop their own brand because sometimes it’s also wise to develop your own brand. Yes. For those who are willing to develop their own brand, we do get them in bulk.

Sam:                                      00:16:16               Yeah.

Sabina:                                 00:16:16               Yes.

Sam:                                      00:16:17               I see. Is chia seeds, is there any real difference in chia seeds that are grown here versus in Mexico versus growing elsewhere or, like can you say that yours is a high one, chia seeds is a high quality than another? Or is it just really about the packaging or like that? Or the method of delivery?

Sabina:                                 00:16:44               Let me say this, the reason why I took you back to the optimal regions for growing the chia seed and why chia seed is becoming so popular. It is because of the nutritional content. They’ve said within the equator and it has been researched and they are these information out there, researched information about the most optimal area. Reason why actually when you do plant it within the five degrees North and South of the equator. You do get the nutritional levels being very, very high. It doesn’t mean pride elsewhere and that’s why I was saying the first group who introduced the chia farming here generally, basically in East Africa. They had come from the US. They had done a bit of research here and there and they, they had understood that if we do it. Within the Equateur you’re going to have the optimal, if you do it in other areas, they’re still going to get the chia seeds, but the nutritional levels, especially things like the Omega three it hasn’t been confirmed, the levels were very, very low. When the Americans came here, they did a comparison of the chia, the first habits we had with the chia seed in Masinde and generally in Uganda area, they compared to what they got from Mexico, I’m proud to say it came out six times better.

Sam:                                      00:18:00               Six times…

Sabina:                                 00:18:02               It was amazing. Yes, exactly. And then I knew you would ask me again, why do you want to do it in Uganda? We’re based here in Kenya. There’s a reason for that. If you look at the history Uganda, let’s go to the history of Uganda, there was a lot of civil unrest after they got their independence. So as a result, people never got to settle and do the farming as such. So their land was not very much over utilized. In Kenya, we’ve had basically and we thanks God for that. We’ve really enjoyed civil stability, especially after independence. That is in the early sixties. We’ve had stability, political stability, whereby, people able to do their farming, they all that and all that. So as a result, spaces here, have been quite over utilized. And again, if you look at the percentage of arable land in Kenya compared to that in Uganda, Uganda is a much smaller country than Kenya, but you can say 34% of the land in Uganda is arable. That’s quite a good percentage as opposed to here in Kenya we have a very, way much smaller percentage which is arable, so there are soils not over utilized. Secondly, most of the area you can do your farming, so it becomes quite an optimal place for us to do the farming.

Sam:                                      00:19:21               Ok, and also your husband is from there.

Sabina:                                 00:19:25               He’s there so it makes it even more convenient. Yeah.

Sam:                                      00:19:29               So talk me through how it works, so you watched the 700 club in 2012.

Sabina:                                 00:19:33               Yes.

Sam:                                      00:19:34               You had the conversation with the Americans a month, two months later?

Sabina:                                 00:19:38               In fact, barely a month after that.

Sam:                                      00:19:41               And how long was it before you were planting your first chia plant?

Sabina:                                 00:19:44               In 2012 October.

Sam:                                      00:19:49               October of 2012?

Sabina:                                 00:19:50               October of 2012, we did our first trials. We had never farmed before.

Sam:                                      00:19:54               Oh.

Sabina:                                 00:19:57               We didn’t, actually even at that time, I was still employed somewhere, doing accounts for somebody. My husband was still doing he’s a technical things.

Sam:                                      00:20:06               Yeah.

Sabina:                                 00:20:07               There we go to the farm. We now think we’re equipped with all the knowledge that we need to do the farming. And we failed miserably the first time we did it. We harvested so little. But thank God, the little that we had enabled us to do the, at least the lab analysis and it gave us encouragement. Yeah. And besides we also knew now if we do it better and at the right time we’re going to get the yields that we expected, so the next season, there we were, we went full board and we also began to also try and sensitize it because the whites, the Americans, the Western world, they are aware, they were aware of what chia seeds were, they were beginning, a high population was aware of what chia seeds were. Here locally, you would talk of chia seeds and they would be like, what is that you’re talking about?

Sam:                                      00:20:50               Yes.

Sabina:                                 00:20:51               So just to impact on making people understand what chia seed is and all that. Because we were fully convinced this something that should be in everybody’s diet on a daily basis.

Sam:                                      00:21:00               Yeah.

Sabina:                                 00:21:00               Yeah.

Sam:                                      00:21:01               Okay. And how much work is needed, is necessary on the farm? Do you have to engage with some of the population?

Sabina:                                 00:21:10               It is a lot of work. The first time we did, we did, we started with 30 acres, you know we were like no, this is the right thing to do…

Sam:                                      00:21:17               How did you get 30 acres?

Sabina:                                 00:21:17               In Uganda as I’m telling you, they are still having huge chunks of land. It’s possible to even get a hundred acres of land consolidated so you can run a farm of up to a hundred acres. Because what happens in Uganda with most of it being fertile, you’ll find people, even with two acres, they’re able to produce their own food sufficient for the family. So there’s also quite a lot of land laying up there. Still not being utilized. Yes. It makes it easier to be able to acquire that land.

Sam:                                      00:21:42               And the fact that you’re husband is Ugandan, that means you can, did you own the land or do you leas the land?

Sabina:                                 00:21:47               They do have land, fortunately, in his family, the grandfather had invested in a very huge piece of land because we have like 400 acres of land.

Sam:                                      00:21:56               Wow.

Sabina:                                 00:21:56               Yes, yes. So with 400 acres of land, there’s part of that land that has never been ploughed completely. So 30 acres ia a drop in the ocean, considering what is within the exposure.

Sam:                                      00:22:09               So you do that and then who, how many people could you have to sort of cultivate that?

Sabina:                                 00:22:16               We did mechanical farming, ploughing. There are certain things you just, we’ve got a tractor. We also had to do a lot of bush clearing. That entails a lot of work. It’s a lot of work. Then we did a plan. We got a tractor, two, three days, it does the ploughing. Yes. And the disking, that we do it mechanically, but now when it comes to the planting, we had a planter, we had acquired one planter from China. Yes, a planter, a simple handheld planter.

Sam:                                      00:22:49               Its a machine?

Sabina:                                 00:22:50               Yes. Yes. A planter because we’re looking at it and we’re saying, you know to do 30 acres, when are we ever going to finish this. Yes. we said, okay, let’s get a planter. So we had gotten a planter, which unfortunately didn’t work.

Sam:                                      00:23:07               Your husband being an engineer, he couldn’t fix it?

Sabina:                                 00:23:09               You know you fix it, these other part falls off tomorrow. So we gave up on that and we had done I think like at most four, five acres with the planter.

Sam:                                      00:23:19               Yeah.

Sabina:                                 00:23:19               And it wasn’t as effective as we had been made to believe it would be. We’d drop a seed here, the next one will be dropped there. So he had to go back again and… Exactly, yes. Yeah. And then after that it would drop a whole half a kg in one place. But we said it’s a learning experience and we were ready for it. We had, it was an exciting journey for us, we’re looking at the future, more of the future. So at that point we got people, a whole group of people, a whole village, just gather the whole village.

Sam:                                      00:23:59               You call like a village meeting?

Sabina:                                 00:24:01               That’s how they work, yes. That’s how they work. Actually they work in groups.

Sam:                                      00:24:05               Yeah.

Sabina:                                 00:24:05               Yeah.

Sam:                                      00:24:05               And you said like 50 people?

Sabina:                                 00:24:07               Yes. We’ve got about a group of about 50 people and in like two or three days, we had done it.

Sam:                                      00:24:13               So did you have to pay them?

Sabina:                                 00:24:16               You negotiate in their groups. You know they come like a group of 50 people, but they’re not in one grouping. They have a leader, actually, they have someone who negotiates on their behalf because you see some of them, they’re not educated, they’re having so many challenges. So they prefer working in groups. They have like a chairman who comes and negotiates on their behalf. So for an acre they charge about Ugandan shillings, that’s about thirty thousand Ugandan shillings, which is about 3000, which is about $30, 30 US dollars.

Sam:                                      00:24:45               $30 per acre?

Sabina:                                 00:24:51               Per acre, yeah.

Sam:                                      00:24:52               And then once they’re planted the seeds…

Sabina:                                 00:24:54               Yes.

Sam:                                      00:24:56               Does there need to be continual watering?

Sabina:                                 00:24:58               No, good thing here now, we now, depend on their rain fed. We do rain fed.

Sam:                                      00:25:05               So once it’s planted?

Sabina:                                 00:25:05               Yes.

Sam:                                      00:25:05               Is there much more work to be done.

Sabina:                                 00:25:07               There’s a lot of work.

Sam:                                      00:25:08               Okay.

Sabina:                                 00:25:09               The other major and challenging thing that comes on board, actually it is the weeding part and the weeding actually you cannot even do it mechanically, because you’re going to mess up a lot of your crops. So that one also has to be done manually. Yeah.

Sam:                                      00:25:23               Okay.

Sabina:                                 00:25:23               Yeah. Again, bringing the whole village, in groups, for about another one week and they’re able to do it, manually.

Sam:                                      00:25:31               Yeah.

Sabina:                                 00:25:31               Yeah.

Sam:                                      00:25:32               Okay. And then, so that was sort of when you started, what does the operation look like now? Are you still at 30 acres?

Sabina:                                 00:25:39               Initially when we started, we did the 30 acres and from the experience we had we realized we can do even much more. And again, at that point we had done a lot of sensitization. We did a lot of, especially here in Nairobi and in Kenya, let’s say in Kenya because people are more exposed, there is more exposure here, the Kenyan market embraced the chia seed quite well, and quite fast. We did not even have first to go to the export market because we were still having challenges of volumes, we could not do the volumes. So for the Kenyan market, once it accepted we are able now to feel like we can project, we can do this number of acres. So the first time we did the 30 acres, we did at the wrong time because we had never farmed before we, we did plant when it was slightly late. Remember, we’re depending on rain-fed water, we did it a bit late, so our yields, were a bit, In fact, they were just very low, let’s be very honest, they were very low, so next season we got very ready for it. We did partner with somebody else who was also willing to come on board because we wanted also, remember we were having the challenges of building a market and also production. We got a partner, based in Uganda full time, to manage the operations of the farm and here we did the marketing and sensitization. Yes. And it worked quite well.

Sam:                                      00:27:02               How did you find that partner?

Sabina:                                 00:27:05               He was among the first few people who were also in touch with the first, with the Americans who came with the first seed. Yes. So when people started getting, feeling like, this is something I don’t want to do, these things, you know, because chia seed, unfortunately for up country, I don’t know whether you’ve been to any of these up country areas of East Africa or Kenya for that purpose. Basically, they depend on their farms. Whatever they produce on the farm, that’s what they sell. If they’re not able to tell it, they can feed their kids on it. Chia seed, you cannot cook this and give it to your kids.

Sam:                                      00:27:37               Yeah.

Sabina:                                 00:27:37               So they felt, Okay, this is too risky business, we are not going to do it, let them do it. Once they succeed, we’ll come on board. So we, the few of us who are courageous to continue with it. We did. That lady was among them so we went again did farming. This time, we put in a hundred acres, did the ploughing at the right time, just on season, as the season was starting, we did it and it went very well until harvest time. Yes. Chia seed is not like any other crop, you see like when we plant, when we do farm, let’s say like maize because that’s basically the main thing which is being farmed around here in East Africa, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and it happens that it is raining during the last one week when we were anticipating to harvest. What you do, You don’t remove your crop on the farm. You just leave it until the sun comes out and then leave it there for about a week. It’ll dry up and you’ll be able to harvest it and it will be okay. Dried. It’s okay. Chia seed, once it comes into contact with water, It forms a gel.

Sam:                                      00:28:36               Yes.

Sabina:                                 00:28:36               It can not separate. Now, unfortunately, We just watched helplessly as it rained. The rains, It became a havoc in 2013. There were so much rains in East Africa, so much, actually it even brought down a few buildings here.

Sam:                                      00:28:50               Yeah.

Sabina:                                 00:28:51               Unfortunately it was harvest time. There’s nothing we could do. We cannot remove it. It’s not yet fully matured. It needed about a week and within that week it decides to rain and rain heavily, we just lost chia worth like 30,000 40,000 tons, metric tones.

Sam:                                      00:29:07               Just from that rain?

Sabina:                                 00:29:10               Yes, and that became another learning lesson for us. Now what we’ve done since then, we’ve still expanded our operations, but we’ve tried to see how we can reduce our risk. I’d rather lose 5 acres instead of losing a hundred acres. You’d also rather lose 5 acres instead of you, you lose a hundred I lose a hundred, another person also loses a hundred so what have we done? We’ve gotten farmers to come and invest. We’ve provided the land because the land is available, we still have about a hundred to a hundred and fifty acres available for chia farming. We bring farmers on board, we give them the seed, we facilitate them whenever they do not have finances because somebody made to come buy the seed, put it on the ground. But when it comes to the weeding point, this person doesn’t have the finances. We don’t just let the crop get, go to waste. We facilitate them to do the weeding then eventually, at the end of the harvest, we all come and sit down, I facilitated you with this and this and this, and we are going to buy this chia, in as much as we’ve given you the land, we facilitated you. We’re still going to buy it from you at this cost. Why? We’re trying to spread their risk. Yeah. And it’s beneficial for everyone because even the people now, the farmers who are not willing to come into cheer for me, they’ve seen us lose a hundred acres and they’re like these people are still going back. What is it about it?

Sam:                                      00:30:35               Yeah.

Sabina:                                 00:30:35               And again, now with the consumption of chia and the benefits they get out of it. They’re like, okay, I think it is still worth doing the chia seed. If you give somebody two acres, they’re able to manage two acres because with two acres they can do it. Even within the family members, the husband with their kids, they can manage two or three acres. So it means they’re the cost of input is reduced and then when they harvest, and able to get money or when they do not have any money for their school fees and we are facilitating them with the school fees, for us to be able to recover it when we harvest, we’re okay.

Sam:                                      00:31:05               Very good, so that’s sort of the main supply side of the business, you’ve got these sort of different farmers who are coming in and using the land.

Sabina:                                 00:31:18               Yes.

Sam:                                      00:31:25               Talk to me a bit about the demand side. So you’re saying that even if Kenya picked up quite fast, chia seeds are not something that’s really on many people’s radar. Even a few years ago. How have you seen the demand for chia seeds? What’s the story of the market of chia seeds in East Africa?

Sabina:                                 00:31:35               Okay when we started sensitizing, I would talk of chia seeds, even people would not listen to me, they would wonder now what is this person just wants to sell me the things? There are so many things that we keep hearing about health foods and all that and at that time actually the first harvest that we did, the majority of that went into sampling. The first 30 acres we did and we harvested so little. We decided fine, we’re going to take the full loss of this, but whatever we’ve harvested, we are going to use this as our Sampling, we give samples, actually, we give out a lot of samples. But thank God, chia seed is a very effective seed because in a short period as three days, you’re able to feel a difference in your body. So we were like so certain it is not a loss. We’re investing for the long term, not for them for the short term, but we knew in the long term, it was going to pay off because everybody who would use chia seeds, after three days would come back and tell us, my joint pains. I can tell you there’s a very big difference, I’m feeling much better. After a month, someone with arthritis will come and tell, you know me, I’m just a different person.

Sam:                                      00:32:41               It cures arthritis?

Sabina:                                 00:32:41               It does take care of arthritis very effectively, actually for somebody with arthritis, severe arthritis, after one week they tell you there’s a remarkable difference in the way they’re feeling.

Sam:                                      00:32:52               Wow.

Sabina:                                 00:32:52               Yeah. And actually even medical doctors, they’re now even telling people go and find chia seeds. At that time, these people, they don’t even know whether it is a plant, it is an animal, but they all go looking for chia because it is something which has been proven and now, good thing there is a lot of researched information on the effectiveness of chia seeds.

Sam:                                      00:33:11               So who, who are the main people who are buying chia seeds?

Sabina:                                 00:33:15               Initially when we started basically the people with arthritis.

Sam:                                      00:33:21               So it’s mainly medicinal. Like people…

Sabina:                                 00:33:24               It has nutrients… Okay, let us address what is disease. Disease is, it comes as a result of the body lacking vital nutrients. So the moment the body gets the vital nutrients that it is required and in correct quantities, the body will feel eased, it will be okay.

Sam:                                      00:33:40               Yeah.

Sabina:                                 00:33:41               Yeah, exactly. And because chia seed does that, it provides the nutrients that are needed in the body. It makes the body feel like, now I was unwell, now I am well.

Sam:                                      00:33:50               Okay. And if you, do you like segment your customers or do you say, you know, we’ve got these, this type of customer, we’ve got this type of customer, that probably I think that the people who have got ailments, you’ve got the people who just want to be a bit healthier. We’ve got the mum’s who give it to their kids every day. Did you, do you sort of have different types of customers that you can talk about?

Sabina:                                 00:34:15               Initially when we started, we basically were going for people who are having conditions, so they wanted relief on.

Sam:                                      00:34:22               How did you find them?

Sabina:                                 00:34:24               We used to have conferences. We used to have like a workshop. We’d hear there’s a workshop going on, we would register for those workshops. We would go there, talk about it, like whatever it is that I do attend…

Sam:                                      00:34:36               When you say workshops, you mean like?

Sabina:                                 00:34:36               We do have organizations that do organize workshops, like women’s organizations. We have agricultural organizations that do organize workshops from time to time.

Sam:                                      00:34:50               What are they, like what’s a typical workshop? What might it be about?

Sabina:                                 00:34:51               It depends, us, we would go for any, because at the end of the day, it is their awareness that we want to create. Maybe there’s a women’s conference, we’re there, there’s an agribusiness discussion going on, business investment, we are there because this one will fall under business investment, under health. Anything, any workshop that they’ll allow us to go and have a discussion, we would go and talk about it. And as a result we’re able to reach out on so many people and in those workshops would give away actual samples. Yeah.

Sam:                                      00:35:18               And you’d say, so the first day you go, wherever it was you know, people have got ailments…

Sabina:                                 00:35:25               Exactly, yeah.

Sam:                                      00:35:26               You’d give them samples to try out?

Sabina:                                 00:35:30               Exactly.

Sam:                                      00:35:30               Yeah. Then how would people buy, if people had wanted to come back and buy them?

Sabina:                                 00:35:35               Thank God, the few people and the effectiveness of the chia seed, for every person who we would give a sample, they would definitely come back and buy for their own and they would know somebody else who has a similar condition or somebody else who has another condition that would benefit from it. So as a result initially we get, we got a lot of referrals. Very many referrals.

