How accountant worked out frozen vegetables venture


From left: Elizabeth Ondabu, a staff member of Nyota Limited, sorts through some garden peas and some of the ready-to-eat frozen cereals made by Frozen Isle. PHOTOS | FRANCIS NDERITU | NMG

Florence Mogere’s frozen vegetables business was born out of convenience.

She was at the peak of her career working as an auditor in one the biggest construction companies in East Africa when she started selling vegetables, just to get rid of surplus from her farm in Ngong.

The business would also keep her two nannies busy while the children were away in school.

She would supply the traditional vegetables to her colleagues but they would struggle to get time to prepare them.

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Florence Mogere sorts through maize at the kitchen of Frozen Isle located in Ngong as pictured on March 11, 2023. PHOTO | FRANCIS NDERITU | NMG

“I then suggested to them to pay my nannies to prepare and pre-cook the vegetables, freeze them, and deliver them in portions to reduce food loss. I had no plans of going commercial,” she says.

Then she was laid off and quickly fell back on her side hustle.

“When you’re employed, you never know when you will be relieved of your job. I was lucky that I had already started working on this project,” says the certified public accountant (CPA-K) and Master of Business Administration holder.


An array of pasta sauces made by Frozen Isle as pictured on March 11, 2023. PHOTO | FRANCIS NDERITU | NMG

Small beginnings

From her kitchen, she has grown the business that she now runs under her company name, Nyota Limited, and brand name, Frozen Isle. Nyota Limited is a food processing company that specialises in frozen vegetables, speciality tomato lines, and pre-cooked frozen legumes.

But her entrepreneurial journey has not been smooth sailing.

“I had a decent salary, with decent benefits, had loans to service, fees to pay, and plunging from employment to entrepreneurship was very tough. I have never rested, taken leave, or missed work even when unwell,” she says.

Having abruptly left employment, she also had to look for ways to raise funds to scale up her business.

“I didn’t have capital. I started with my two nannies and our initial raw materials being two sacks of beans costing Sh10,000, a deep freezer, big cooking pans, gas cylinders from my house, and vegetables from my farm. It felt like being thrown into deep waters,” she says.

Over time, Ms Mogere has been building the business with funds from her part-time consulting and audit jobs with occasional support from other family projects and loans.

She is quick to point out that for starters, one must not have a pool of capital to start a business and scale it up but will need further funding.


From left: Grace Gakombe, a staff member of Nyota Limited, Florence Mogere and Joyce Ndungu, a staff member of Nyota Limited, sort through maize at the kitchen of Frozen Isle located in Ngong as pictured on March 11, 2023. PHOTO | FRANCIS NDERITU | NMG

Overcoming challenges

One of the issues Ms Mogere has had to grapple with is access to formal retail markets.

“It took such a long time coupled with the fact that our entry into the market coincided with the start of Covid-19 as the buyers were afraid to onboard new suppliers,” she says.

For more than a year, she had to be persistent and patient before her products found a place on the shelves at Carrefour, Naivas and On The Go supermarkets in Nairobi.

“I had sold the idea to myself, bought it and was just living it, it was this or nothing, I had planned to commit three years non-stop to this project,” she says.

With many suppliers experiencing long payment periods by the retail outlets, Ms Mogere negotiated a shorter credit period with the outlets which enabled her to pay her raw materials suppliers, who are mainly small-scale farmers, on time.

“You need to be strong when negotiating with these big retail outlets, even when dying for the business,” she adds.

Volumes and growth

Initially, Nyota could not manage 100 kilos of produce per day but is currently doing 15,000 to 20,000 kilos of fresh produce monthly sourced from small-scale farmers. She has 18 full-time staff and 14 temporary workers.

“Our growth has been organic and we’ve captured the formal retail market without marketing. All we did was more product placement and we are looking at scaling it up and capturing more market,” she says.


An array of ready-to-eat frozen cereals made by Frozen Isle as pictured on March 11, 2023. PHOTO | FRANCIS NDERITU | NMG

She picked a few lessons from the corporate world that helped her grow her frozen vegetable business.

Ms Mogere says that if there is one important lesson she learned from her previous employers and career, it is discipline and sticking to your goals.

“You do not need anyone to discipline you, just organise your work and stick to your goals and targets. When I was employed, I was supervising 25 people in the finance and account departments, working 18-plus hours per day. That work discipline is my superpower,” she says.

But she has had to adjust her management skills. What works in corporate might not necessarily work on the farm.

“When working in corporate, you are just a cog in a wheel, it doesn’t matter how big you are, you look at people as means to an end but for our business which is community-centred and working with vulnerable people, we need to have empathy, humility, and integrity,” says Ms Mogere.

Her journey at Nyota has also not been without mistakes.


An array of items made by Frozen Isle as pictured on March 11, 2023. PHOTO | FRANCIS NDERITU | NMG 

Major blunders

“We’ve made major blunders, for example, when rolling the indigenous vegetable line, I bought 15,000 pouches but later realised that they were not of the right size, I lost hundreds of thousands of shillings,” she says.

She had a ‘light bulb” at that moment and decided to roll them in portions but again they did not fit in those pouches leading to more losses.

The other mistake was that when starting, she designed and printed stickers only to realise that they were not waterproof and had to go back to the drawing board.

“I’ve had food go bad in transit, farmers disappearing with seeds, supplied food at wrong temperatures but it’s our ability to bounce back that matters. I have learnt great lessons from my failures,” she says.

As climate change affects vegetable production, frozen food suppliers are reaping big.

She plans to scale production and serve more markets, local, regional and overseas but she must first increase her smallholder farmer network from the current 120.


Elizabeth Ondabu, a staff member of Nyota Limited, sorts through some garden peas at the kitchen of Frozen Isle located in Ngong as pictured on March 11, 2023. PHOTO | FRANCIS NDERITU | NMG

Her advice to aspiring entrepreneurs?

If you have a burning desire to venture into business, she says, just do it because time will pass as you live, and work without actualising your dreams.

“I’m a true believer in’ believe and live it. You do not need money to start a business but you may need money to scale it. You need to be a people person, sell your vision, and be a salesperson. You cannot put a price on having a mentor, someone who tells you the truth however ugly it is and can get you networks,” she says.

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