In 1998 Irene Mwangi started peeling potatoes and delivering them to a food outlet in Nairobi. She never imagined the humble beginning in her business would grow into a thriving enterprise it is today.
Ms Mwangi started with one sack of potatoes, buying the produce from farmers at the Marikiti market in Nairobi and supplying 10kg packs to food outlet, Wimpy’s in Nairobi. Steers and Chicken Inn would later join her roster of clients.
She says demand for her services grew as the number of outlets opening up to serve the rising consumption of chips and roast potatoes mainly among young people also increased.
Ms Mwangi’s enterprise was ready to scale in 2015 and she needed funds for expansion. It was hard to come by. She knocked on various doors for financial support and was introduced to GroFin, an impact-driven SME financier that invests in small and growing businesses in Africa and the Middle East.
GroFin funded Ms Mwangi’s business and with its technical partners, the Cherie Blaire Foundation and Dutch organisation PUM, it enhanced Ms Mwangi’s management skills and supported the business to develop a long-term growth strategy.
Mr Mwangi’s startup, GAEA Foods, now processes potatoes supplied to a number of fast food chains, schools and various institutions. She has since managed to increase sales tremendously, while creating jobs — she now has 37 employees, out which 23 are female. Notably, she has created a market for nearly 450 small scale farmers in the Rift Valley.
She also decomposes the potato peels to form organic fertiliser and animal feeds rich in proteins.
Photo: Entrepreneur Irene Mwangi (centre) with two of her employees.