Sam:                                      00:35:57               What kind of referrals? Did they say call…

Sabina:                                 00:35:57               Yes, yes, yes. We would give out our business cards and in all of our packages, we do have our contacts. So they would call up. Yes.

Sam:                                      00:36:06               So at the beginning…

Sabina:                                 00:36:08               It was on a one,on one, at the beginning it was one on one.

Sam:                                      00:36:13               How are you packaging chia seeds?

Sabina:                                 00:36:16               This is how we’ve always packed our chia seeds.

Sam:                                      00:36:19               This is like clear plastic?

Sabina:                                 00:36:20               Exactly. You can see exactly. You can see what it is. And we’ve also provided a lot of information that will, that is eye catching first of all. It’ll make you curious. What is this? Are you telling me that this will give me all these? You know that curiosity will just make you, okay, let me just give it a try to prove them wrong. Amazingly, as I’m telling you, being a very effective seed, in three days, this person is already…

Sam:                                      00:36:45               They’re like I want some more.

Sabina:                                 00:36:46               And then they get it. Most, most of them, they got it for their parents, elderly parents. People with arthritis, it helps manage diabetes type two. It helps manage hypertension and those are very common, common, common conditions that people are having. Actually statistics shows that out of every 10 people in Kenya, 3 people, they do have either diabetes, hypertension, arthritis or all of them.

Sam:                                      00:37:12               Really?

Sabina:                                 00:37:12               Yeah, so you can imagine for every 10 people you talk to around here, there are 3 people who would be willing to give it a try.

Sam:                                      00:37:18               I’m just reading the back of the packaging, two tablespoons is the recommended amount?

Sabina:                                 00:37:23               It is recommended and basically this is just food. You can take more than two tablespoons, but ideally, what the body does when you give it more than it needs, it discards so don’t take more than what you need. Just take what is sufficient and you’ll be ok.

Sam:                                      00:37:38               Eight times more omega 3 than salmon. When you say salmon, that’s a portion of salmon or two tablespoons of salmon?

Sabina:                                 00:37:46               Three table, two table spoons?

Sam:                                      00:37:49               So it says 2 tablespoons of chia seeds contain eight times the amount of omega 3 in salmon.

Sabina:                                 00:37:50               Exactly. Omega 3.

Sam:                                      00:37:52               Is that like a proportion of salmon or is that like, how much salmon?

Sabina:                                 00:37:57               Yes. In a normal portion of salmon.

Sam:                                      00:37:59               Three times more higher than Spanish. 64% more potassium.

Sabina:                                 00:38:08               And good thing, you see, if you look at that information, you’d feel like it’s a bit exaggerated, you might feel like the information provided here is a bit exaggerated for marketing purposes. It is not because nowadays, we’re in the era of the internet.

Sam:                                      00:38:22               Yeah.

Sabina:                                 00:38:23               In fact, I used to tell people who are like curious about what we have indicated here, please do not go even into my website, can you go and check other research websites, which is totally independent, impartial. And they’d always come back.

Sam:                                      00:38:36               The branding here is Dr. Chia or Dr. Chia plus. Why is it not Chia Africa?

Sabina:                                 00:38:44               We are Chia Africa, the company is called Chia Africa, but we are calling it Dr. Chia Plus because after we had registered our chia here and our chia Africa, and Dr. Chia, we realized there’s another chia, Dr. Chia, I think somewhere in Australia.

Sam:                                      00:39:01               Really?

Sabina:                                 00:39:01               Yes, and you see that can bring about legal issues and not even that, we are developing a brand, we don’t have to develop a brand and then somewhere along the way we have to lose after working so hard. Yeah. Actually Dr. Chia Plus is patented here. Yes. We do have a patent for this.

Sam:                                      00:39:17               You have a patent for Dr. Chia Plus?

Sabina:                                 00:39:17               We do have a patent for this. Yeah.

Sam:                                      00:39:20               The best way to do is to put two teaspoons of Dr. Chia Plus seeds in a glass of water or any other liquid and take after five minutes. Why do you have to wait five minutes?

Sabina:                                 00:39:31               Because what you’re trying to do is to allow it to form the gel. What this does, once it comes into contact with any fluid, it absorbs water and becomes larger.

Sam:                                      00:39:42               Yeah.

Sam:                                      00:39:42               It does not dissolve.

Sam:                                      00:39:44               Okay.

Sabina:                                 00:39:45               We do not want that whole process to happen within your body. Actually, you can even scoop it and put it in your mouth, but you can see now the process of it absorbing water and expanding will be happening in your body. It will be expanding using your body fluids, which is not dangerous. There’s nothing wrong with that, but you’re going to get so dehydrated. It means you’ll need to take a lot of water. Yeah, so the best way, just make it easier for yourself. Make the gel and then just drink. It has no flavor. It’s tasteless. It basically has no flavor. If you put it in water, it won’t alter the taste, you won’t get some other funny taste on your water. You can put it in your juice. There are people who are not able to take it in plain water. You can put it in your juice, it blends basically with almost anything. Your milk, your juice, yoghurt, soup, anything. It’s user friendly.

Sam:                                      00:40:33               The best thing is to get it to do it’s gel for me otherwise, it makes you thirsty?

Sabina:                                 00:40:40               Yeah. You know, actually this seed, when it gets into contact with any fluid, it can even become like even a 20 times its size. So you can imagine you’ve taken this…

Sabina:                                 00:40:55               20 times its size?

Sabina:                                 00:40:58               That is happening actually in your body, can you imagine the amount of water being absorbed from your, from your body, your fluids. Yeah. Yeah.

Sam:                                      00:41:05               How much does, so this is 100 grams. How much does 100 grams cost?

Sabina:                                 00:41:10               Okay. I’m a wholesaler, basically, I don’t sell pieces.

Sam:                                      00:41:15               Yeah.

Sabina:                                 00:41:17               I think, I bet I’ll take you back now to how we got to where we are. Yes, yes.

Sam:                                      00:41:24               So the beginning when it was one on one?

Sabina:                                 00:41:24               Exactly.

Sam:                                      00:41:27               So maybe just tell me the story, starting from one on one to where you are now.

Sabina:                                 00:41:27               Yes. So when we got to a point whereby we had created enough base of awareness, we realized we’re getting no phone calls. We would run up and down every single day. You deliver here, you deliver, it become too hectic. The supply chain…

Sam:                                      00:41:47               What year is this?

Sabina:                                 00:41:47               That was in 2013. Yes. Let’s say around mid 2013. Yes, we did 1st October…

Sam:                                      00:41:55               The first one you did samples, the second one failed because of the rains.

Sabina:                                 00:41:58               Yes, exactly.

Sam:                                      00:42:02               So you did another harvest?

Sabina:                                 00:42:02               Yes, yes.

Sam:                                      00:42:04               So after you’ve done that, and there was no problem with that one?

Sabina:                                 00:42:08               Okay. Of course, now, that’s when we decided we’re not going to do large scale farming again. We’d rather spread this risk. Come do your five acres here, we also do our minimum, every season, we do our minimum of 15 to 20 acres, now plus the other small scale farmers who come in and do three, five acres, like that, like that and we’re able to do our hundred metric tonnes every other, every other season. Now, having established awareness, we were getting phone calls here and there, give me five pieces, give me 20 pieces here and now we realized we can even develop the brand. Remember initially we didn’t have the brand.

Sam:                                      00:42:46               Okay.

Sabina:                                 00:42:46               We’re just selling chia seeds.

Sam:                                      00:42:49               In an empty packaging?

Sabina:                                 00:42:49               In a packaging without a brand. So we realized now we have to develop a brand because if you want to take it, probably in the supply chain, you must have, you must be a recognized brand, because now there’s enough awareness and we are running helter-skelter every day, supplying here and there. So we started approaching the retail owners, retail shops. We went to Chandarana. In fact…

Sam:                                      00:43:14               Chandarana is one of the biggest supermarkets.

Sabina:                                 00:43:17               We do have Tuskys and Naivas, they’re quite big, Chandarana, they’re also equally big, but not to, if you look at the outlets.

Sam:                                      00:43:25               For people who are not in Kenya, Chandarana is a big supermarket. So you went to Chandarana?

Sabina:                                 00:43:31               Yes. We went to Chandarana, and amazingly some of these entrepreneurs, they always have a gut for this is it. It’s something new. We went there and we spoke to the owner, Mr. Amir. He had never seen chia seed, he had not heard about it and he was like. He orders all his branches. Supply each dozen, dozen, dozen across the board across the different sizes, taking a risk, that much risk, it is in December, towards the Christmas season. And you know what we supplied by 22nd, 23rd, by the time we were coming back in January around 15th, he had sold off everything. Yeah. And then there’s also another one lady, her name is Shanice. Shanice runs a shop called Elixir at the village market. She’s also another person who said, even before the branding, she would just buy and put in small packages and put in her shop. So she was like we’ve branded it, and she just took the leap with us. Yes. And from there, there was no going back.

Sam:                                      00:44:34               Okay, great. So to sell it to Chandarana, that would’ve been the end of 2013?

Sabina:                                 00:44:42               2013 December, yes.

Sam:                                      00:44:42               Okay. And then what’s it, what was the next big win after that? What was the next like thing which came after Chandarana?

Sabina:                                 00:44:49               We do have so many outlets and you see, like even for Chandarana, they do have many outlets. It’s not only one outlet. So you supply here today. Tomorrow there. We started moving to other retails. Big retailers, it became quite a challenge. One, first and foremost, they view you as a very small supplier. They’re dealing with food suppliers and not just Chandarana, we also had so many other local shops, like even out here, there’s a small supermarket, just before the Uchumi, I also do supply them, so many small, small outlets. So every day we were supplying everywhere. We are running down, up and down everywhere. We’re having now trouble with credit control, your supplying.

Sam:                                      00:45:33               But that would mean you delivered, but they paid thirty days late.

Sabina:                                 00:45:36               Yeah. There are those who are paying cash. There are those who are, they just don’t want trouble. They just pay you cash and they’re managing their finances very well, they don’t want to believe they’re having money yet it’s other people’s money because once you supply on credit and you’ve sold, that’s not your money. That’s somebody else’s money, so they don’t want to get caught up in that. So for them, they, there are those who pay cash, it will keep us going, but there are those who are also big, big time buyers, credit, credit, thirty days. So you can imagine by the time you’re getting money for the first supply, you’ve supplied somewhere in between another like four, five supplies.

Sam:                                      00:46:08               Yeah.

Sabina:                                 00:46:08               So we began to have trouble with our cashflow. We realized if we go on like this, it’s going to be so difficult for us. And again at that time, remember we are still small players in the supply chain because we’re not, these supermarkets are not only selling chia seeds. They’re selling sugar, they are selling floor, they’re selling all sorts of things.

Sam:                                      00:46:25               Yeah.

Sabina:                                 00:46:25               No, you are coming here, maybe you want your 200,000. They are owing somebody 20 million. They don’t even want to hear about you. So we realized nowhere, we are having trouble with our cashflow and we decide now we must have a solution for this. As we used to go round, there’s one major distributor that we would find, everyday you go supplying, you’d just find them. You go here today, he’s there. We realize this is a big muscle in the market, we did approach him, another very interesting person. Mr. Raju and his brother Asmok, and we appreciate them a lot. He had also not heard about this. He looked at it.

Sam:                                      00:47:05               So he’s a distributor?

Sabina:                                 00:47:05               He’s a distributor. Big time distributor, but he was a very receptive person.

Sam:                                      00:47:10               Okay. And how did you get a meeting?

Sabina:                                 00:47:13               We walked in, you know we looked around. We saw, we came, googled, realized it’s somewhere in Babadogo. We walked in there and imagine the first thing you walk in there, we had no prior appointment. We were just going there to ask around. We find the brother, he tells us no, today my brother is not in. Come on this day, we are going to give you a call. They called, we just went, discussed and he was very receptive, he said this is it. I’m going to give it, a shot on it. He said go do this. There are a few modifications we’ve done along the way, since we started the first packaging and all that but it hasn’t been so far away from from this. We just did that, he made his first order, first month he moved things around second month before we knew it. Sometimes he overwhelms us and we appreciate a lot, we’re so thankful to him because even the credit period that we agreed with him, he keeps to it. Today if I ran out of cash flow and they found it’s harvesting, he will not fail to give me the cheque. He’ll give me the check and tell me to go do your harvesting, it will not wait for the 30, 60 days, no, he’ll give me the cheque. So that resolved our cashflow issue.

Sam:                                      00:48:22               Wow. All because of you…

Sabina:                                 00:48:22               We just picked on the right person. He’s a big, big-time supplier. He’s a very smart and intelligent person. I like the approach of, he’s approach of doing things, he’s a risk-taker.

Sam:                                      00:48:37               I think you need to give yourself more credit for how good you are at the chia seeds. You got to two very senior people, one of the biggest supermarkets, one of the biggest distributors and one meeting. You convinced them to…

Sabina:                                 00:48:50               Let me tell you they also, they’ve been in the business for long. They can smell business. They had realized there’s a niche for superfoods because like the chia seed was just coming up, and they had not, and because they’ve been in the business for long, they just knew this the right time for this.

Sam:                                      00:49:09               Were they importing chia seeds from anywhere else?

Sabina:                                 00:49:12               There was no chia seed in the market? There’s only one supplier helping. I used to supply her in bulk and she would pack in her, because she has her own brand. It’s only Healthy U you who was importing it actually they were importing it I think from somewhere in Europe and they were exporting it at a very high price.

Sam:                                      00:49:33               Importing from Europe?

Sabina:                                 00:49:33               Yes

Sam:                                      00:49:33               That person has imported from somewhere else.

Sabina:                                 00:49:36               South America, it was coming from South America that time, yes, exactly. Yes. The logistics, it was becoming very expensive. Yeah.

Sam:                                      00:49:43               Cool. So how much, you now just sell wholesale?

Sabina:                                 00:49:51               Yes, we give the distributor and then he takes, actually even to these neighbours. If you go to these neighbours, you’re going to find chia seeds, there’s another shop here, if you gp, you go to Naivas country-wide, you’re going to find my chia seeds.

Sam:                                      00:50:01               And do you have an account with Naivas or you do it through the distributor?

Sabina:                                 00:50:05               I do it through the distributor. Even with the Aneal and all that, we all channeled them to Raju. The amazing thing is that Raju and Aneal, they had worked before, together before. Yeah.

Sam:                                      00:50:17               So what’s the exact numbers? I’m just interested like what’s rough figures, like how much does it cost to produce? How much does it cost for you to get it in the packet, how much you, what margin are you giving to the distributor, what margin is then gauged to the consumer, roughly what are we looking at?

Sabina:                                 00:50:37               I think I better talk, we do have our recommended retail prices, which we do expect people around to be sticking to, but there’s certain things if you look at very well, they might not work as you would want them to because today you might have your shop here. I know these neighbors will not pay rent the same as they’re their rent maybe in Hurlingham. Might probably be a bit higher, but we do have a certain percentage. We do play around within about 15 to 20% along the chain. I keep my 15% somebody else keeps their 15% and they don’t keep their and everybody feels it’s a fair deal.

Sam:                                      00:51:17               So that means, so how much does a pack of 100 grams cost in a regular Naivas, like what would…

Sabina:                                 00:51:23               This one we’ve recommended 195 shillings. These are a hundred grams? It’s about a 195, that’s the recommended retail price.

Sam:                                      00:51:34               $1.85?

Sabina:                                 00:51:35               Exactly. It’s about $1, 2 dollars, let’s give it $2, yeah.

Sam:                                      00:51:40               And we’re saying the supermarket…

Sabina:                                 00:51:43               They do have their margin there.

Sam:                                      00:51:46               So they’ll take about 15% to 20%?

Sabina:                                 00:51:46               Exactly.

Sam:                                      00:51:47               The distributor another 15%?

Sabina:                                 00:51:47               Exactly. And I also keep my 15%.

Sam:                                      00:51:52               So then it’s like, is, that what it costs for manufacturing?

Sabina:                                 00:51:58               Exactly. For the production and all that.

Sam:                                      00:52:00               Got it, I knew in terms of the supply chain, you know everything from the plants all the way up to putting it in this package, so there’s no other people involved?

Sabina:                                 00:52:11               No.

Sam:                                      00:52:11               Okay.

Sabina:                                 00:52:12               Yeah.

Sam:                                      00:52:12               Right. Okay. Did you think this will continue? This would be the main, if you look at how you’re going to expand the business will you continue to use this channel, you’re going to keep producing. Sell it to the distributor, or will you look for other channels?

Sabina:                                 00:52:29               Let me say for now, we’ve had a bit of good working relationship with DB and Herman Fear, and they have a Countrywide coverage and being a distributor because he does nothing else but distribution, what all these big companies, people who are doing biscuits, people were doing jams, people who are doing pasta and all that. They’re channeling their products to him. And again, having been in the market, he has reasonable muscle to be able to manage the credit part of it, because in the recent past we’ve seen supermarkets that have gone down with people’s finances, he has a muscle to manage that and to cushion you, to cushion basically people. Because for me, I’ll go and get my money from him, whatever business he’s having with the retail chain, he is, he’s able to handle that and because we’ve had very good relationship with him so far, I’m not planning of… And again, I am, the only other way would be I do it myself, it’s a big challenge in investment, I’d need to have a whole logistics center set up for the vehicles, the staff, and all that. Yeah.

Sam:                                      00:53:45               So if you look at kike how you might look to grow the business. What are the, what are the main, how are you thinking about, what are the main areas that you should focus on?

Sabina:                                 00:53:52               I would want to do much more than just the basic product, because the chia seed as it is, there’s nothing added to it. We just harvest, clean it, get it packed. I’d rather want to, I’d want to add even more value to it.

Sam:                                      00:54:06               Okay.

Sabina:                                 00:54:07               That is why we’ve tried to do high energy biscuits, this is what you call high energy biscuits. Yes, yes, yes.

Sam:                                      00:54:16               How does this work?

Sabina:                                 00:54:16               This one, we wanted it to work in such a way that it has lots of chia seeds, such that for people who were not able to consume it the way it is, they can still have the benefits of chia seed probably in their breakfast with a biscuit with reduced sugar because at the end of the day, we don’t want to give you a health product and then we dilute it. Yes, yes. So reduced sugar or we go natural and do it, do use stevia or something like natural honey.

