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How long maternity leave birthed Leah Busolo’s peanut butter business

Laeh Busolo.

When Leah Busolo, 31, was on maternity leave, she found herself with plenty of time on her hands. It was during the moments of reflection that an idea to start a money generating activity hit her. After market research, she began with peanut butter and has been expanding in the two years she had been in business.

Money Maker talked to Ms Busolo about her brand, Spread The Love.

How did the Peanut Butter business start?

I don’t think I would have chanced on the idea of doing business were not for the fact that I found myself too idle while on a long maternity leave. I’m still in employment as a special needs teacher with a Nairobi based school. It all boiled down to having an extra revenue stream instead of depending on one source of income.

What does this business entail?

We do a lot of processing and packaging of peanut butter. First the groundnuts are sorted, roasted and grounded to the desired consistency. I ventured into almonds and cashew nuts recently. These two are packaged as whole nuts or butter. Capital came in form of savings from employment.

Has the gamble paid off?

It is paying dividends. Like any new business in the market, we had do to a lot of investing before the rewards started coming in. Slowly I have managed to establish a market niche and now my focus is to expand the horizons through marketing across social media platforms.

What sets the business apart from similar ones in the market?

I did a market study and realised when it comes to products that I’m dealing with, most people opt for the natural or organic food products than the processed varieties that have unhealthy additives. I capitalised on this and I’ve seen satisfied customers referring others. This strategy boosted our growth. It pays to be original or unique with your products or services.

How has the experience been, getting new customers?

Referrals are easier to earn your trust than new customers. It is not that easy with new customers as some are sceptical on the quality of the products. As I market the business online, when a potential new customer writes showing interest in a product, they may not end up placing an order because it takes time to cultivate trust between the seller and the buyer. What helps is positive comments from existing customers, and which serves as products review. 

Juggling between employment and business can be challenging...

Yes, that it is true. I’m not a one-person show when it comes to business. When in employment, I’ve someone to run the business and I can follow on progress after work. So there is no conflict between work and employment as long as I’m not using my employer’s time to manage my business.

Any business challenges?

Top on the list are marketing and sales issues. Sourcing for quality raw materials is a problem. The cost of the farm produce is high, especially during a commodity's off-season. Then there are no steady suppliers of almonds and cashew nuts. When a product is in limited supply and demand is high, you end up spending a fortune for it, then when you pass the cost to consumers they complain. When it comes to dispatching a client’s order, some clients want to play by their own rules, insisting they can pay only when they see the products. It is challenging with online businesses but I always insist on payments before delivery.

Do You invest profits in a different area?

All my profits are reinvested in business. The idea is to keep on expanding on the range of products on offer going by queries from clients. I can say I don’t pay myself from business currently as I keep on diversifying to keep on with the demand as it comes.

What has business taught you?

If you want to see business success, hire those who share in your vision, not those who are only there to earn an income. Investing in a good employee or employees pays, they can make or break your business. Most important, never hire your relatives because if things go awry in business, it can affect even how you relate with them in a family setting.

What business advice would you give?

If you are employed and you’re thinking of quitting for business, the best time to begin investing is while still employed. This way you are cushioned if the business fails. Even when it picks up, don’t quit employment until the business is self-sustainable. The problem with those who go into business after retirement is that they are not well conditioned for the business environment as they were used to salaries and perks, and hence the reason why their businesses don’t last long. And it is also important to keep data and records as they inform you of the next business move.

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