Mwachaka Group is a Kenyan company that produces a variety of condiments and sauces. Crossover Kenya had a chance to speak with co-founder Fred Maina to find out more about the company.
According to Fred, “Mwachaka Group Ltd is a food condiment manufacturing company with a strong social and environmental mission. We like to think of ourselves as a socio-environmental conscious group of foodies that is out to create good food while making a difference in the society. We are in the business of bringing gourmet dining to ordinary food. We produce authentic traditional condiments & sauces that are guaranteed to bring meals to life by enhancing their taste as well as their nutritional value.”
The company came into being out of a desire to improve the quality of food served at home, at school or in restaurants. Fred and his co-founder found that the food sector in Kenya had a vital flaw: bland meals. The blandness, according to Fred, is caused by overcooked and overwatered food and use of bland condiments. The two set out to solve this problem. Initially, the two set up a business after high school selling mixed vegetables to provide different options to the usual cabbage and kale. This venture unfortunately failed. After that, in 2010, Fred had a chance to travel to Voi where he visited a ‘kibanda’ and sampled some of their food. The food was accompanied by Mwachaka which is a Taita word meaning Hot Chili Peppers. During his two week stay in Voi, Fred found out all he could about Mwachaka. Armed with this knowledge, he returned to Nairobi and registered for a business in 2013. The young business managed a few sales but was not very profitable. Finally, in 2015, armed with Ksh 2,000, Fred and his co-founder decided to start up the business again officially. In June of that year Carolyne Jendeka joined the team as the third director.
From making the first few packs of Mwachaka at home, the company grew and in 2016, Mwachaka Group met Paul Ngugi, Founder of Mikalla who helped them acquire grinding and frying machines. In the same year they joined the KALRO Muguga Centre where they are being incubated and are currently doing their production. They have since then increased their capacity to about 1,500 pieces a month which are always sold out.
Crossover Kenya: Which products do you have, where are they sold and the prices?
Mwachaka Group: We have a total of 16 types of sauces and condiments in our portfolio with the flagship product being Mwachaka hot spice which is hot pepper cooked with fresh spices such as garlic, ginger, rosemary and others. It is a healthy, fun spice that adds fun to every meal. It has the ability to turn a bland boiled meal into a 5 star gourmet experience. It’s the best way to make sure all husbands get home early to spend time with their families. All the ingredients are natural and no artificial preservatives or additives have been used. It is preserved naturally using 100% pure sunflower oil. Mwachaka Hot spice comes in 2 sizes; 140g and 250g retailing at KES 200/- and KES 300/- respectively. We usually work on delivery basis using drop off points in Westlands, Buruburu, Thika road, Nairobi Organic market, Kikuyu, Nakuru Town, Komarock, and many more places; we are also on Jumia. To place an order, please call +254 702 153 117 Fred or +254 705 664 618 Joe in Nairobi or +254 789 778 791, Paul in Nakuru or +254 724 615 232/+256 755 552 864 Ken in Kakamega.
The other 15 types of condiments range from Ketchup, Garlinger sauce, Eggless Mayonnaise, Guacamole, Mango Apple chutney, Sriracha sauce, Hot and sweet sauce, Choma sauce, chili oil, dry chili flakes, tamarind sauce, Tomato sauce and special sauces. These sauces are tailored toward restaurants, weddings, meetings, caterers and large gatherings. They are mostly available by order and are not on shop shelves.
Crossover Kenya: You are producing condiments and sauces. Do you plan to expand and make other products?
Mwachaka Group: We plan to stick with condiments and sauces for the foreseeable future. African condiments made for African foods are surprisingly under represented. It’s about time we took charge of our own food condiments and placed them on the global market to compete amongst the rest.
Crossover Kenya: What challenges did you face while setting up the company?
Mwachaka Group: The hardest part about starting up is the learning curve. At the beginning, you don’t know what you don’t know. Lofty ambitions and passion do not make up for the lessons you learn when you are on the ground putting in the work. You either lose a lot of time or a lot of money while learning the ropes of your industry.
The second biggest challenge is access to financing. Being young and having no assets is a disadvantage in this age. Most startups are started by youths who are already listed in the CRB because of HELB debts. This is an area that needs to be looked at more closely.
Crossover Kenya: Advice to budding entrepreneurs
Mwachaka Group: The most important part about entrepreneurship is to get started. If you have your niche, go for it with all your passion. In time you will get aligned with the right people giving you competent advice. In addition don’t be afraid of failure, failure is only a stepping stone to success but only if you do not give up. Always remember that success is not what you get but it is who you become; such that even if what you have acquired is taken away from you, you can almost always get it back because it is about you not the materials you possess.