Sam:                                      00:54:41               Yeah.

Sabina:                                 00:54:41               Plus the chia seeds. Even the kids would enjoy that even as a snack.

Sam:                                      00:54:46               Fantastic.

Sabina:                                 00:54:46               Yeah, we do have, we’re working on morning serials. We want to do morning serials that are friendly with our chia seeds.

Sam:                                      00:54:54               What’s this going to look like? So chia morning serial. How is, what’s the value addition that happened to it?? Is it like cornflakes with…

Sabina:                                 00:55:02               Exactly we are saying, the way you have cornflakes, which is also good for you, you can have some twist of a bit of chia seeds in it. Yeah.

Sam:                                      00:55:13               Okay. That sounds good. Currently, most of the, most of the business is happening in East Africa, but you’re beginning to look at exports. You’re doing some export at the moment.

Sabina:                                 00:55:28               We do get those inquiries. People will take like half a ton, one ton, actually, the American took a whole container of 6 tones. Yes. We cannot fail to do any export business. Besides that, there’s one challenge that has been affecting us, especially when it comes to the first one, the market, they prefer the organic. This is, we call it conventional.

Sam:                                      00:55:54               Conventional.

Sabina:                                 00:55:55               But ideally there’s no fertilizer. We basically, it’s a very, chia seed is a very resistant seed. You plant it, as long as you’ve weeded the place very well, you do weeding at the right time, it will grow and germinate without much trouble.

Sam:                                      00:56:10               Yeah.

Sabina:                                 00:56:10               It repels actually some insects and diseases by itself. So ideally, when you’re farming this, we do a put any fertilizers, we do not use any pesticides, herbicides, we don’t do that. But I the end of day for something to be recognized as organic, it has, it must have a certificate from recognized organizations.

Sam:                                      00:56:31               Yeah.

Sabina:                                 00:56:31               Yes. Again, it’s quite an intensive, cost-intensive exercise.

Sam:                                      00:56:38               Really?

Sabina:                                 00:56:38               Yes, it is. Because for you to get that, you’d invest almost like 30,000 USD.

Sam:                                      00:56:45               30,000 USD?

Sabina:                                 00:56:46               Yes. For that season, for you to be able to get actually that certification and you know you have to keep doing that for every other season because you see it might be organic, this time does not necessarily mean I have done it organically. And that is just for the certification. Besides the cost of the farming. Now, they want the Organica certified seed which is very much okay. But even, in fact now this coming season, October you also want to do it organic and keep it, whether somebody has ordered for it or not, because previous what we’ve done is get somebody who’s willing to get the organic and then we do specifically production for them.

Sam:                                      00:57:26               Yeah.

Sabina:                                 00:57:26               Yeah.

Sam:                                      00:57:27               Okay. So maybe just a few more questions. So when it comes to sort of the supply chain, so you’ve got this farm in Western Uganda, does the packaging, what is the packaging format? How is the logistics of physically getting the product from Masinde in Western Uganda through to the distributors in Nairobi? Where is some of the processing?

Sabina:                                 00:58:06               From the farm? The only thing we do is grow, harvest it. We just do the basic cleaning at the farm. This thing. By the time it looks this, there’s a lot of work that has been done to it.

Sam:                                      00:58:16               Yeah.

Sabina:                                 00:58:17               There’s no single husk here. Initially, when we started the farming, we had trouble with the sun because during the dry season, when it is harvest time, it’s windy and there’s dust being blown all over.

Sam:                                      00:58:30               Yeah.

Sabina:                                 00:58:30               So it used to have a lot of small sands, particles of sand. We do have a machine which is based here in Nairobi. That is why we have to bring it, farm clean, get it properly and thoroughly cleaned here before the packaging. There’s a machine also in Uganda, but the person uses it also for other things like sim-sim to, They are also farming a lot of sim-sim, sesame seeds.

Sam:                                      00:58:51               Sesame?

Sabina:                                 00:58:54               Yes. We call it sim-sim here.

Sam:                                      00:58:56               Yeah.

Sabina:                                 00:58:56               They’re also doing large scale farming there. So they use that machine basically to do that so it’s perpetually busy. You can almost have no time to have your chia cleaned there, but because we have a facility, there’s somebody who has invested about a hundred million Kenyan shillings in that equipment, so we’re able to do our cleaning.

Sam:                                      00:59:14               How do you know him, a hundred million dollars.

Sabina:                                 00:59:16               It’s a lot of money. We’re just here depending on that one machine. Yeah, it’s a huge investment, and we appreciate and whenever we walk in there, he’s always ready to do the cleaning for us, yeah, we walked that journey with him. He knew he wanted to invest in that. So as he was shopping around, we did provide him with a lot of the chia seed, for them to do their trials and eventually decide this is the machine they’re going to do their cleaning with.

Sam:                                      00:59:42               Yea.

Sabina:                                 00:59:42               Yeah, and we appreciate a lot.

Sam:                                      00:59:44               Very good.

Sabina:                                 00:59:44               Yeah. So basically after the cleaning, we do the cleaning here in Nairobi, packaging is done here in Nairobi.

Sam:                                      00:59:51               Yeah.

Sabina:                                 00:59:52               Yeah.

Sam:                                      00:59:53               I mean, do you have a warehouse or do you go straight from the packaging?

Sabina:                                 00:59:56               What you do is, because it’s bulky, chia is bulky. Yeah. The same facility where we do our cleaning, once we come with it from Uganda, he, he rents a space. We keep it there, do the cleaning, we keep it there. Then we just pick what he needs to pack. And again, because we are doing bulk packing and giving it to the distributor, we do the packing a week or so. And we do bulk supply to the supplier and he keeps, he has a warehouse, big warehouse, so we do have where we can put our raw materials. After the packing, we take it to the warehouse distributor’s warehouse.

Sam:                                      01:00:30               Have other people started farming chia seed?

Sabina:                                 01:00:34               Yes. Yes. We do have, we do have, actually most of them are Kentans. There’s also another Kenyan who’s doing farming in Uganda.

Sam:                                      01:00:40               Yeah,

Sabina:                                 01:00:41               They’ve also taken up land there, here in Kenya, we also didn’t want, we had already lost so much initially by doing the trials we arm, we lose, we knew the Americans had done quite extensive research on the farming in Uganda. Even in Rwanda, they opted for Uganda, they opted for Rwanda because of the Congo forests, it gives them very good climates. Yeah, so we decided we also don’t have the finances now to go and start researching and see how much omega 3 is going to be in my, when I do it here in Kenya, but as we speak we do know the people who are, who have done trials done trials and then funding it here and there.

Sam:                                      01:01:16               Yeah.

Sabina:                                 01:01:16               Yeah. It is good for business because you can see, when I said, even today, I know there’s somebody who has never heard about chia. Even today as I speak, even I’ve done this for so many years now, but they know even right now I speak. There’s somebody who has never had a boat chia. Go and reach out to that person. There’s somebody, somebody has to reach out. It might not be me.

Sam:                                      01:01:41               Yeah, it could be somebody else. Yeah. What do you think is you about your journey so far? What do you think the biggest lesson you’ve learned?

Sabina:                                 01:01:49               Farming is a very risky business, but it’s also fulfilling.

Sam:                                      01:01:54               Okay.

Sabina:                                 01:01:55               Once you’re able to understand the dynamics of about of activities the farming activities. It’s very fulfilling and more so, the chia seed. Basically, I want to be known for super foods, as we speak, I’d be soon doing black seed. It’s also very nutritional. We do have pumpkin seed. We have things like moringa. These are beneficial to the human body. Today as we speak. We’re dealing with many, many health issues. We have cancer small kids are getting cancer. You find a nine year old with diabetes, you wonder how did this happen when you give them this at times it comes from, you know what, I’m not limping anymore. My arthritis is good. It brings some kind of fulfillment. It gives me Joy and happiness and keeps me going. And honestly I’m passionate about farming. I’m an accountant by professional. But when it comes to, even when I talk about chia, somebody had told me that I go and work for them and, I’m not a marketer but i’m very very passionate about the chia seeds, so I’m able to talk about each with lots of passion. Yes. And the outcome is that chia seeds dance of disappoints never disappoints. Yeah.

Sam:                                      01:02:58               People who are listening at home,. What were the best ways that they can learn more about what you do?

Sabina:                                 01:03:04               Cheia Africa. We do have our website, 2013 [Inaudible]. We are also available. Our products are available on all super markets or all retail shoes, go to naivas, go to tuskys, go to chandaana, go to zucchini, go to Elixir, you’re going to find us there, even you’re locals now shop around you. You’re going to find chia, Dr. Chia seed products.

Sam:                                      01:03:26               Did you menton, should they just contact you about…

Sabina:                                 01:03:30               You can also contact, If you are internationally out there and you’d want to reach us, we do have a Africa, and we also do have our contacts there. We do have our telephone numbers for David Kisembo and also for Sabina Karumba.

Sam:                                      01:03:44               Fantastic.

Sabina:                                 01:03:44               Yes.

Sam:                                      01:03:46               Perfect. Cool. I’ll put a link to those in the show notes.

Sabina:                                 01:03:50               Thank you.

Sam:                                      01:03:50               Well Sabina, thanks so much.

Sabina:                                 01:03:52               Thank you so much and I’m glad about this. Yeah.


How Brexit is affecting Kenya’s role in the global flower market, with Chris Kulei from Sian Roses


This week we’re speaking with a big player in one of Kenya’s largest industries: flower farming.

Horticulture is one of the biggest sectors in the country’s economy, and 60% of all the world’s roses are grown in Kenya.

This is for a number of reasons, which I discuss with Director of Sian Roses, Chris Kulei.

Kenya has a number of natural features such as high altitude, and access to water which, along with low labour costs means they can produce roses for a tenth of the price of elsewhere such as Holland and Israel.

Before our interview, Chris took me on a tour of their 45 hectare farm just out of Nairobi going from the initial grafting of new roses, through the various stages before being picked, packed and put on a pallet for export.

You can see some pictures of this by heading to the show notes on

The overarching concept with growing flowers is that it’s a volume game.

The global market, which is centered in Holland, is incredibly efficient and means margins for flowers are very thin, and millions of stems are traded every day.

As such, companies like Sian Roses need big capex and efficiency savings to stay competitive. Indeed, they currently focus just on roses in order to maintain a high quality.

We discuss the many players in the global supply chain, how very often they’ll get to name a new rose, trends in the industry towards sustainability, and how Brexit is causing all kinds of confusion at the auction house.

There’s so much interesting stuff here I really hope you enjoy.


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Pictures from the farm

Man grafting a rose
Grafting a new rose
The hard grafters
Seedlings being grown
In the greenhouse 1
In the greenhouse 2
Roses being bunched up
Roses getting gathered up
Packing in the background

Demonstration of the flower auction (video)


BBC article about the Kenyan flower industry featuring Sian Roses: The World’s Biggest Flower Market

Flora Holland:






Sam:                                      00:00:07               Intro.

Sam:                                      00:02:47               Cool. So we’re here today with Chris from Sian roses. Chris, welcome to the show.

Chris:                                     00:02:51               Thank you.

Sam:                                      00:02:52               So to get us started, can you tell us a bit about you and a bit about Sian roses?

Chris:                                     00:02:56               Okay. My name is Chris Kulei. I’m the director of a Sian roses, a group, a group of flower farms. So we’re three farms at the moment. We’re currently building our fourth totaling 120 hectares of greenhouses in Kenya. So the oldest farm is in Nakuru, which was started in 94. It’s called Agri-flora and is at an altitude of 2,150 meters. Then the next farm is Equator flowers in Eldoret, which is 2200 meters and was started in 97. And we are currently in our newest well our newest farm for now, which is Maasai flowers in kitengela, just outside Nairobi at 1,650 meters and is only 10 years old.

Sam:                                      00:03:52               Alright.

Chris:                                     00:03:53               Yeah.

Sam:                                      00:03:53               And you just do roses.

Chris:                                     00:03:55               We just do roses at the moment. We’re in the final stages of getting the licenses to start our fourth farm, which will also be in Eldoret, which will initially be non roses. So summer flowers, carnations just products that work that a lot of our customers buy at the moment, but we’ll also appreciate to buy from us directly.

Sam:                                      00:04:19               Fantastic. Cool. We’ll sort of get into sort of the, the mechanics of how the, how the business works and things, but I was wondering could you just sort of paint a bit of a picture of flower farming in Kenya? I’ve sort of, it’s, it seems to be quite big industry here, could you help to sort of give an idea of the scope or the size of sort of…

Chris:                                     00:04:37               Sure. So flower farming in Kenya really boomed, has been booming from since the 90s. There were some early farmers before that, like the Assyrians of the world in Naivasha and so on. But since the 90s, the flower, the flower industry, especially Rose growing industry in Kenya is really boomed. I think we’re close to 3000 hectares in total. Don’t quote me on that, but I think we’re close to that if not slightly above. And we are the world’s biggest exporters of roses.

Sam:                                      00:05:11               How many, how many hectares of roses are done?

Chris:                                     00:05:16               I couldn’t say off the top of my head, but the Kenya it’s got the point that in Europe, if you’re buying a Rose thenbut 60% I think are now Kenyan roses,

Sam:                                      00:05:28               Wow.

Chris:                                     00:05:28               Yeah.

Sam:                                      00:05:31               Where would they, where would they have been grown before? Or is this, it is all new supply?

Chris:                                     00:05:35               So it was, a lot of it was grown in Europe and in Columbia as well. And Ecuador. And still there’s a lot of Colombian and Ecuadorian product. And Israel of course. But,since the Kenyan, because of the mechanics and the costs of growing in Kenya, we are, we have perfect conditions, altitude, lots of sunshine, good amounts of water. We can grow roses and cheap labor. We can grow roses at about a 10th of the cost per square foot of Europe.

Sam:                                      00:06:09               Alright. So there are like optimal conditions to grow a rose and places like Holland, Israel, they’re having to artificially create those conditions or like have to, you know, having to pay to create those conditions to grow them. And that’s adding to the cost.

Chris:                                     00:06:26               Exactly. Yeah. So in a, if you go to a glass house, so we grow under plastic with steel frame greenhouses. In Europe they grow in glass houses, especially in Northern Europe, like in the Netherlands. They, they developed mass, mass production of roses and flowers, but they have to pump carbon dioxide into the greenhouse, into the glass houses. Now they have to heat them and they have to add light and light them for to add extra hours. They do produce a very high quality product. And it’s priced that way, but fortunately in Kenya, we don’t have to do more. We don’t have to do any of that.

Sam:                                      00:07:08               Okay. So Kenya has some conditions which make it conducive to, to growing roses? Was there any particular thing that happened in the 90s, which meant suddenly this is going to happen?

Chris:                                     00:07:21               If it was a lot of the, well so Sian itself, the story started because my father was on a state visit to Israel and was on a countryside tour and saw the greenhouses in the, in the desert.

Sam:                                      00:07:36               Israel historically has been.

Chris:                                     00:07:37               A very big grower.

Sam:                                      00:07:38               Okay.

Chris:                                     00:07:39               And when he saw that they were able to grow in the desert, that was his and a few of his old friends, their inspiration. And what happened was back in the early nineties and late eighties the regulations around the industry were nonexistent because the industry was in its infancy. Just kind of like how M-Pesa has become a runaway success. It grew, you know, under the radar and to what it has become without regulation, without too much. And it was the private sector that developed it. So it was the same for the flower industry. There were very, very little to no taxes on most of the inputs and most of the most of the inputs and mostly,equipment and,things you needed to import to build the greenhouses, the pump systems and everything. And that, you know, in that, in that space, everyone was able to grow quite quickly. And also there was a lot of funding,from Europe itself. Our farm in a cruise had a French development funding,to start it at the beginning.

Sam:                                      00:08:48               I see. This is sort of development funding as opposed to further down the supply chain?

Chris:                                     00:08:55               Yeah.

Sam:                                      00:08:56               So it’s not like the buyers were financing the, the Dutch government, the French government were saying this is a good industry to develop in Kenya.

Chris:                                     00:09:05               Yeah,

Sam:                                      00:09:06               Therefore, we’ll fund it.

Chris:                                     00:09:07               It was quite attractive because it brings massive acute employment. We’re now, we direct, we employ about 2000 people as Sian. And across the industry. It’s a couple hundred thousand are directly employed in the flower business. And then obviously beyond that, the, there are employed by suppliers. It, I think it has to, It’s close to half a million people.

Sam:                                      00:09:30               Yep.

Chris:                                     00:09:30               Yeah.

Sam:                                      00:09:31               Got it. Okay. Of course that sort of really set, set it off. And then how does the market look? Are there sort of several big players?

Chris:                                     00:09:40               Yeah, so we had Sian at 120 hectors are in the top 10, but we’re about, we’re no where the biggest are a couple of hundred hectares, I think two to 300 hectares.

Sam:                                      00:09:51               Is that how you grade the size of a flower farm, a flower company is by the number of factors?

Chris:                                     00:09:57               It’s usually that hectors and a greenhouse.

Sam:                                      00:09:59               Okay. So there are, cause it seems like there might be quite high barriers to entry.

Sam:                                      00:10:07               The barriers to entry. Obviously it’s a very capital intensive business. I mean there are a lot of summer flowers are not, are not, a lot of non roses are still grown outside and are still very profitable. But for the rose business, which we many have concentrated, it is quite a barrier to entry because of the expense of putting up these greenhouses, you could be charged quite a bit per square meter to have a turnkey, which is the plastic frame and the irrigation system. Fortunately there are quite a few companies in Kenya that do supply them and give very good credit terms. But to be reached the level to be able to get those credit terms is not always that easy.

Chris:                                     00:10:46               I see. Okay. So if you were a new, let’s say I wanted to go and start a flower farm and that’s your, what would you say is the minimum number of hectares I’d need in order for it to be worthwhile?

Chris:                                     00:11:01               For roses, if you, if you, it depends obviously on new business model as well. If you are going to be an auction farm, I mean there are very successful farms as small as five to 10 hectares. We Have just been growing gradually throughout the years. That’s why we reached 120 hectares. And fortunately we also had land that was available with water. Cause you know, first the first question is do you have land? Second question is, do you have a water? Third question is, do you have power? There’s one or two farms that do work with solar and, and generators and on hydro. But it’s still a very important key factor when you see how much you have to invest in cool chain and pumping.

Sam:                                      00:11:47               Okay. Yeah. So what would, I know this is almost a, could be a random number, but are talking sort of like tens of thousands dollars, hundreds of thousands of dollars, millions of dollars?

