Smoothie maker eyes fruit factory

Chantal Mujawajambo, 29, had a modest start to what became a smart idea and successful businesses. Having wobbled for a long time with losses while selling clothes in markets in Kigali, Mujawajambo decided to quit and start making smoothies.
Mujawajambo makes her juices. Business Times/ Ben Gasore.
Mujawajambo makes her juices. Business Times/ Ben Gasore.

Chantal Mujawajambo, 29, had a modest start to what became a smart idea and successful businesses.

Having wobbled for a long time with losses while selling clothes in markets in Kigali, Mujawajambo decided to quit and start making smoothies.

A smoothie is a blended and sometimes sweetened beverage made from fresh fruit and in special cases, can contain chocolate or peanut butter.

“I quit selling clothes to get time to go to the internet to learn how to make smoothies and also save money to open a shop,” she explains.

“I made a lot of mistakes while trying to figure out which fruit-shakes suited clients but finally I got tasty combinations after considering locally available fruits,” she said.

Mujawajambo started her Kimihurura-based Hero Shop in February with capital of Rwf1.5m which she used to rent a kiosk at Rwf80, 000 per month, buy two refrigerators and stock up some fruits--bananas, pineapples, mangoes, watermelon, and  papaya.

The money was not enough to give her the push that she needed as the kiosk itself was in a poor state and needed renovation. It had no electricity either.

Mujawajambo also needed equipment like strong blenders and a big fridge, but the little money she had could only afford a few basics.

Even without enough fruits in stock, Mujawajambo decided to start the business.

Starting out

Mujawajambo says business was tough at first, as she used to sell between three to six plastic cups of smoothies a day which earned her between Rwf 3,000 and Rwf 6,000.

“I used to sell each at Rwf1, 000 in order to attract customers.”

With time, people around started liking her innovation which led her to even start making special deliveries to those who ordered for the fruit-shakes.

Her clientele is mainly foreigners who pass by any time of the day. She says many locals still don’t differentiate between smoothies and juice.

“Smoothies are thick fruit shakes which you make by mixing different fruits at the same time.”

She also realised the need to increase her work hours from 7am to 9pm (Monday to Saturday). On Sundays, she opens at 9am and closes at 7pm.

By May this year, Mujawambo’s shop started making profit as she had saved enough to buy bigger and stronger blenders to scale up production. She also bought a bigger fridge which she uses to make coconut and almond milk ice-cubes which she uses when blending her smoothies.

“I started selling between 35 and 65 smoothies a day at Rwf 1,500 which translates to between Rwf 50,000 to 90,000 per day.”

“I allow room for innovation—a client can make an order for any type of smoothie, even if it’s not on the menu.”

Mujawajambo has been able to create supplying and job opportunities for a number of fruit cooperatives countrywide.

She directly employs one worker and gets strawberry supplies from a cooperative in Mugambazi, Rulindo District in the Northern Province.

Water melons, pineapples and bananas are bought from other cooperatives in Bugesera and Ngoma districts.

She gets her mangoes from a cooperative in Nyabugogo, and from a cooperative in Nyamata.

She says that she gets these supplies twice a week (Monday and Thursday)

Branding

Mujawajambo says she has been able to build upon her smoothie brand and that very soon she will start using ‘Hero Shop Smoothie’ branded disposable take-away cups instead of the environmental unfriendly ones she currently hands out to clients.

She adds that she looks to open three similar shops in the coming months in the central business district, Nyarutarama and Kiyovu. Her biggest dream is a fruit processing factory to increase her range of products that today also include juices, Almond milk and milkshakes.

“I am working to see whether I can increase the number of fruit cooperatives to work with so that when I start the other shops and a factory I will be able to get adequate fruit supplies.”

She claims to be the sole seller of Almond milk in the country and describes the milk as very healthy. The beverage, made from Asian ground almonds, is often used as a substitute for dairy milk. Unlike animal milk, almond milk contains neither cholesterol nor lactose.

Mujawajambo buys the almonds at a discounted price of Rwf10, 000 per kg from Nakumatt Supermarket. She sells the milk at Rwf 3,000 per litre.

Challenges


Being her first year in the business, Mujawajambo has gone through challenges, from which she has learnt a lot.

The dry season hit her quite hard as fruits like papayas and mangoes became scare.

“Since that time, I decided to cut and preserve some of the fruits by freezing and storing at home,” she explained.

Advice

Doing business has never been easy, but one can overcome challenges when they persist, she says. “With the right plan, you will always find a way and once you decide to start, you do not need all the money. The business will grow and bring in the money with time.”

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