Last week we interviewed Wachira Kariuki, Founder and CEO of Classic Foods Limited, a food processing company. It was established in 2007 for buying and selling milk in- bulk quantities from farmers to milk processors. The company was further transformed to a milk processor in 2009 with capital contributions of over $5 Million. We expanded the business to fruit juice processing, honey, tomato sauce processing, maize flour milling and animal feeds. This was a natural path to exploit the business synergies in the sector.
What was the dream when setting up Classic Foods?
To support youth and women and assist the smallholder farmers to overcome post-harvest losses. This was a consequence of similar challenges we had been going through.
You have impacted over 50,000 beneficiaries which incredible. How did you do it?
We have been carrying out baseline studies to identify the needs for our target groups. With this in our mind, we are able to tailor make the solutions for the beneficiaries. We have also identified a business opportunity in the social initiative.
In your opinion, what does it take to build a business with a strong social mission?
It requires focus and passion to fulfill a social need. It is very fulfilling seeing poor smallholders climb up the economic ladders through our activities.
When you first started out, was there anything that you wished you had known before beginning your life as an entrepreneur?
At first the times were tough especially due to lack of adequate capital and I almost gave up. I hadn’t factored in all the legal handles and risks associated with debtors.
At what stage did you feel ready to go full-time with Classic Foods? Did you have any doubts?
It’s only after three years I realized business challenges are endless and one has to live with them.
How important is having a sustainable model in place for a business?
The success of any business depends on the model. One only need to continue improving and flexing the model to fit into the changing business environment.
Is there an ideal age for entrepreneurship?
The ideal age is young age. One only need to have the right focus and passion to make change. Once one gets some basic experience in business administration, then you are ripe.
What is the best way to solve a social problem?
Social problems mainly result from economic hardships. To solve the problems, one must demonstrate tangible benefits and not just basic lecture and theory.
What are the three top things an entrepreneur should do before starting out?
One must do a research on the type of business and evaluate the expected returns and sustainability. Understand the legal framework governing the particular business line. Carry out risk analysis and history of similar business and learn success and failures.
Finally, any last words of advice for a young and aspiring entrepreneur?
Business carries with itself risks and one must be ready to take them head on. Even white color jobs are businesses set up by entrepreneurs like you and me.