Chris:                                     00:11:58               So hundreds of thousands dollars to start, to start a small farm, millions of dollars for anything above like 10 to, earning above about 10 to 15 hectors of greenhouses, you’re talking millions of dollars.

Sam:                                      00:12:11               Okay. And basically roses, it, it needs to be in greenhouses

Chris:                                     00:12:14               Generally. There are some varieties. The interesting thing about roses is it, there’s no one size fits all, even in greenhouses. There still roses that prefer to be in soil rather than hydroponics. They’re roses that can grow and do very well outside. And a lot of the European market, especially in the summer is outdoor grown, outdoors roses from places like Germany, England that will only come in in the summer.

Sam:                                      00:12:43               I see. Okay. Got it. Cool. Okay. So that’s kind of like a good, I feel like I’ve got quite a good grasp now of sort of the, the industry should be saying sort of how it’s all been set up. So we’ve, before doing this interview, we’ve gone on a, on a sort of tour through through the farm and started off from the very first when we’ve got the starting growing new roses and you know, all the way through them being, I’m gonna forget all the words now, propagated, gosh is like school test isn’t it, propagated and then the being began to be to be grown. And then there was bending just sort of in part to give a quick overview summary of like what, what it takes and sort of some of the times that it takes in terms of like growing a rose.

Chris:                                     00:13:31               Okay. So we, at Maasai and in Sian, we have our own propagation unit. So not all farms do this. So what happens is, we try varieties, we receive, we go to the breeders. So the way the rose, the rose industry works there are very quite a, quite a few of these companies are quite old, over a hundred years old. And they have been developing and breeding roses, which means they have been, when you see a red Rose, it’s, there are hundreds of red roses as you mentioned. And when we’re walking around just like wine, there’s hundreds of great different varieties. And so what you’ll do is we go to the breeder and we see a rose that we kind of like the look of. So we’ll say it’s a nice yellow when we’re in our farms and in our product line we need a strong yellow. So take book can I make an agreement to trial them? We’ll bring plants to our farm, they send us them in potter plants, we’ll plant we’ll grow them in in our farm under different conditions for about six months to a year. And then at that point we’ll make an agreement with the breeder who has the IP rights, intellectual property rights for that product to grow a larger area. And we’d work in square meters. So usually minimum of a quarter, a quarter, Hector. So 2,500 square meters to, if we really love it, then we could technically go even 10. And what we will then do is we cut out a big part of the cost of starting to grow a variety by propagating ourselves, which means we take the, the roses that we have in the ground and from each and we harvest the stems and from each stem, we’ll get four cuttings and those four cuttings we graft to indigenous to wild grown roses, which are also cleaned and disease free. And we’ll produce our own, as you said, as you said, an apartment propagation unit. We’ll produce our own plants.

Sam:                                      00:15:30               So this is basically like your fusing the two,

Chris:                                     00:15:34               We’re fusing the two.

Sam:                                      00:15:35               And so, and so you’ll get like a small sample from these breeders. So the first thing which I knew to get my head around was there’s not just one type of rose. There are like hundreds of types of roses and there’s always new roses being, being developed from new colors and new times, et cetera. So you’ll get these samples, let’s call them from the breeders and you’ll say, okay, this is a good sample. In order for us to do this at scale, we need to dedicate this, you know, the space in the greenhouse to grow it. But we need to find a reliable way to grow those roses ourself. And this value is like, it’s not that you just take the sample and you put it in the ground and you grow up, you actually fuse it with best wild rose saying, which is basically gives it, it’s kind of like giving good . Is that right? Yeah,

Chris:                                     00:16:25               It’s stuck. Yeah. It’s basically putting, you know, it’s taking the head of, of a genius and putting it on the body of an athlete to find yourself the perfect person kind of thing. So we are the, the, the head of the row, the, we produce, we want to produce as many positive or many stems from the flower at the best possible cost because this industry is very tight margins. The reason why we’re 120 hectors and other players are much bigger is because it’s, it’s a matter of scale. And so if you can manage your costs from the beginning by propagating yourself, which we actually originally started because this farm was built very quickly. Maasai was, went from from zero to 20 hectors in two years and then from 20 hectors to 42, almost 40 after the fourth year. So we realized we’d have to spend so much on plants and we do, we do an average of about eight plants per square meter. And on 400,000 square meters, you’re talking about a huge number of plants and each plant is costing about 30 30 cents or so 30 Euro cents or so. So it saved us a lot of money by actually building this unit ourself. And then as a result, and once we finished, we are consistent. We’re continuously replanting throughout the group, an average of 5% to 10% each year will be replanting. So we have a constant need for plants, whether we’re planting the same variety. Again, we still need new fresh plants or for planting new varieties. We still need fresh plants. So our propagation unit is generally has a flow. And as you saw, we also doing other products like macadamia paw paw papaya avocado. We’re doing tree seedlings for our farms. It’s, it’s basically a unit that can and can also do vegetables. So I’ve, I’ve taken an old greenhouse and old test greenhouse, put it in my garden I’m hoping to grow my own vegetables and not embarrass myself as a farmer by being not able to grow

Chris:                                     00:18:40               Green fingers. Okay, cool. So this, this propagation unit, It makes it sound quite sort of like a, I don’t know, the CIA or something. Propagation unit. Right? So they, you’ve got this infrastructure now where you can take, you know, take, take the samples, graft it to the to the wild. Where’d you get the root-stock? So the root-stock, there are a few suppliers here in Kenya who also supply because they have to give your whole, they supply clean root-stock. Cause obviously that’s key to avoid having disease in the plant because the worst that you can have is a plant that’s producing 10 to 15% less throughout the life of it, throughout its life because it was the, it was dirty root-stock in the first place. So there’s a few guys in Naivasha that we can go to, to get supplies. They develop it themselves.

Sam:                                      00:19:30               Okay. So they developed this clean,

Chris:                                     00:19:33               Rich stock.

Sam:                                      00:19:33               You said? Yeah. Okay. Got it. Okay. So you’ve got that in, then you do the, the fuse thing. So you fuse the two together and then, then they’re basically on the road to grow.

Chris:                                     00:19:45               Yeah. So they keep them in the perfect conditions with different levels of humidity. They grow them in a, in a very nutritious growth media. That’s sterile. That’s, sorry. That’s clean.

Sam:                                      00:19:59               And media we said is like the, the environment. It’s like the soil, the catch all term for like the soil.

Chris:                                     00:20:05               Yeah. The, what they, what they planted in and the media, the growth media with a bit of fertilizer and coconut.

Sam:                                      00:20:15               Any, any reason why it’s coconut?

Chris:                                     00:20:17               They said well the, what the team says, I’m not a technical expert, but what the team say is it’s that it’s, it’s clean, they’ve cleaned it themselves, but also it doesn’t it’s inert so it won’t carry any disease. And then on top of that, it drains well cause it was thing for the rich, the root structure when they’re trying to establish is just stagnant water.

Sam:                                      00:20:43               Yeah. Yeah. And how do they, how does the team know that? Do they…

Chris:                                     00:20:49               A lot of knowledge. A lot of knowledge for the industry and for these kinds of techniques has come from Israel, from developed, from techniques developed in Israel, in the Netherlands. And they’ve come and we have a, we had, we’ve always had a consultant, independent consultant that works with the farm. So we had a guy who worked with us for a very long time as we built this farm. And we recently changed to a French, the gentleman who is very, very good. And that’s where we get all this knowledge. And one of the great things about the industry is that I’m able to visit quite a lot of farms and quite a lot of people able to visit us. So you learn quite a lot. So other people have propagation units, other people who are growing the same varieties, other people who are in the same market. It’s, it’s generally an, it’s generally quite a transparent thing cause we can go visit each other.

Sam:                                      00:21:43               Why’d you think that is? What I mean, what, why are people quite open?

Chris:                                     00:21:49               Maybe cause we’re all in this together. There’s Kenyan farmers, Kenyan growers that, there’s also as the flower industry is dominated by the auction and the auction houses in the Netherlands for Holland. And that’s a very it’s a very open and transparent system. So we pack our flowers, send them to the auction, especially when we first started, everything went there. And we had and we as members of the auction and sellers were able to access and watch the prices every day and that everybody in the industry who sells in the auction has that same access. So as we were, as this morning as you saw, we could see our product, we could see our neighboring farms product, we can see the Ethiopian product and also the local grown product. And through that you can find that, you can find out number one, who else is growing the same as you. And number two are prices you’re getting. And unless they are, there are obviously some people that it’s not always easy to go to their farms, but generally it’s a phone call to say, can I come see you? We’re doing the, say we’re doing the same product half the time, they’ll be open to it.

Sam:                                      00:23:04               Okay.

Chris:                                     00:23:04               Yeah.

Sam:                                      00:23:04               Nice. So we’ve got the, the propagation. So they are then in the small form, they’re in the little pot. Next what happens?

Chris:                                     00:23:17               Next they go to hardening. So after they’ve been in these high humidity conditions for about 30 days to 40 days, they’ll go into hardening, which is now it’s almost like a normal greenhouse conditions. So there’s good airflow, it’s cooler, it, the area’s not heated and there’s no, and we’re not fogging to keep humidity high. So from that point you, we assess the plants and then the ones which are the strongest are sent out to be planted.

Sam:                                      00:23:48               How do you determine how strong the plant is?

Chris:                                     00:23:50               So they look at the conditions of the plant, the, the shoot that’s come up from the, from the grafting, they look at the leaves. And from that they can, the team on the ground are able to say that with good confidence that this will, has a highhigh potential of success. What do you practice?

Sam:                                      00:24:12               What’s your call rates? Normally.

Chris:                                     00:24:13               90% is the 90% plus needs to get through, I mean, ideally we would want 99%, but these are living things we have to have. You know, if a guy comes in and hasn’t really cleaned his hands properly, then…

Sam:                                      00:24:28               There’s a chance that something got in and can, yeah. So they get it, I mean once they, once they’re, once they’re through this sort of probation period. So I confused and say propagation and probation. Once they’re through this sort of like hardening phase then they go to…

Chris:                                     00:24:45               They go out to the field to get planted. So the…

Sam:                                      00:24:48               We say the field, this is still under a green…

Chris:                                     00:24:50               Still greenhouse and to the greenhouses, they’ll plant them either in soil, which we have about 60% on this farm, but most of the farm is most our other farms are hydroponics. So hydroponics is a closed water system where the plants are, the roses are planted in it’s called pump in pumice, knowing volcanic stone, which is, again which is cleaned, it’s steamed and then it’s cleaned before starting…

Sam:                                      00:25:23               The steam is sort of. The ash is steamed.

Chris:                                     00:25:26               Yeah. We have to steam. We have here, we have big machines in our other farms which can steam and make sure the, cause, so we can recycle it as well. So then we’ll put, they’re put in beds, raised beds with a, and the beds are filled with the stones, the very tiny like stones and volcanic stones. And then the plants are planted and they are completely fed and they can totally depend on hydroponics to grow. So the fertilizers, everything that they need comes through the water and the irrigation system and it’s a closed system. So whatever excess water is piped through to reservoirs and then it’s recycled throughout the system.

Sam:                                      00:26:10               Is that the ideal, is that what you kind of want to be getting to where everything’s always used or is that, is there downsides to it?

Chris:                                     00:26:17               It depends on the farm. Some farms like will go to and they have a, like our farm in Nakuru, there are a lot of other farms around them and our neighboring farms don’t have any hydroponics at all. They plant in soil because at the end of the day a rose and a plant is supposed to go in soil and some, and you know, there’s no one size fits all. We went hydroponics to be honest, I’m not 100% sure why but it seems to, it gives you more control, slightly more control over the product, but you are really dependent on having stable supply of water and clean water as well.

Sam:                                      00:26:56               So if, for example, the, there was some event, which means that the water, there’s no water, would that basically just break the, close to break the system?

Chris:                                     00:27:06               It would break the hydroponic system. They need water to be watered every single day. For pants in soil, especially very healthy soils with good biological content and water retention can hold up, a plant can last a few days, a week. Some guys say can last 10 days with very little to no water.

Sam:                                      00:27:26               Okay.

Chris:                                     00:27:27               But you know, there’s a balance of does hydroponics produce more? But do you have a healthier plant? It’s a very big debate between different farms.

Sam:                                      00:27:37               Are there like some quite vocal people in the industry who are like very pro hydroponics.

Chris:                                     00:27:42               Yeah, definitely.

Sam:                                      00:27:44               Are there some heated debates.

Chris:                                     00:27:47               Debates of the industry are a bit more interesting than hydroponics versus soil planting. But there is a debate. Yeah.

Sam:                                      00:27:52               All right. What are some of the more interesting debates?

Chris:                                     00:27:55               Traits of varieties chemical uses and things like that? Also to be fair at the moment, the industry has a lot of external issues that are affected, such as, you know, labor pay rates certification certification issues, well, not issues, but the amount of certification that’s needed. Those are the, the real things that worry us.

Sam:                                      00:28:23               Yeah.

Chris:                                     00:28:23               Yeah.

Sam:                                      00:28:23               Okay. Well perhaps could come on a little bit later. Okay, so actually one thing on the different types of roses I was going to, you can just name a rose. If you, if you’ve got a new, s new type or you, you’re able to like make a new variety or, or if you get a, you tell me.

Chris:                                     00:28:43               Yes. Yeah. So the way it works with the trials is they are numbers. They, each breeder will give them numbers.

Sam:                                      00:28:50               One, two, three, four, five.

Chris:                                     00:28:51               Yeah.

Sam:                                      00:28:51               And the next one, one, two, three, four,

Chris:                                     00:28:52               It’s usually a number. Yeah. And so on. So they can kind of track it, obviously track it themselves. Because to name it there’s a whole trademark process and a registration process that they have to go through. So you don’t really do that until you know, you have a flower that will succeed or will grow. I will be X, we’ll be grown by the growers, which is us. So sometimes with some breeders, if we, and we constantly have trials in each farm, we have about a Hector of about 10,000 square meters worth of trials at any given time. This farm actually has a bit more and through that process we get to identify which flowers we like and what we want to grow. If it’s still a number, some breeders will, you can contact them. Say, we really like this one. Does it have a name? If they say it doesn’t have a name, some breeders will be open to you coming up with a name with them.

Sam:                                      00:29:45               What are some names that you’ve come up with?

Chris:                                     00:29:47               So it’s quite soppy, but we’ve named two varieties recently after the granddaughters of our, the youngest granddaughters of the two chairman of the group and my father and my uncle. Yeah. So Nelani which is named after my brother’s daughter and Olivia, which is named after my cousin’s daughter. Yeah.

Sam:                                      00:30:08               We’re gonna say anytime. Does that mean anywhere in the world? People would have an Olivia?

Chris:                                     00:30:14               Eventually if we’re hoping Olivia and Nelani succeed the way the other words do, we hope, number one, that number one, that it will succeed. Are we everywhere? And another good thing about it potentially is that they are semi exclusive to our farms. So it will also be guaranteed that it’s from our farm.

Sam:                                      00:30:32               Wow. Yeah. How does exclusivity work? So do you basically get the rights to?

Chris:                                     00:30:36               We agree with the breeder that we have wrote first writer refusal. So when a flower is, it looks like it’s going to be a successful flower, the breeder will often have a release policy. They don’t just flood the market because then they don’t they number one, they may do well themselves because they’ll get lots of royalty payments cause we pay for the rights to produce their flowers. But it won’t always be great for the grower because if there’s a huge amount of that product the price I will get, I can’t get as good a price as I’d hope because the buyers know there’s 10 other farms that are growing it. So what the breeders often do is they come up with a release policy and they work with the, those that have trials and those that are interested initially to come to agreement on the areas that they will say they’re only going to release 20,000 square meters of this product per year. And the breeders actually do monitor this by visiting farms and counting the number of plants and working out how much each farm is growing. We all have to be honest about that. And so we at Sian group will work with the breeder and say, we really love this flower. We’d like to take half of your total production and with the rights, take half your total production for the next three years.

Sam:                                      00:31:58               Okay.

Chris:                                     00:31:59               And then the rest and whoever else has the plants and has the variety already in soil already in growing, we’ll also say whether or not they agree to it, whether or not they want to do it. And then you make a deal between you as farms and with the breeder.

Sam:                                      00:32:15               Right. And it talking about the royalties. So do you, is there like an upfront cost to say, right, we’re going to buy the rights for this for a few years,

Chris:                                     00:32:26               Few years? I mean, when you do pick a variety, it’s a 7 to 10 year bet. So the breeders worked. So the life of the plant is about 7 to 10 years and not all breeders work exactly the same way. Some ask you to pay per plant and it’s offered, it’s a cost that you pay upon planting.

Sam:                                      00:32:49               Okay.

Chris:                                     00:32:50               Some breeders will ask you to pay per square meter, square meters, per Hector and some breeders will actually tell you to pay per square per Hector on a subscription basis. So it’s it’s again, with, as with varieties, no one size fits all, we have to go and sit down and make the agreements with them because you can’t, you can’t I can’t say enough about how hard it is and how much work these guys put into getting to a stable like red Rose. The amount of time and the amount of the amount of time and effort it takes for them to get to a point where we as growers come in is incredible. And if you ever have the opportunity to visit a breeder, it’s incredible cause like they we, there’s like a variety called Athena, which is a very popular white. It’s grown in large areas pretty much at all farms, but it, the original flower is I think it’s in the Netherlands, no, it might be in Germany, but it’s, the original flower and the original plant is just one or two that looked quite looked like they had the potential to be a strong rose that they, the breeder developed I think 10 or 15 years ago.

Sam:                                      00:34:04               Okay.

Chris:                                     00:34:05               And now there’s, if you go on the auctions, if you go to most places in Europe, a lot of the roses you’ll see, white roses you’ll see are Athena.

Sam:                                      00:34:13               Really? From this Adam and Eve.

Chris:                                     00:34:15               Yeah. From this mother plants. That is, that is, yeah.

Sam:                                      00:34:17               No way, okay. So then you did that and then so the commerciality side of it is you will are you paying up front for that or is it like are you paying each.

Chris:                                     00:34:27               It’s, it depends on the breeder, some, some do ask for up front, some will take it off in stages over the course of a year, so that they also give us the opportunity. The great thing is most breeders or most all breeders work very well with the growers. So they give very good terms, we’ll have time of the course of a year, course, of a eight, six, 18 months to pay the royalty

Sam:                                      00:34:55               And your thought process here is if I’m the first one to have the Olivia Rose, I can then charge a premium or I can then get a high price for it, which will more than pay off.

