In the days Anzazi Kiti was boarding in high school, she craved her mother’s finger-licking meals.
During school holidays, she would mix vegetables and spices which she would carry to school to make her food tasty.
Despite supplying her colleagues too, the challenge was always that the mixture would get molds and go bad before school term ended.
Years down the line and after conducting research, Ms Kiti found the secret to longer shelf life for her food seasoning products. Now she has turned them into a commercial venture.
In 2016, she started Taste Afrique Company, which she co-owns with her sisters Winnie Chiwai and Gift Kiti.
The company manufactures, distributes and sells natural food seasoning products made from ingredients such as onions, garlic, ginger, cardamom, black paper and cloves.
“We basically add value to the vegetables and spices to come up with a product that is tasty and has a longer shelve life,” says the 31-year-old BA Economics and Finance graduate from Kenyatta University.
The product’s name is “chibundiro” which comes from the word “bunda” in Swahili that means to grind. In her Chonyi community, chibundiro means a mortar and a paste — items used to grind. Growing up, Ms Kiti says she was always in the kitchen with her mother curious to learn the art of mixing various things to make meals tasty.
After high school, she researched on improving the product, popularly known as mkaango and that’s when she learned tricks of giving it longer shelf life.
“We have hot, mild and without chili precooked seasoning that is just sprinkled on food. Then we have the mixed spices namely siri ya chai, siri ya mchuzi and siri ya pilau,” said Ms Kiti who previously worked as a forensic auditor with Deloitte as well as Ernst and Young.
While employed, she would make ten cans of chibundiro every weekend to sell to colleagues at the office and other people through referrals.
She quit employment to focus on the business on realisation that her passion would put her in a path of conflict with her employer.
Today, Taste Afrique supplies retail chains such as Quickmart, Naivas, Tuskys, Chandarana, Eastmatt, Woolmart in Nakuru. She also sells to Clean Chef and Chieni Supermarket in Nyeri, Narumoru and Nanyuki.
Packaging is in glass jars of 3.5grams, 70grams, 100grams (reserved for export), 150grams and 250grams (also known as the family-size).
The business has grown rapidly and now has five agents in the United States and one each in the United Kingdom and Uganda. The agents buy in large quantities then resell at a profit to their customers.
The venture that started with Sh4,800 now rakes an average of Sh1 million in monthly turnover and has ten employees.
The Covid-19 pandemic has however seen a decline in sales as retailers shy away from taking new stock.
She says the initial capital was raised from a project by Kenyatta University and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) where groups with scalable business ideas were financed.
“So I gave the mkaango idea to our group, we showcased and got the financing,” says Ms Kiti who also has a Master of Science degree in Finance.
After the training was done, she decided to actualise her business dream.
She invested the Sh4,800 on raw materials, packaging material (plastics at the time) and sold around 300 pieces going for Sh120 each.
From the sales revenue, she deducted her profit and returned an equivalent of the initial capital to the organisers of the project.
Taste Afrique has engaged nine small holder farmers who supply raw materials to its plant located on Lang’ata Road in Nairobi.
So inspiring is Taste Afrique venture that it was selected among five women-led start-ups that received Sh1 million seed funding in a programme funded by the Standard Chartered Bank and implemented at iBizAfrica- Strathmore University.
The five were awarded after completing three-month incubation at iBizAfrica-Strathmore University’s tech incubator.
The others were Soul Food, Benacare, Nature’s Touch and Arbes Biotech and were selected from 380 applicants that are using technology to tackle problems afflicting the community.