Chris:                                     00:35:07               Exactly. Exactly. Because from plant, from planting to harvest is can’t remember. I think it’s a couple of, it’s two months, I think two to three months. And if you’re paying your royalties over the course of the next year, you’re at least getting your income from that product. By, getting some income from the product by the time you’re having to pay off, pay for the right to grow.

Sam:                                      00:35:32               Got it. Okay. So roses are in the, they’re in the ground, they’re growing, and you said that they last for about seven years, so each time, say how often are they picked?

Chris:                                     00:35:45               Yeah, so the, it’s called a flush cycle.

Sam:                                      00:35:49               Flush.

Chris:                                     00:35:50               Flush cycle. And basically some flowers at this farm, every 33 days we’ll harvest, we’ll harvest the stem from the, from the plant. But then on other varieties and depending on altitude, it can go up to 60 to 80 days. But we work on an average as a group of about 45, I think 45 to 50 days. A flush cycle. Yeah.

Sam:                                      00:36:15               And then more or less the quality is consistent?

Chris:                                     00:36:18               More quality is as consistent as possible because our buyers and the auction, especially, they appreciate and will, you’ll get a premium on the auction for being consistent, for having the same number of stems Monday to Friday for sale. Okay. And the same quality.

Sam:                                      00:36:40               They get picked. And then, then what happens?

Chris:                                     00:36:45               So they get picked and then in the field they’ll do a bit of a grading where they’ll be put into buckets with water, with a feed, with a post-harvest solution that…

Sam:                                      00:36:57               That’s like some water with some chemicals?

Chris:                                     00:37:00               Exactly. Water with A bit of chemicals so that they can make sure the plants, the rows and what it drinks will be clean to extend the life of the flower. So they get put into buckets and, I know we have a system here where we have a CRM where we record the harvest.

Sam:                                      00:37:22               Things like customer relationship management system, like a database system that tracks.

Chris:                                     00:37:28               That tracks as much as possible so that we, and then they get collected by tractors and are brought to our cold store because the cold, the cold chain is vital to the, the life the vast life of the rose. The sooner you get it from the field into the cold room and where the cold rooms, they sit for a minimum of six to eight hours to bring the temperature down. The sooner you bring it to the cold rooms, the better, the, the better for the plant.

Sam:                                      00:37:59               This is like next to these greenhouses?

Chris:                                     00:38:02               There’s, it’s a central location on the farm generally. So this farm was developed because it’s a newer farm, was developed with the pack house and the cold rooms at the center. So not, it’s not too far. But in one of our other farms, I think it’s one and a half kilometers to, it’s, it’s a, it’s a central location. And because this, because there’s so much coming in, it has to get in here as quickly as possible and as efficiently as possible.

Sam:                                      00:38:30               Good.

Chris:                                     00:38:30               Yeah.

Sam:                                      00:38:31               And then, so it’s in the cold in the cold room and then packed up?

Chris:                                     00:38:36               So in the cold room and then it gets, after it’s down to the right temperature. So below five degrees it goes into theinto the packing, into pack house, which is obviously part of the same building. And what they do there is we have our orders, what’s going to the auction and we know what’s going to our direct customers. So at that point they get graded and sorted they’re put into into sleeves. If they’re going to auction. We have branded sleeves.

Sam:                                      00:39:07               Sleeves are like cellophane?

Chris:                                     00:39:08               Cellophane sleeves. We have branded sleeves in the auction because we need people to see that it’s a Sian product. And then for our direct customers, they often have their own requests, whether it’s their own sleeve whether it’s just a transparent one. We put in it’s called SFK, which is a paper corrugated paper protection around the heads and then they’re packed into boxes, cardboard boxes, which again are branded of course, because we need everyone to know that the flowers are from Kenya and from us. And then they’re pileed in and then they’re taken to the export cold store where they’re kept until they’re ready to be loaded onto refrigerator trucks, which then drive them to Nairobi airport. Cause all, the whole flower industry is almost all roses are air freighted. Okay. Well from Kenya or as air freight.

Sam:                                      00:40:01               Yeah.

Chris:                                     00:40:01               Yeah.

Sam:                                      00:40:02               Cool. Okay. So that kind of gets us there. So there’s, so basically, we, what we’ve spoken about there is going from a little bit of a little chopped up bit of rose all the way through to propagation, hardening, growing, et cetera. And then you say that, and that sort of can take 45 days. Is it 45 days from half?

Chris:                                     00:40:21               45 to 50, I think.

Sam:                                      00:40:23               Yeah.

Chris:                                     00:40:23               I think so. Like.

Sam:                                      00:40:25               Okay. It’s that sort of, and then repeat, repeat, repeat. Okay. that’s all a bit about where the flowers go then. So you sort of mentioned the two destinations at the auction or this direct to customers. Can we perhaps talk about the auction first. Okay. Yeah. So yeah, so in Holland,

Chris:                                     00:40:46               Yeah. So the auction is actually really fascinating and I really encourage anybody to try, if they ever in a Schiphole, to try have some time to go check out flora Holland, which is next door. And is the reason why Schiphole is part of the reason why Schiphole is such a huge airport. So flora, Holland the auction in, next to Schiphole was called…

Sam:                                      00:41:11               Flora Holland is a company…

Chris:                                     00:41:12               Flora Holland is a…

Sam:                                      00:41:13               This international flower.

Chris:                                     00:41:15               They are the world’s biggest flower company and they, it’s a corporative. We’re, as Sian roses, are a member, we as sellers and they are the world’s biggest flower company. And also the, their auction, which is one of three big ones they own in, in Holland, their auction next to Schiphol airport is called Aalsmeer and is one of the biggest buildings in the world, I think. But the Boeing factory and maybe one other are only the only two buildings bigger in, in terms of floor space. Yeah. And so our flowers go there. By air for the auction every night and are unpacked, put in buckets with water. And then, traditionally it used to be an auction where people would physically sit in these big halls depending on varieties of flowers. There’s, I think, I can’t remember how many clocks, there’s so many. They’re called auction clocks and those, the rose rooms, they have 2 at Aalsmeer, they have one in Naaldwijk and one in Rijnsburg, which are the three main auctions. And the buyers would sit in these big halls and would they would be put on trolleys and they would see the flowers. They’d go inspect them before buying, before the auction opened, and then they would go and buy them according to the price that they feel that they’re worth.

Sam:                                      00:42:34               Yeah.

Chris:                                     00:42:35               And it’s a, it’s a Dutch auction so it starts high and goes low.

Sam:                                      00:42:39               Yeah. This is to me why, let’s get my head around because we watched it on, so historically it was a room. Everyone goes and sits in a room and they say, right, we’re now bringing on Sian roses, Sian Olivia roses, we’ve got 200 buckets to sell. He wants to buy them. Now that’s all electronic.

Chris:                                     00:42:58               It’s all digital.

Sam:                                      00:42:59               And so we, we were, we were sat in your office and we were just on a web browser watching a live stream event happening. It’s fascinating that we said that. So each one can, and it’s really quick.

Chris:                                     00:43:12               I’ts very very fast

Sam:                                      00:43:14               Now my understanding of an auction is there’s a painting or something or something you want to buy and someone says he will give me a hundred, 150, 140 or 150, 200, 220, going once, going twice sold. This one’s different. So how does this one work?

Chris:                                     00:43:34               So this works the opposite direction. It starts high and goes low and you and the buyers basically have they have a registration number and a button that they get to press at the point where they feel it’s worth. So it usually starts at Euro or something or Euro and will come back down and this price per STEM, and It’ll come down to the point that they, and it’s a very interesting cause they’re making that calculation of what the demand is for this product, for this, for this color, for that specific Rose. If someone’s really asking about specific rose, what they are willing to pay and what they’re willing, what they think they will get from their customer and what they usually do. And at that point they’ll press the button. And if someone presses it very early, then the, then the, everybody starts buying from that point and it can still drop a bit. But if it’s a lot, a lot of product you have to get in to get what you need because you have someone in mind in generally they have someone in mind generally for that rose.

Sam:                                      00:44:34               And so the idea is it’s not one person buying everything. So let’s say there are a hundred buckets, you know, someone might buy 30 buckets at 35 cents, the next person buys 25 buckets.

Chris:                                     00:44:46               Usually the same 35 cents. And then generally if it’s that now it will generally go all at 35 cents.

Sam:                                      00:44:53               Okay.

Chris:                                     00:44:54               Yeah.

Sam:                                      00:44:54               But it might be some where it says still have 20 left. They might get bought 28 cents.

Chris:                                     00:44:57               Yeah, it might still drop down a bit more.

Sam:                                      00:45:00               Okay.

Chris:                                     00:45:00               And there’s an auctioneer who’s announcing each product as it comes up on the clock?

Sam:                                      00:45:05               And the, this honesty was taking like five seconds before they’re gone.

Chris:                                     00:45:10               Thousands. I mean hundreds of thousands stems are sold an hour, like per day. It’s millions of stems. In the peak periods they’ll be handling millions and millions of stems, of roses a day.

Sam:                                      00:45:23               And who’s buying?

Chris:                                     00:45:25               So the buyers are generally wholesalers and major wholesalers and anything from a mom and pop operation with, with a small, a couple of shops to, or a truck. Cause the whole industry was based on the flying Dutchman concept where the the buyers would be these traders, and they would buy on the auction, they would fill up their truck and then they’d drive to England, they’d drive to Paris, they’d drive to other parts of Germany. And then they would go and open up their truck and say, this is what I’ve got, sell out the what’s on the truck and then head back and do it all again.

Sam:                                      00:46:07               Yeah.

Chris:                                     00:46:07               And they do that as a constant cycle. But now it’s mainly large buyers, very big wholesalers that will supply supermarket chains, will supply florist chains, will supply everything from will supply everything from someone with just a single store to someone with 50 stores to a hundred stores. Yeah.

Sam:                                      00:46:25               And so your, so that buyer at the auction, let’s say he pays 30 cents, 30 Euro cents, what’s their mark up? What are they, what will they then sell it to the florist and then what would the florist sell to the customer? Obviously there are some barriers.

Chris:                                     00:46:42               I wouldn’t want to speculate because in case any are listening, but I mean they always have to make their margin and they do make a good margin because they take a lot of the,as a middleman, they take a lot of the stress and a lot of the strain of getting the supply in. Cause also a lot of them will still take them to their own facilities and add value. So they’ll, they’ll buy roses from Kenya. They’ll buy carnations from Turkey or Spain or co, and then they’ll buy orange ones from another, from Italy. They’ll buy, you know, they’ll buy tons of flowers from all parts of the world that are on these clocks in,on these, in these auctions and in the, around the Netherlands. And they will bring them to their facilities. They’ll put them into bouquets for them. They’ll put them into new buckets for them. They’ll…

Sam:                                      00:47:34               So it’s not, it’s not as simple as buy it, sell it. There is some, there’s a lot of work they do in between. And so that’s why that’s the USP that they can do that they have the buying power and they have the people and they do spend a lot of time coming out to visit farms to establish whether this farm can actually supply the product consistently.

Sam:                                      00:47:59               So auctions are. The one way you also mentioned you sell directly, so what’s the rationale there?

Chris:                                     00:48:05               So about, when we were initially started, everything went to auction. And the auction was a great platform because it gave us huge exposure and market access because our product that wasn’t there, if they weren’t adding value, our product would go in sleeve with the Sian logo from here to wherever in the world. It would end up through the buyers. But after a while more and more buyers were realizing that they could actually mitigate the risk of, cause they’re, the wholesalers for example, would, would have to hope that we as Sian roses and the industry in general, have a variety like Olivia on the auction every day throughout the year. And sometimes the weather can be bad. Sometimes there could be other issues. So buyers, some buyers realize that they can also mitigate that risk by buying a percentage of their product. So even these big traders, they buy, they do buy a percentage of their product by coming to the farms and making direct deals, which means that a rose, that may sell for 30 cents at the auction as a very, obviously a very nice rose that sells for 30 cents at the auction. We have fees to pay as a sellers.

Sam:                                      00:49:24               In order to participate in the auction.

Chris:                                     00:49:27               And also we pay the transport, we pay the the transport costs. So these buyers also realize that they can come to us and come and negotiate a lower price or a different price to have to guarantee continuous supply. And they would take, they would take over that they’re taking the cost of transport, which is a huge, huge part of the cost for us here in Kenya. We can produce very cheaply, but our costs of transport are very, very high. So that’s when we realized and we started building a marketing and sales team led by Yvonne, who’s worked for us for 16 years now. And we’ve built up a customer base of about 50 or 60 customers around the world who get into, who are in contact pretty much every few days, if not daily. And we’ll have we’ll pack flowers according to their specs to be delivered to Nairobi airport where they have their own ship. They have made their own deals with shippers to take it on to wherever they are.

Sam:                                      00:50:32               Got it. So you’ve still got the auction but you increasingly are looking to move towards this?

Chris:                                     00:50:39               Well I think we’ve hit our balance, we are about 70, 30, 70% direct, 30% auction. And I think we’ve reached our balance. We may adjust it depending but the, the, the unfortunate thing for us as growers is, well us as growers who are trying to do both auction and direct, cause there are quite a lot of growers that do 100% direct and there are quite a lot that do 100% auction and there’s quite a few like us who do both. And the unfortunate thing of the ones who do both is that if we do keep product on the auction, we can’t turn around and ask for a premium price for the same product because the buyers who are buying from us direct do also have are, are also members of the auction and also can see the product on the auction.

Sam:                                      00:51:30               I see. You can’t go to your direct customer and say start selling it at 40 cents. If they then, cause then they all taken to the auction that, hold on a second. You were selling it for 30.

Chris:                                     00:51:41               Exactly. They’ll know that for the past six months I’ve been getting 32 cents for this rose. But on the auction it’s been consistently on the auction is considered again 32 cents. I can’t turn around and say, right, if you want to make a deal with us for a year four throughout the year, I want 40 cents. It just won’t work.

Sam:                                      00:51:59               You were saying earlier this, there’s just unbelievably efficient market.

Chris:                                     00:52:02               Very, very efficient.

Sam:                                      00:52:03               Sort of the, the speed at which things are done. The transparency, yeah.

Chris:                                     00:52:10               It’s it’s something that I don’t think enough people realize that behind the rose that is in your local, your local supermarket, just how much has gone into getting it there, but not only that, just how efficient everything is because you also got to consider it’s gotta be kept below four degrees the whole way. Well, we try to keep everything below four degrees and there are companies that would do, we work with, we as growers and also a few of the buyers work with companies like flower watch who put in temperature sensors in a certain number of boxes in sample, sample size boxes throughout the industry. And will send you back the data of temperature at packing temperature at arrival, temperature at transport, temperature at arrival at the destination. And generally if a new generally they keep quite close to that four to six, four to six degrees. Yeah.

Sam:                                      00:53:09               Yeah. It seems like there’s, when we were walking around, you’re saying that, you know, adopting QR codes for, for tracking, it seems there’s lots of innovation that seems to be happening around sort of supply chain aspects.

Chris:                                     00:53:24               Yeah. Cause when you reach a certain size, especially like this farm if this, if we only had this farm for example, we are 45 hectors here, we are pretty much at our large as we can grow in under greenhouse without having to invest heavily in more water like a more bore holes. And so when we look at expansion, if we look at future expansion or what to do the next few years of this farm, it’s efficiencies. So if we can be more efficient with using technology. So the QR codes was for our marketing side so that we have product traceability so that if we, if the supervisor’s in the, in the pack house receive some buckets and they see there’s a problem with some buckets or the product or the product and some of the buckets, they can trace which greenhouse it came from and when it was harvested. So they can quickly, even before it enters the, into our cold stores and goes through the chain that those flowers don’t end up, three days later in Australia and our customers furious because he’s just paid all this money for it to get there. We can actually catch it quite early. The next step is things like water and water management, water resource management, which is very vital because it’s a limited resource. And using technology to manage our senses, to manage our product a bit better, to make sure that we aren’t overfeeding, we aren’t over-watering, we aren’t the water that is reentering the system. So that’s draining through our greenhouses and reentering the water table isn’t dirty. That kind of stuff is very important. Yeah.

Sam:                                      00:55:13               Are you seeing any other opportunities or things where you’re like, Hmm, there must be something that could make this easier, it must make this better, but you haven’t yet found it?

Chris:                                     00:55:24               I think the systems, the systems to help manage growing, if that is something that we had to, we spend about two years trying to find like our CRM and one other farmer has also done the same one or two other farms have also done the same. There’s just a system to help manage the product from growing to now actual like packing for export and making sure that you, your customers, you can get better customer satisfaction by being able to say when the customers order 10,000 stems of rose a, they are actually going to get 10,000 cause it is a living product. So there can be fluctuations but it’s not acceptable because our direct customers have people they’re also supplying and if you, if our direct customers supplying Sainsburys for example, they don’t want to hear that the farm that their supplier was buying from had rainstorms for two weeks. They want to, they just want their flowers. Yeah.

Sam:                                      00:56:24               Okay. We spoke, we spoke a bit as well about sort of accreditation. So fair trade.

Chris:                                     00:56:31               So we sell a lot in Europe and Kenya as a whole, as a, Kenya flower market sells mostly in Europe. And there, and they have very high standards for fair trade standards and certain certifications. They expect the product to be they used to call, there was another, there was another institution called fair flower, fair plants, fair, flowers fair plants, I think, or not. But anyway, what they want, the consumer wants to know and it’s the right thing that this flower has been grown and with minimal use of chemicals, especially carcinogens. The, the people who are harvesting are and handling the flowers are paid well, that we as a farm are not polluting the local environment by just spraying tons of chemicals and releasing that into the, the rivers that are nearby and water into the water table. And so there are a lot of certifications and they are very important and are very good. But the thing is there’s no unifying certification that can cover a lot of this. So we as a farm have to go through a month and a half of inspections and sort of earn the certification processes every year, which can get quite cumbersome and can get quite, can interrupt operations quite a bit. And because there are seasons, so the summer season is the summer in Europe is the low season for the flower industry in Kenya. So everybody tries to do it then. And there’s only a limited number of inspectors. So it, it’s a, as with many things, it’s the right, it’s the right idea and right, right thing to do in principle, but the execution has kind of become muddled because Germany wants German customers may want a certain certification that is not necessarily Netherlands but, and, but, and then Switzerland, something different from Norway. And so you have to have all of them done and it costs and it’s a cost to the farm to do. Yeah.

Sam:                                      00:58:43               You mentioned that the, there’s some work by the Kenyan flower council to try and consolidate this.

Chris:                                     00:58:49               Yeah. So the Kenya flower council is trying to help consolidate this by offering and has so members of the Kenya flower council that’s most of the flower industry in Kenya, they do now get to have all their certification done by the Kenya flat and inspections done by Kenya flower council who have made agreements with fair trade with NPS NPS, with a global gap. And I tried to have one, one it’s called KFC silver, KFC gold. And you’re going to have KFC bronze. So when you’re team achieves either of those KFC certificates, it’s usually enough, but it’s still not fully there because the customers don’t fully understand and fully know that what KFC does is, so it’s a process that’s ongoing and it’s a very encouraging. Yeah. Yeah. Okay.

Sam:                                      00:59:51               Nice. We’ll try and sort of wrap up soon-ish. Cause we’ve actually been speaking for nearly an hour.

Chris:                                     00:59:56               Oh wow.

Sam:                                      00:59:58               Doesn’t time fly. One thing I was wanting to ask, which might be yeah, isBrexit.

Chris:                                     01:00:05               Yeah.

Sam:                                      01:00:06               Or like maybe, maybe that’s, but you know, like at the moment that is, so we are recording this sort of towards the end of August, obviously there’s a lot of uncertainty about it. And so there are no definite answers cause I was wondering, what have been some of the conversations you’ve had to be having as a result of the UK potentially leaving the customs union?

Chris:                                     01:00:26               Yeah. So our direct exposure, like our direct customers in the UK, we don’t have a huge amount, but we still have some and we’ve tried to talk to them about paying us in dollars, but obviously they wouldn’t want to do that either.

Sam:                                      01:00:43               And that’s to protect against currency.

Chris:                                     01:00:45               Currency. Yeah. To give us a, reduce the currency risk, to pay us in dollars or euros. But the, that’s a problem for them as well because even in the last 10 days, last few weeks the, the, the exchange rate has dropped. So that has been something that we tried to do but we left it a bit late to be honest. And we should’ve done that two and a half, three years ago. But also the problem for us is a lot of our buyers and a lot of the buyers in the auction are really exposed to, to the UK market. They are, they, a lot of them, a lot of our buyers buy and sell in the UK, buy in the Netherlands or buy from us directly to sell in the UK. And that is a huge risk because something as simple as, I think it was a funny anecdote I got from a customer last year was that if, if there is a hard Brexit and there’s no customs union or customs agreement and they have to do and every, every truck has to go through customs. They said the vegetables and flowers alone coming from Netherlands will form a traffic jam. That’ll be as long as from Kallai to Amsterdam. And this is just, he was curing up the tracks back to back just because of the daily flow and how efficient they have become.

Sam:                                      01:02:04               And a, and lots of flowers, flowers aren’t going to survive that.

Chris:                                     01:02:08               No, Nope. They want to, especially in this, the European summers that we’ve been having this 40 degree summers. Yeah. Yeah. So it’s a, it’s a real worry. We don’t know. And the worst thing is, is just we don’t know what’s going to happen. We don’t know if the pound is going to drop even further by this, by this time next year, by October 31st what’s going to happen. So it’s a kind of wait and see. But we directly aren’t as exposed as I said, but a lot of other farms in Kenya are.

Sam:                                      01:02:40               And that’s because they are…

Chris:                                     01:02:42               Supplying directly and our British, and some are even British owned British owned farms. So they are supplying directly to the big supermarket and they are supplying a lot of product.

Sam:                                      01:02:54               And so for them is a big exposure of the currency.

Chris:                                     01:02:59               Maternity risk because your, you’re buying, they’re buying a lot of the inputs in, we buy as an industry a lot of inputs in dollars. Okay. Fertilizers, we buy huge amounts of fertilizer. Yeah. And so fertilizing chemicals and that’s usually purchased in dollars. They may be able to, but still, you know, it’s even if they can try buy in pounds it the risk of holding large amounts of pounds.

Sam:                                      01:03:25               Okay. Got it. So the two main, the two main things to think about are, one is the, the actual physical, the physical aspects of logistics of getting into UK. And the other is the currency. And the currency only exists really with the direct consumers. Direct customers because you would have your own trade routes.

Chris:                                     01:03:46               Also for the customers who are buying, they’d come and still will buy in Euro’s. But for them it also becomes so expensive to get the Euros, you know, to, to buy the euros in the first place to pay their customers in the Netherlands, in Euros.

Sam:                                      01:03:58               Yeah.

Chris:                                     01:03:59               So the, the cost of a rose, if it’s 10, 10 pence obviously if you’re buying in Euro’s used to be nine Euro cents, I get it. Right. And then.

Sam:                                      01:04:13               It’s not something I’m actively around. It might be, it might use to being 30…

Chris:                                     01:04:20               Yeah. So 10 pence used to be one, used to be 12 Euro cents. Yup. Now that same one is going to be, it’s going to be even more.

Sam:                                      01:04:27               Yeah. Yeah. Got it. Okay. Hmm. So I guess I’ll just wait and see. But you’re less exposed than the buyers.

Chris:                                     01:04:36               It’s not, it’s slightly less but, but we don’t always know exactly where our buyers are sending all our flowers to. So for, we know our biggest customer is 90% of the product is ending up in the UK.

Sam:                                      01:04:50               Okay. But it just gets routed through this auction, which is going to make things a lot more difficult.

Chris:                                     01:04:54               Yeah.

Sam:                                      01:04:54               Could it be that those customers rather they’re gonna stop buying at the auction and they, both customers are then going to start searching?

Chris:                                     01:05:02               They couldn’t really, the auction is so huge It is the biggest I mean we are 70% direct, but our biggest single customer technically is still the auction.

Sam:                                      01:05:13               Okay. Yeah. Excellent.

Chris:                                     01:05:16               That’s the say. And the auction is so huge, so it’s not that they will stop buying, it’s just they have to work out the logistics of getting the product through to the UK. How are they going to manage that?

Sam:                                      01:05:27               Hmm. Just quickly, when talking about efficiencies, is it that you mentioned that the farm employs 2000 to 2000 people there’s a lot of talk about automation and things. Is this, is flower picking in the flower industry one way or there’s probably gonna keep human labor or is it something where that might…

Chris:                                     01:05:49               It’s still very labor intensive and it will be because the costs, I mean I’ve seen on YouTube, but I’ve never visited a mechanized like fully mechanized flower farm. There’s some lily farms in the Netherlands where they have they have robots. It’s very expensive. It’s just, it’s just as like, you’re looking at other industries, like the dairy industry, there are milking robots that are very popular and getting popular around Europe. But if you have more than 200 cows, it’s just not cost effective.

Sam:                                      01:06:22               Yeah.

Chris:                                     01:06:23               So in…

Sam:                                      01:06:24               Less than 200 cows.

Chris:                                     01:06:25               If you have, if you have more than 200 cows, it’s not cost. It’s the average milking machine. And from what I’ve read, it’s, the numbers is about 80 to a hundred at a time. Okay. So, and they cost like a hundred and something to $200,000 to buy one. Okay. Robot milking machine. Yeah. We also have a dairy. That’s why I looked at this. Butso it’s the same as in the flower industry when you’re at this scale where unless something crazy happens with the wage increases over the next 10 years to 15 years, really don’t foresee how, how, and if we could go to mechanic to mechanizing most of the farms.

Sam:                                      01:07:04               And that is, is that because I know that one of the big things with the mechanization of wheat farming in America was it’s quite consistent. You can, you know, make big square, big rectangular fields and just sell for, I think this one we’re looking at, it’s, it’s a bit more fiddly is that you can’t just chop it off, that you’ve got to like pick and select.

Chris:                                     01:07:25               Exactly. Got to pick and select just as they showed you with the spring roses, they look at three buds. If there’s three out of the five to seven to eight or 10 buds that are at least open, a certain number of the bugs that are open, they have to find the balance between the openness of those who are that already and those that will and then make that decision in the field. And that’s our harvest, is making that decision in the field to kind of so I mean obviously you can’t, you can never say never, but I just don’t see that kind of a technology in the industry. Yeah.

Sam:                                      01:07:56               One of the thing is the the other big thing which seems to be spoken about a lot is single use plastics. Now the, the, the center, the, the sleeves that they came with, cellophane, will you be caught up to all in any funds to reduce?

Chris:                                     01:08:12               There are measures. So there are one or two company, the, the companies that make the sleeves that havelooked at doing paper sleeves, recycled paper sleeves, and we’ve done trials with them. The only problem is, is when it arrives at the, in Europe after being through transport, it just does not look good. Okay. The, it does it, it doesn’t, it doesn’t travel well. So a few of our customers and quite, quite uneven, more and more every day are actually sleeving themselves in Europe. They’re doing the paper recycle, the recycle papers sleeves when they get to Europe and the cardboard boxes and the all the cardboard and paper we use is obviously recyclable and is recycled.

Sam:                                      01:08:57               Yeah. But basically there’s, there’s room for innovation potentially.

Chris:                                     01:09:03               There’s innovation. Yeah.

Sam:                                      01:09:03               In space of like the actual classically used plastic.

Chris:                                     01:09:07               There’s more and more paper sleeves being produced and they’re being sleeved with by machine in Europe. And then on the sustainability side, a lot of farms and we included are working very hard on that. We are planning a solar, a solar plant here. A lot of farms in Kenya already done it and have been on solar for quite while. The industry is on, on the whole very conscious of, you know, our effects, the environmental impact. Yeah.

Sam:                                      01:09:38               Very good. Okay. So I mean, yeah, just to finish up, I mean, first of all I thought it’s been absolutely fascinating. Like it’s such an amazing, machine process operation to sort of see it, see it all come through. What, what do you sort of what, what’s exciting you about, about the business in the next few years?

Chris:                                     01:09:59               The new farm is very exciting. Doing non roses after all they’ve been doing it.

Sam:                                      01:10:05               Is non-roses your own terminology? It’s not like the flower industry.

Chris:                                     01:10:08               No. That’s our topic we’re using and telling you like, yeah, we’re just doing of, of bunch of a bunch of products but just non-roses. The next is technology. How and how and how we’ll come in and help because there are systems out there and we’re trialing them constantly on how we can maximize our efficiency. So then rather than expanding by actually building greenhouses, we can expand by maximizing our production in the field. Cause if we can increase our production by 5%that by calling the 5% by 5%, that’s adding two greenhouses, you know, and that’s a huge, huge cost saving. The interesting thing is is the industry in Kenya is quite robust. It has had some issues. It has had some external issues, but it, it’s a big employer and a better huge benefactor to Kenya. And it’s now working in the next few years to get the knowledge at, get more people to understand and know that cause I don’t think many people in Kenya know that the flounders is second biggest Forex owner for Kenya. And I, I’m, I’ve met, I’ve met a lot of people when you talk to them about flowers, they just see the greenhouses, but they don’t understand just how much they contribute, how much cash it’s generating, how much cash it’s generating for the country, but also how much it employs the every farm, not only because of the fair trade a good cause, a fair trade certification does work very hard and well with community. We build schools, we build hospitals. There’s amazing farms that have built hospitals that are actually better than the government hospitals and then become community centers. It’s all very exciting and important things that people really should know more about.

Sam:                                      01:11:55               And how can people listening, how can they learn more? How can they learn more about you? About Sian roses?

Chris:                                     01:12:00               Well there’s BBC had a documentary or a talk, had a thing about two years ago where they went and visited some Kenyan farms. They actually visited our farm in a crew. They visited a really amazing grower in Nanyuki called, Tom boozy that does…

Sam:                                      01:12:15               What makes them amazing?

Chris:                                     01:12:16               They are, they do very beautiful scented roses. So scented roses, scented that have a smell and they are very difficult to, they are more difficult to grow and they are much more expensive to buy, but they are really beautiful product and they specialize in that. The, where if they are ever in M and S in, in Holland, go visit flora Holland actually does, can, you can visit flora Holland building the buildings and you can actually add their visitor centers and they’ll show you how they built the industry. They’ve built their whole industry And generally just ask your florists like they, they will know that, who they bought it from. But ask you Florist about, for a bit more information cause now six times out of 10, it’s probably a Kenyan rose.

Sam:                                      01:13:07               Yeah. Very cool. Well, Chris That’s been super exciting. Thanks so much.

Chris:                                     01:13:10               Thank you.


Why did the home of running not make running shoes? Nava the co-founder of Enda Running explains


If you think about brands that different countries have, most people probably have two strong associations for Kenya.

Safari and running.

The safari industry is well established, with innumerate tour companies able to take you on your dream holiday seeing the Big Five.

Running, however, is an industry which is much less developed.

In fact, until Enda, there were no running shoes made in arguably the home of running!

As we discuss in this episode, Nava, the co-founder of Enda Sportswear wanted a way to promote sports in her country and settled on building shoes as the biggest impact way to do so.

In the process, Enda has become a vehicle for promoting local industry, with all of the assembly taking place in Kenya, and many parts, such as shoelaces, being produced in the region too.

Nava and I talk about all sides of the business, including where and how the shoes are currently sold, the global (ahem) footprint that the brand has, and the practicalities of setting up production of high-end footwear in East Africa.

The Enda offices are in the same place as a number of artist workshops. 

We’re doing the interview outside, and so there may be a bit of background noise from people moving stuff, as well as some chickens who wandered over at some point.


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Social Media Links


Facebook: EndaRunning

Twitter: @endasportswear



Sam:                                      00:00                     Intro

Sam:                                      01:58                     Cool. So we’re here today with Nava from Enda, Nava welcome to the show.

Nava:                                    02:02                     Thank you so much. Happy to be here.

Sam:                                      02:03                    So to get us started, can you tell us a bit about you and a bit about Enda?

Nava:                                    02:07                     A bit about me, I studied law. I am a lawyer by profession. I did accounting as well. I haven’t practiced either for a really long time and right now I’m making running shoes in Kenya kind of just working with athletes, create running shoes because I think it’s time to really make shoes in Kenya, by Kenyans who totally understand running and sharing that culture with the world. And I think I’ve also answered about Enda, so Enda is the company that does that and Enda is a Swahili word that means go which is basically we thought the best way to encompass a company that is like advocating for Kenyan running and sharing that culture around the world.

Sam:                                      02:50                     Correct.

Nava:                                    02:50                     Yeah.

Sam:                                      02:50                     So Enda is the first Kenyan made running shoe in the world.

Nava:                                    02:56                     Yes it is. Not Kenyan made, Oh yeah, running shoe, yes. I thought you were like saying other shoes. Yeah, it is the first Kenyan made running shoe in the world and also nobody is doing it in Africa. So we are also kind of…

Sam:                                      03:07                     Really? The whole of Africa, no one’s making running shoes?

Nava:                                    03:09                     No, nobody’s doing that. Like they are making different types of shoes but not pro-running shoes.

Sam:                                      03:14                     Why are you not seeing running shoes?

Nava:                                    03:16                     I don’t know. That’s a good question. I think it’s just a matter of maybe who are you producing for? What are you producing for? What’s the, I can’t answer that specifically. I just know we’re doing it. Yeah.

Sam:                                      03:29                     Okay. Yeah. So the market you’re in is selling running shoes. So these are, who are you selling to? Are you selling to athletes to casual? Wearers like…

Nava:                                    03:40                     Both I’d say runners definitely are the first crowd that got really attracted to us. There are also other people who are buying it in Kenya for the pride of it. Like something that’s made here locally and supporting us. And then there are people who are wearing it just for everyday wear. Like I’m going shopping or going to an event, like looking for something comfortable and wearing them. So I’d say we kind of cut a broad spectrum of of customers, but we do basically appeal to runners a lot.

Sam:                                      04:12                     Okay. And so how many, like how long has the company been going?

Nava:                                    04:16                     Our company is going, been going for about three years right now, roughly, getting there. So, but of course the earlier years were more of just setting up structures and in terms of production, they started in I think August, like mid 2017, so I’d say 2017 is when we really started operations. Before that, was just a lot of planning.

Sam:                                      04:37                     Okay. So you’ve been sort of coming up to two years. Yes. Sort of shoes being made. Exactly. How many pairs of shoes are out there at the moment?

Nava:                                    04:44                     That’s a good question. I would say right now about the first run, we did like about 2,500. We’ve done quite a bit, I would say about like over 4,000, 4,000 pairs are out and about all over the world. So, but our goal is definitely to increase that number because we know we have capability to reach so many people. And make so many shoes.

Sam:                                      05:08                     Yeah. Very cool. Okay. So lots of things to talk about. So I thought maybe we’d sort of start on the, on the demand side.

Nava:                                    05:16                     Okay.

Sam:                                      05:16                     So you said that, sort of these runners are the first types of people who you sort of started aiming at. What’s your sort of split between selling in Kenya and selling internationally?

Nava:                                    05:30                     Kenya, I would say about 10% internationally, most of it is international. Yeah.

Sam:                                      05:37                     And these are athletes who are famous or sort of like keen runners?

Nava:                                    05:44                     Yeah. It’s like runners. I would say it cuts across a broad spectrum because we do have like people who are like really athletes running lots of races and they’re wearing them. We do have people who are starting out and they’re wearing them. So we do have quite a variety of different people who are wearing them.

Sam:                                      06:01                     Okay.

Nava:                                    06:02                     Yeah.

Sam:                                      06:02                     What type of shoes did these guys wear before?

Nava:                                    06:05                     So a runner typically has like different types of shoes. So you have like a daily trainer, you have a light-weight trainer, you have like spikes, you have trail shoes. So people, right now our key products are I light-weight trainer and a daily trainer. So those are the categories where we kind of like entered into and most of the people who are wearing our shoes are people who are in those categories, right.So they would be wearing them for running, for walking, for comfort that specific category.

Sam:                                      06:37                     Okay. Once you have a, if you’re serious about running, you have different shoes based on the type of athlete.

Nava:                                    06:41                     Yes. Yeah.

Sam:                                      06:42                     Why is that?

Nava:                                    06:43                     Because different shoes are for different purposes. You know, if you are going for a 42 kilometer race, you’re not going to use the same shoes that you go to the gym with. Right? Like you need something that has more cushion, it’s softer. It’s kind of taking you the longer ride because it’s also kind of like endurance, like your body needs, like the best support mostly in terms of just the cover, like the rubber between you and the ground. And also like the consistency of the EVA, which is the component that is used to make the mid-sole. Like it has to be soft and yeah, like you, whatever you use has to be different. If you are running like a hundred meter, it’s a different shoe. Right? So basically there’s different types of runs and you want to make sure that you’re using the best shoe for that. So for example, I wouldn’t use a road shoe for trails. You’re just going to go break your neck or something, you know, a trails shoe would need something that has more like more rubber that is basically really avoiding the friction, like having more friction to keep you stable. So it’s different runs, different shoes. Yeah.

Sam:                                      07:51                     Alright. So there’s different, different times. Okay. And so is it the case that the people buying it they’re like they’re just adding Enda as like another pair of shoes they got? Or will they be like switching out from Nike or whatever.

Nava:                                    08:05                     I mean the thing is like as a new brand already there were people wearing other brands when you come in. So of course they will switch your product with something and that’s the beauty of running because a lot of people who run, they replaced their shoes a lot. So that means that also, are keen on seeing what’s new and also the way the industry is, is created is that there’s always like new product releases or something like that. So the runners mentality is geared towards trying something new. Right. Which has a good side and a bad side. But from the market entry perspective, it worked for us because they were willing to try something that was different and was new in their daily rotation. Yeah.

Sam:                                      08:45                     That’s really cool. And then how much do they cost?

Nava:                                    08:48                     They cost $100, which is like 10,000 Kenyan shillings.

Sam:                                      08:51                     Okay. Is that expensive for a pair of running shoes?

Nava:                                    08:55                     Nope. I mean if a pair of running shoes would go, at least for the light-weight trainer, would go from like $80 to $250. So it really just depends on like what you’re investing in. But if you compare us to other brands in that specific category, we are basically like right at the affordable level. So from, if you’re looking at is from a competitors perspective, we are basically just price right for the market for that kind of shoe.

Sam:                                      09:21                     Alright. And then how do most people like actually physically buy?

Nava:                                    09:25                     Most people mostly two ways: online, that’s our key method of selling. We’re direct consumer brand, so we sell online and do deliveries and the other one is we also do a lot of popups, especially here in Nairobi, just being at places where people can see the shoes, touch them, try them on. And of course the long-term plan is to get into stores. Yeah.

Sam:                                      09:47                     Why have you not decided to try and get into stores earlier on?

Nava:                                    09:51                     In the US we actually are in three stores. So kind of just a good start and hoping to expand and get into more doors. In Kenya, it’s also, I mean, one of it is linked to resources and capacity. Like basically we have to it’s a small team and we have to figure out how to do this in the most efficient way possible. Secondly, it’s also a new brand. So a lot of the re-sellers or stores especially locally would want to already sell something that they know the customer knows about, right? So they want it needs more investment in marketing so that it’s not just based on the re-seller to say, oh this, there’s this new shoe, it’s about x, y, z. It’s much easier for them if someone says, I am coming to look for this particular shoe. So it’s kind of part of the, our plan in terms of just getting more one out of the marketing and creating demand to get to a point where the retailers are actually being asked for shoes and then they can be able to stock because they have the confidence to say, people are asking for this products. Yeah.

Sam:                                      10:58                     What’s the benefit for going in stores like that?

Nava:                                    11:00                     Because people, people, especially in Kenya, we are not yet an online society. Like a lot of people still prefer using hard cash. A lot of people are not comfortable with online purchases. I think it’s just a, it’s a new thing, right? We do use M-Pesa but M-Pesa is not an online purchase, like it’s mobile. Whereas going on a website and doing all of that, a lot of people, it’s a new experience for them. So that’s why we tried to do pop ups as much as possible so that they can also come and for other people they also just want to try the shoes fast before they buy them online. So what we did is just essentially say free exchanges and returns. You can try as many as you want and we’ll literally just be bringing them over so as to give people that comfort of knowing that they can still order online and not feel bad, or not be afraid that the shoe won’t fit. Yeah.

Sam:                                      11:55                     Do many people do that? Do many people actually send them back.

Nava:                                    11:58                     So not really. I mean one of the things we’ve really been working on is getting the sizing right. So a lot of people do get in touch and say if they have any concerns they would ask us and we would recommend for them. But we have also translated our sizes in UK, EU, and basically all other sizes and US as well, so that it’s less confusing for people. Like, whichever your size regime you, you can find yourself there. Most people have a problem converting one into the other.

Sam:                                      12:26                     Yeah.

Nava:                                    12:27                     Yeah.

Sam:                                      12:27                     Cool. Okay. And so this is people will be going on the website, pick out, I want the lightweight or daily… Did you call it lightweight and daily?

Nava:                                    12:36                     Right now we just have the light-weight, the daily one, we are producing it as we speak. Yeah.

Sam:                                      12:42                     Does it have like a name? Is it called like Enda light-weight?

Nava:                                    12:45                     The lighter it is called the Iten. Yeah. So Iten is a small town in Rift valley.

Sam:                                      12:49                     So not E number 10?

Nava:                                    12:52                     No, no, no, no. Like I T E N.

Sam:                                      12:56                     I T E N.

Nava:                                    12:56                     Yeah. Someone would say I ten but in Kenya its Iten. Yeah. So Iten is a small town in the rift valley. It actually has the world’s highest concentration of gold medal winners, as I really.

Sam:                                      13:07                     What do you mean the highest concentration of gold?

Nava:                                    13:09                     In athletics. In running like, yeah, it’s a small town up there in high altitude and everybody trains there. Everybody. Everybody from around the world goes to Iten if you’re running.

Sam:                                      13:22                     What is so good about it?

Nava:                                    13:22                     The altitudes, the altitude and then also the fact that everybody’s there. So there’s like a very strong running community over there. And you’re not alone. Like in the morning there’s group runs, there’s athletes staying in like camps. So it’s really much a running town also called the home of champions. Yeah. So we basically named that Iten then the new one, the daily trainer that we’re working on right now is called the Lapatet. Lapatet is a Kalenjin word for run, it means run.

Sam:                                      13:54                     What’s Kalenjin?

Nava:                                    13:56                     Kalenjin is a local language. In Kenya we have about 42, but most of the runners come from the Rift valley and they speak Kalenjin. So the term lapatet is very it’s very common in running in the running world, in the Rift Valley. So when we were naming it, we knew like they, they, they are happy about that. Yeah.

Sam:                                      14:19                     Do you speak Kalenjin?

Nava:                                    14:20                     No, no, no, no. I don’t speak Kalenjin, but one of the things we do, and we are trying to name our products, we always reach out to our community and kind of, even Iten was a suggestion by someone through Facebook because we were going to give it some other name. And someone was like, no, no.

Sam:                                      14:35                     What were you going to call it?

Nava:                                    14:36                     I cant even remember, one of the animals.

Sam:                                      14:40                     A cheetah perhaps.

Nava:                                    14:40                     Exactly. And then, you know, it’s always amazing, someone is like, you know what, we kind of like know about tourism but we are in running world. So like, let’s keep it like closer to the running culture as possible. And same for Lapatet, we were like, hey guys, we’re trying to name this shoe, what do you think we should and we got like lots of ideas. But the person who suggested naming it Lapatet had a really compelling reason why we should call it that.

Sam:                                      15:07                     What was that?

Nava:                                    15:07                     Basically the, you know, like there’s North rift, South rift, you know, there’s like all this demarcations we have internally, but also just the fact that a majority of the runners understand the word Lapatet and also using the shoe to tell a story. It’s not just a product, but someone who’s buying it has to ask, what does this mean? You know? So it’s a medium to have a chance to educate or to share the culture of the Kalenjin, of the running culture with someone else in a, in another part of the world. So the whole cultural exchange thing was also very interesting and also just the linguistic aspect, like he had a really great explanation of how the whole, the word lapatet is linguistically different anyway, we have a video on Facebook about that. Yeah. We actually called him, it was like, you know, you do this, you’re like the best at explaining it. Yeah. Go, go for it. But it also does the story of Enda, like using the shoes not just to be products, but also as vehicles for social mission and also for like fostering a culture of empathy and like knowing what other communities around the world are doing. Like kind of like an education of sorts. Yeah.

Sam:                                      16:27                     Okay. When people talk about sort of Kenyan runners, is it basically kalenjin runners?.

Nava:                                    16:34                     Yes and no. Majority, yes. Because of course the Rift valley and the high altitude is like a big plus. But we do have lots of runners who are also not from the Rift Valley. So, for instance Henry Wanyoike he’s really good, broken like, lots of records and wins a lot we had the late Samuel Wanjiru, who also did not come from the Rift valley, came from the central part of Kenya. We do have another one. One of our athletes actually is called Daniel Simiyu, who comes from the western part. So, predominantly they are, but not all of them. Yes.

Sam:                                      17:14                     At the moment, you said 10% Kenya. 90% international.

Nava:                                    17:17                     Yes.

Sam:                                      17:19                     As you sort of project forward, what do you think that might start looking like?

Nava:                                    17:23                     Oh, I think it will grow. You know, I feel like the, I still meet a lot of Kenyans who haven’t heard about our brand, so I know for a fact there’s a growth margin that we still haven’t captured. I think it’ll grow both ways. You know, like in the US also we aren’t known that much. Like those who know about us, know, about us, but I still feel like there’s a whole world out there that has no idea that Enda exists. So I do see also growth from, I’d say from both perspectives. I do see a lot of growth opportunity.

Sam:                                      17:54                     Nice. Okay. And what’s the sort of pitch to people? Is it, can you rely on Kenyan running shoes or did you need to say… I kind of get it if you’re living in Kenya and you’re like, you know, you want to buy running shoes that are produced here and you want to support the Kenyan economy. Does that pitch work as well internationally or do you need to sort of change it around abit?

Nava:                                    18:19                     Really? I think it works because even if you check the Hashtag #runlikeaKenyan, you know, like it’s, it’s actually, it is a legit Hashtag. It’s not used mostly in Kenya. It’s like a global thing. Like, so the fact that you just said running shoes made in Kenya, it’s an automatic click for anyone runner or not, you know? So I do feel like the running culture history tradition of Kenya has been so solid over the years that it is unquestionable. Right. So I think it’s kind of still keeping it simple and saying Kenyan running, but also, you know, like for us, producing quality products that match that excellence as well so that people associate that excellence with our products and the fact that we are working with athletes to develop this products. Yeah.

Sam:                                      19:09                     Okay. So let’s actually talk a bit more about the production side of the shoe, So company started about three years ago, kind of went into production about two years ago. What’s that process been like?

Nava:                                    19:23                     It’s, it wasn’t easy to be honest. It was a lot and it did take us a long time because we were essentially trying to establish a lot of things over here from fact finding a factory that could work with us because we knew from the outset we would be a contract manufacturer. The resources required to set up a factory…

Sam:                                      19:43                     Contract manufacturer.

Nava:                                    19:44                     Yes. It means you go to a factory, you lease out their lines you make what you’re making and then you exit.

Sam:                                      19:52                     You don’t have to like buy a factory?

Nava:                                    19:54                     No, you don’t have to buy it and have to build it, you don’t have to make it, which I think is really great, especially if you consider how manufacturing industry is so exclusive, if I can call that, like you need money to get into manufacturing. So if you, if more people are to get into manufacturing, I think contract manufacturing, especially in Africa is like a really good thing because you have one side with resources and you have another side with demand. So I may not be able to operate a fully functional factory for a year, but I can lease it for like two months or five months of the year. So it works both ways for both the factory and the entrepreneur.

Sam:                                      20:31                     Okay.

Nava:                                    20:31                     Yeah.

Sam:                                      20:31                     So first of all, first thing you have to find the factory.

Nava:                                    20:34                     Yes.

Sam:                                      20:34                     How easy or difficult is that?

Nava:                                    20:36                     It wasn’t easy to be honest. Like we literally went to every person who makes shoes or thinks about making shoes.

Sam:                                      20:43                     Is there like a list of factories that make shoes. How do you, how do you find out?

Nava:                                    20:49                     Google, talking to people. In Kenya, you talk to people a lot, yeah. People lie online. A lot of things are on the ground. So the thing is though, that networks already exist. So if I’m making shoes, I’ll tell you about someone else who makes shoes. And that’s how we basically went around. Went to Limuru. We went to a few places in Nairobi. Like we, we went to a lot of places and they were like, okay, I may not be right fit but talk to this person or this other person I know has something going on. So we spoke to a lot of people and we did hear a lot of people saying no, I think just the whole concept of contract manufacturing was, is new in Kenya. And also the fact that, you know, like people were like, why would you want to do that? You know, like, like it just felt like whatever we were trying to do was so big and so impossible that they were like, you know, like, okay, that sounds like really amazing and all the best, you know? Yeah. So we did…

Sam:                                      21:47                     This is the concept of making a Kenyan running shoe?

Nava:                                    21:50                     Yes. Yeah. So it felt like it was like a big order for a lot of people. And we did actually find the factory we are working with through someone read about us online and he was making shoes in Ethiopia. Right? Yeah. Shout out to Tal, Tal Detya. He was formally Olubate. They closed down, which I was, I found personally sad because they, they, they really came through for us and we didn’t even know him, like literally came through for us in terms of just giving us connections, he was like I bought my stuff in Kenya, this is what you need. Like talk to this person and that person. Yeah. Like he, he’s really good.

Sam:                                      22:36                     And how did he know about you if you hadn’t made, hadn’t started making shoes yet?

Nava:                                    22:40                     Kick-Starter I think. Yeah. I think by then we’d launched our Kick-starter.

Sam:                                      22:44                     Alright.

Nava:                                    22:45                     Yeah.

Sam:                                      22:46                     So where does kick-starter fit into the story?

Nava:                                    22:49                     Kick-Starter fits in, we did it in 2016 actually. Right. So we essentially got the prototype and then decided to launch it online as a way of raising funds. Also, we didn’t have all the funds and the, it had like really great momentum and I think there’s a lot of sharing on Facebook and stuff like that. And that’s how he read about us. And then he got in touch and he then at that he got in touch, we spoke with him and then after Kickstarter we were not able to continue with our previous manufacturer and Tal basically introduced us to Umoja. Yeah.

Sam:                                      23:32                     Umoja is the?

Nava:                                    23:32                     Umoja is the company that we work with here in Kenya. Yeah.

Sam:                                      23:37                     In Nairobi or where are they?

Nava:                                    23:37                     No, no, they’re in kilifi. Kilifi is one hour from Mombasa. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Sam:                                      23:45                     So the shoes get made in Kilifi? Okay.

Nava:                                    23:49                     Yeah. Which is particular also, because Kilifi is also, I like places where, and that’s Also one of the reasons I respect Umoja, Kind of going to a place where you’re actually making a difference because it’s like deep in Kilifi and you are providing employment to residents around, so…

Sam:                                      24:08                     Kilifi is kind of like, like a sleepy beach town, sort of thing. Yeah. Yeah.

Nava:                                    24:12                     So having factories over there is really good for the population.

Sam:                                      24:16                     Okay. Yeah. So is that an, I mean, what’s the, what’s the, the requirements that you need? So you said that no running shoes have been made in Africa. Are there like fundamental things, which prevent you from doing that?

Nava:                                    24:28                     I think especially you need to know kind of like understand the science of making running shoes. So you wouldn’t necessarily use any type of EVA. Like you, you need to know what consistency of the EVA you’re using. What’s the…

Sam:                                      24:46                     Don’t mind me, that’s the…

Nava:                                    24:47                     The mid-sole. Like it’s the kind of I’d call it plastic that makes, it’s basically the sole, the white part, like before the rubber at the bottom, like the soul. So you need it to be a certain density and a certain consistency. You need it to be. We make it through as a process called injection molding. So you create a mold and then you kind of inject the EVA into the mold. So you kind of need to have the safety requirements for that and stuff like that. You need to be able to know how to cut the patterns, how to stitch them because it’s a kind of like a special stitch. If you’re not careful, then you have a lot of mistakes that can happen. So there’s a whole process to it. And we basically were very ambitious at the beginning, but then we also realized the capacity of the factory depended on us kind of showing them and also us creating a demand that was worthy for them to also invest, invest in the process.

Sam:                                      25:44                     I see. So is it like, if they’re already gonna make a thousand pairs of shoes, if they’re gonna make 10,000 pairs of shoes, it might be worth them investing in a piece of, a new piece of equipment.

Nava:                                    25:55                     Exactly.

Sam:                                      25:56                     Got it. Okay, how do you know how to make shoes? It sounds quite complicated. Is there someone in the team who like, is a shoe expert?

Nava:                                    26:04                     So we basically had to look somewhere for someone to help us do that. And we were looking for someone who fit a certain criteria, would understand the mission that we are doing so that they would, they would understand where we, it’s important to make the shoes in Kenya and not in China. And we also needed someone who had the experience of making footwear for the global industry so that we weren’t going to spend a lot of time recreating the wheel, but essentially working with someone who has already made shoes for all the big brands and understands the process of making the shoes.

Sam:                                      26:35                     How do you find that person?

Nava:                                    26:37                     E-Mail, LinkedIn. You just ask people.

Sam:                                      26:41                     What’s that? What do you search for on LinkedIn? Like do people call themselves like shoe experts?

Nava:                                    26:44                     Shoe developers like you remember when you’re like searching on Google and you just create this like different things that might land you near where you went to be. So you’re like looking for a shoe maker shoe developer, shoe like everything under the planet that leads to that. And then you kind of meet people or you find people and then you email them and then they either get back or they give you a reference or they don’t get back. So it was a lot of networking and a lot of just asking anyone and everyone like, hey, we are looking for this specific skillset. Do you know someone who fits that pier? Yeah.

Sam:                                      27:28                     And these people typically work freelance.

Nava:                                    27:31                     Yes. We did meet a lot of freelancers who were basically either engaged in something or they were like, this is great, but I don’t have the bandwidth for it. Or like I’m interested or talk to this person. Yeah. There are actually a lot of freelancers in the industry.

Sam:                                      27:46                     And how did you structure your contract? Did you sort of say, this is your deliverable, we’ll pay you X. Or was it like, we’ll pay by hour?

Nava:                                    27:54                     Not really. You know. And that was why it was important to find a specific fit, right? Because we needed someone who understood why we are doing this. Right. So if you’re, if you’re purely like I want profit a thousand percent, you’d be like, I want to peak process, let’s make it in China and done, finished, show’s over, you know. So the kind of person we were looking for was very specific in terms of what motivates them and what drives them. So right now we do work with Dan Richard Designs, they’re based in the US and they are also we do have someone here in Kenya. You met him Cyprian and he’s also kind of working with them to make sure that we are getting the kind of products that we anticipated. Yeah.

Sam:                                      28:41                     So are there some, I don’t want to say things you have to compromise on, but what are some of the differences you’ve had to make by the fact that the shoe was made in Kenya and not China?

Nava:                                    28:52                     I wouldn’t say much. I think in the whole process, definitely time. I would say time. It took us much longer, much, much longer than we anticipated. That includes also just delivering the Kick-starter orders. We took so long. It took so long, I’m embarrassed about it.

Sam:                                      29:12                     These are people who went on Kick-starter and they said I’d like to purchase some of the first pairs and you now have to go and make them. And there was just a few delays.

Nava:                                    29:25                     So I’d say time. It took us a really long time.

Sam:                                      29:29                     What were the main reasons for delay?

Nava:                                    29:31                     First of all the supplier who we were supposed to work with essentially said no, I need bigger numbers. So we weren’t able to work with them. So we had to literally start.

Sam:                                      29:42                     And find new suppliers.

Nava:                                    29:43                     Yeah. Post Kick-starter. You know, like how everything is like all drawn out and it’s like back to square one. So it means shopping for a supplier discussing the terms, like getting to like to get to the point where you’re like, okay, now let’s, let’s do this. It, it took a really long time.

Sam:                                      30:00                     What are the sort of supplies that you need to get?

Nava:                                    30:03                     So you basically need someone to make them molds. You need someone to make the mid-sole in someone to make the uppers.

Sam:                                      30:12                     What’s the uppers?

Nava:                                    30:13                     The uppers are the up part of the shoe. Yeah. And then you also need here like the factory to be able to do certain processes like the stitching, the labeling, like the packaging. So there’s, it is actually a lot of people who are involved in like the whole supply chain. Yeah. Yeah. Okay.

Sam:                                      30:36                     So you’ve got to kind of source all these, but you’re basically sourcing these three bits that the sell that…

Nava:                                    30:43                     Yeah, we, so we source mainly the upper and the mid-sole and the idea is to move it progressively. So like now we are making shoelaces here. Now we are…

Sam:                                      30:56                     How’d you make shoelaces?

Nava:                                    30:56                     Is a factory that does that, you know, so it’s just giving them a specification of what we’re looking for.

Sam:                                      31:01                     Yeah. Is it basically just like some fabric that’s turned over? It’s like stitched together?

Nava:                                    31:06                     No, I think they knit it, like there’s special knitting machines for making that. Yeah. Cause otherwise if it’s fabric, then it can tear, you know, like, yeah, they have most of them are actually woven. And yeah. It’s also quite a process. Yeah. So…

Sam:                                      31:25                     Fascinating. Such a process to like make shoelaces.

Nava:                                    31:28                     Appreciate your shoelaces ladies and gentlemen. A lot of work went into it. Yeah. Yes. So, and then now we are experimenting with uppersto make them here. We actually also doing a local shoe, I’ll show you when we go back to the office. That is 100% locally-sourced. I’m very proud of it. Can’t wait for us to launch it.

Sam:                                      31:48                     What’s that one going to be called?

Nava:                                    31:49                     We haven’t had a name yet, but it has a really cool story. I think people will love the story behind it.

Sam:                                      31:57                     Can we get a preview of the story?

Nava:                                    31:57                     No, no. But we’ve worked with a few people on it, so their thought process has been really inspiring about what they’re putting into the shoe. It’s literally, I don’t know how to, it’s a work of art. Let me call it that, yeah. That’s as much as I can go. Yeah.

Sam:                                      32:24                     So same thing. So sort of, the philosophy with Enda is to just use like with each of the different components that go into this.

Nava:                                    32:31                     Yeah.

Sam:                                      32:31                     It’s just like how can you be, I might be putting words in your mouth here, promoting Kenyan business and industry to sort of help in…

Nava:                                    32:39                     Yeah. Because right now, for instance, that company is making shoe laces specific for our type of product because we asked them to. Before they were not doing it. The other companies that are providing other stuff, for example, the leather, the all these other, like, we, I feel like we play an important role in expanding the supply chain because business is about supply and demand. So if we are creating demand for another business to supply, then we are creating business. It means those people have jobs we like. It’s, it’s like a whole step by step process and I think that’s essentially the whole idea of establishing this industry locally, that there are people who are able to tap into it and benefit, that it’s not just the athletes, but we are literally bringing the benefits of running of the running industry locally.

Sam:                                      33:24                     What’s some of the challenges you’ve had in the industry?

Nava:                                    33:27                     Financing of course, that’s why we go to Kick-starter because Kick-starter is a good way to basically get money.

Sam:                                      33:34                     How much did you need to get started?

Nava:                                    33:35                     To get started? I’m trying to remember. Kick-Starter, we raised like about 140, but that was post.

Sam:                                      33:46                     $140,000.

Nava:                                    33:46                     Yeah. That was post like our own investments and getting family and friends to pitch in. I can’t remember the exact, but you do need like I’d say maybe like $250,000 to start up. And I’d say funding is a challenge and also it’s one of the reasons why I feel like we haven’t been in front of as many people as we can because it’s an investment to basically like marketing is a big deal and the running shoe industry is essentially a marketing industry. You know, it’s all about storytelling. So how do you get your story out there? So I’d say funding affects that. Challenges. Also just understanding because we are a direct consumer company, like understanding the whole digital marketing landscape. Like just how, you know, there’s just so much going on in that world. How do you optimize what words do you use, what pictures, how do you put all these things? So we are like doing it as we go. But we haven’t like found the, you know, we haven’t found the sweet spot. Exactly. I can’t wait to get there. But we are basically, right now, we are experimenting a lot of things and just seeing what sticks and what doesn’t. Yeah.

Sam:                                      35:04                     What’s looking like it’s going to stick?

Nava:                                    35:08                     I’d say at least we know it’s definitely going to be a lot of digital. We know that there’s a lot of like micro influencing. Yeah.

Sam:                                      35:19                     That means like getting YouTubers to talk about it?

Nava:                                    35:22                     Yeah. But there’s influencers and then there’s micro influencers, right? Influences are like the people with like huge accounts, but they don’t necessarily, like having a person with a huge following talk about you does not necessarily mean that they’ll convert, you know. People, I think, they’re assaulted by so much information that if you’re not coming off as genuine like people can smell it. They know what’s authentic and what’s not. So I feel as though A) because of our size, we also can’t afford some of the expensive stuff, but B) I would rather that people are hearing about us from people that actually care or are dedicated to their thing. And I feel like a smaller crowd is more intimate than it used to be in a big crowd. Right. So that’s some of the stuff we’re looking at. We also, like, we have a huge marketing plan that we want to, to execute. We have challenges but we’re like, at least we have a wish-list and here’s what we’re doing. But if we kind of get to the point where we need to be like, this is like us going full throttle.

Sam:                                      36:31                     The challenges are more on the demand side than the supply side.

Nava:                                    36:34                     Yeah, I feel like the supply side, we’re at a good position. We were, we had a lot of challenges when we started out. Absolutely. But I feel like right now the ducks are kind of like lined up on that side for now. It’s to now get more word out that about the product.

Sam:                                      36:50                     Yeah.

Nava:                                    36:51                     But that’s took close a lot of time, to get that sorted out. Yeah.

Sam:                                      36:56                     How big is the Enda team?

Nava:                                    36:57                     Not big. We are literally five and we have we have two volunteers, but it’s like in and out and that’s why I’m like hesitating because they’re leaving soon. Like, no. So we have, we have two volunteers. We have an intern and there’s the core team, which is about five of us right now. We are about to eight. This is the biggest, the team has been. And the volunteers are leaving. So I’d say we’re usually like about five, five, six.

Sam:                                      37:32                     So basically, you’ve been able to sell 4,000 pairs of shoes, with just like five people?

Sam:                                      37:34                     Yeah. That’s why I tell them they’re like a million dollar team because they, they have executed like even the last Kick-starter, it was the team that executed it. We raised $99,000.

Sam:                                      37:46                     Was it deliberately $99,000 or we’re you just really close to getting to $100,000?

Nava:                                    37:49                     We were really close to getting $100,000. We hit our first target was 80. Our next target was 110. Yeah. Yeah. But it’s still these people who are seated around that tiny table who did it right. So I’m kind of always telling them like they did it. It wasn’t anybody who walked in with this massive silver bullet. Like it was them hustling. So I think, I think the team is good and, but there’s definitely more room for us to be, for example, in the markets we need to be because we are here, our key market is the US. I don’t even think we’ve scratched the surface of that market because even most of the stuff we do is around here because we’re available. So we definitely are planning on expanding in the US market, kind of getting, at least setting up something or having a small team there that is also waking up and thinking about how do we everyday, how do we make and at least be known or grow in this market.

Sam:                                      38:49                     Yeah. Yeah. Cool. Okay. So if you sort of look forward next year, 12 months time, what do you think Enda would be looking like then?

Nava:                                    38:58                     I think we are going to be, I’m just smiling because I had the vision in mind. Like I’m definitely like I’m not, I see it in terms of growth in terms of customers and just numbers and people who are running in our shoes and kind of talking about our philosophy and understanding. So definitely more sales in terms of achieving our sales targets, and yeah, like more social impact, you know, like more. Cause the more we sell, the more the supply chain grows, the more we give to our community foundation. So I see that also as an opportunity for us to be a brand that cares, you know, like that people actually even locally associate us and they know that we are different because we’re not just paying lip service, but we are actually saying let’s invest back in communities. So I see a lot of like bigger, bigger social impact, if I could call it that.

Sam:                                      39:57                     Okay.

Nava:                                    39:57                     Yeah.

Sam:                                      39:58                     So you mentioned that the community…

Nava:                                    40:00                     Foundation.

Sam:                                      40:00                     What’s that?

Nava:                                    40:02                     So 2% of our revenues, we give them to a foundation which essentially invested money in community projects, right? So when we were starting out, getting funding was such a problem, you know, and we met so many people who are doing amazing stuff, but we also feel as though we were lucky in some sorts and have grown and we basically decided to be on the lookout for community leaders or people who are just doing something that is worthy in the community and they need an extra hand and kind of investing in that be it for profit or nonprofit. And also just the opportunity to engage our customers, like to be like a part of our community. So that is, you know, like there’s so much in the news going on about Kenya, but then do you know about this amazing stories that, leave the news aside? Like there’s actually really great stuff that’s happening on the ground. So we do involve our customers to make sure that when we have routine and saying, where should the money go? But it’s also, I feel like the world needs more empathy right now. Like there’s just so many I don’t know how to describe it. It’s like when you, when you’re in a city and there’s like bad news coming out of it and you turn on the TV and it’s like, I dunno, it’s like apocalypse or something. And then you stand outside and it’s like, oh my God, the sun is so beautiful. It’s like two conflicting, you know, things at the same time. So I feel like there’s there is, the world has gotten to a point where there’s just so much, there’s a lot of echo chambers. There’s a lot of mistrust. There’s a lot of all this stuff just because we think of the other people as the other, you know, and I think part of the community foundation thing and the whole essence you’re trying to create is that, to show that people’s stories at the same, regardless of where they live. We are all, we all want to achieve our dreams. We all want to like raise our kids in a clean world. We all want to like, there’s just different, there’s things that bind us together. And the whole idea of that community is to also kind of bring that empathy as we share the running culture and help people also run and become better.

Sam:                                      42:13                     So we’ll just do a few more questions and that’s all right. Let me see, since, so you’ve been with Enda since the beginning, since it’s started, what have been some of the main surprises you’ve had, both, both positive and negative that you’ve had?

Nava:                                    42:28                     That’s a good question. I think a bigger surprise, like a positive surprise has been the fact that the longer you go, the more you meet people who are aligned. Like when you start, it’s very difficult. You’re by yourself and you’re doing things and like it uses, It was Weldon and I for the longest time and the more we grow, the more you find that we have allies. And I think that’s a really cool thing. I love that because sometimes you’re like, I’ve been thinking about this problem for so long and then you find someone who purely like for no, no reason or anything that like people just want to help and to support. So I would say that has been like a pleasant surprise and also a proof for me in my personal life as well. Like sometimes you just jump, you know, like you, if you spend too much time analyzing you won’t do it. So maybe you’ll jump and maybe you’ll fall or maybe you’ll find other jumpers mid air and you’ll hold hands and like land together, but the process is through the fall. It’s not at where should I fall? Am I going to fall in this particular area or that? What are the pros and cons for this? Like it’s great to plan, but once you have the plan, like execution is more important because in the execution, then you find the, you find the helpers. So I would say that was a pleasant surprise that I feel like sometimes it gets hard, but I’m like, I need to hang on for tomorrow’s helper because I didn’t know who’s going to come through tomorrow. So it gives me that, you know, I need to just get through this day because,yeah. So I think that’s a pleasant surprise and another surprise, maybe not so pleasant. Is just people have different motivations, you know, like you have what drives you or what motivates you is not what motivates another person. So kind of just the disappointment of that and recognizing that there are people who you don’t necessarily agree on some fundamental things and that it’s okay to let go of that. That’s hard. I think that was had for me because I think relatively now that I can look back, I think I grew up in rather happy childhood. You know, like we, like I grew up in a place where I’d say there’s a lot of trust and a lot of people you don’t really second guess because you believe that the your neighbor or everybody has the best interests of everybody at heart. So I grew up in that environment and I think you kind of grow, go into the world and you realize that’s not how people are. Like some people just don’t care, you know, other people just have their own problems or other people have their own prejudices. So for me the surprise has been that, you know, like kind of, it’s, people are different and it’s okay. You know, it’s OK to, to know that not everybody thinks like that and it’s, you know, you can’t judge them because you don’t know where they came from, why they are the way they are. But just,I just learned that people like, we trust a lot here. We trust quite bit.

Sam:                                      45:44                     “We” Being Enda?

Nava:                                    45:44                     I think Enda, also just Kenya, like where I grew up, I grew up in a place that just does a lot of trust. Like people did stuff for people, like not just, not because of anything. Like I would, it would be raining and I would like remove your clothes even if you’re not there, because I know that you, your clothes would get rained on and you washed them, you know.

Sam:                                      46:06                     If they’re out on the line.

Nava:                                    46:07                     Yeah. So, yeah, I’m just thinking about it mentally, if they’re like on the line. Like if you see like someone’s kid, like walking around and without their parents, you would be sure that their parents would know that by the end of the evening. So there was a lot of support, I would say and trust in the community. And for me, the surprise has been that’s not how the world is. And it’s like sometimes you’re like, why would people choose to be miserable? But then I also realize that I just grew up in a corner of the world. I was like that and it’s not everybody’s like that. And that’s OK too.

Sam:                                      46:43                     Okay.

Nava:                                    46:43                     Yeah.

Sam:                                      46:44                     Just quickly. What’s the how’d you end up starting Enda like, are you a runner?

Nava:                                    46:51                     I say that question, don’t ask, if I’m in the Rift Valley. I’m not a runner. Like, no, no, no I don’t run yeah because you don’t want to run with those guys. But I mean you do, but they’re really good. So I met Weldon. I’ve always been interested in sports.

Sam:                                      47:10                     Weldon’s your co-founder?

Nava:                                    47:10                     Weldon’s my co-founder, I’ve always had a deep interest in spots. I don’t know why. I just like sports. Like I like the atmosphere. I like the competition. I like the personal stories, the triumph, the defeats. I love it. And at some point I had a dream of starting a sports academy in Kenya because I was like, oh my gosh, you know, like imagine if we had and I love tennis like now, Wimbledon is going on. And I’m like, oh my gosh, it would be so amazing if there was someone from Kenya, you know. But then the challenges are that barriers to sports, especially in the sports that are technical, You see we’re good at running cause you literally just wake up and run, Right. If you introduce a sport that is expensive, then it becomes so much harder for people to join. Right. Because they need to have a court, they need to understand the rules. There’s just like so much that goes on. And the idea was how about starting a place where kids wouldn’t have to worry about that and they could literally start training as early as other kids in the world. And we would like offer really good competition. And I was talking about this at a place like it was it was, an accelerator. Was it? It was, basically I was talking somewhere. Yeah. I was talking about…

Sam:                                      48:23                     In Nairobi?

Nava:                                    48:24                     Yes, in Nairobi, about the potential of sports and how Kenya we are so good, we’re so good at sports but we don’t do much with it other than just celebrate and that’s it, you know, and like engage with it. But from a more commercial perspective and Weldon was in the audience at that time. He was with and literally, I think he was, he was like winding up with them and he was like, yeah, like the, the problem statements are like really compelling. Like, Kenya is so great, but we haven’t like done much with it. And when you, our conversation just turned to run running shoes and I think that was just like, a eureka moment of, you know, like why hasn’t this been done before? It makes so much perfect sense and saying, okay, let’s make running shoes and yeah, met a couple of days later and really had a long chat about it. And I think that was the day we’re like, okay, we are doing this. Yeah. Yeah. Sounds like something to try and yeah. Many days later, here we are.

Sam:                                      49:31                     That’s the history. People who are listening, how can they learn more about Enda?

Nava:                                    49:37                     They can check us on our website, www.endasportswear, e n d a. People usually type Edna. I’m like, no, its Enda, We’re also on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter as well.

Sam:                                      49:55                     What’s been a popular Instagram post you’ve had recently?

Nava:                                    49:58                     Lupita, Lupita wore our shoes at some point. Lupita Nyong’o, the Kenyan actress who won an Oscar.

Sam:                                      50:09                     The chess movie?

Nava:                                    50:10                     Yeah, yeah. She did Queen of Katwe she also did 12 years a slave, and she’s really popular here. So she…

Sam:                                      50:17                     She wore a pair of your shoes?

Nava:                                    50:17                     Yeah, she did. So that was like really…

Sam:                                      50:22                     Did she go for a run or did she just…

Nava:                                    50:22                     Oh no, no, no. She just wore them out. Yeah. She was at a festival in New York. Yeah. So that was really cool. That was very popular yeah, I’d say that one was, it was quite popular.

Sam:                                      50:34                     Okay.

Nava:                                    50:34                     Yeah.

Sam:                                      50:35                     So endsportswear is how people find it. Yeah. And then go on and, you ship around the world?

Nava:                                    50:40                     Yes, we do. Yeah. We do have fulfillment centers here in Kenya and in the US around the world we ship from Kenya. But we basically work with DHL and, but you can still order on our website and we’ll be able to put your order through.

Sam:                                      50:53                     Fantastic, cool. So Nava, thanks so much.

Nava:                                    50:55                     Nice. Thank you too for having me. Enjoyed it.