START SMALL AND LET IT GROW BIG…
Temwanani Disi is the Managing Director and sole proprietor of Temwanani Agrifood Enterprise. She was born in 1988 at Holy Family Hospital in Phalombe District in a family of 7 children. She is the fifth born daughter of Messrs Kesting and Leah Disi. She is a single mother of one son and is based at Kamtumwazi Village, GVH Mundiyeye, and TA Fukamapili in Nkhata Bay District.
Temwanani Disi has MSCE obtained in 2006 at Thandizo Private School in Blantyre. From 2018 to 2019, she attended a one year Agricultural Infrastructure and Youth in Agribusiness Project (AIYAP) sponsored training to become an Agricultural Entrepreneur (Agri-preneurs). The Training was facilitated by the Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources at NRC Campus (LUANAR NRC) in Lilongwe.
Temwa Disi applying chemicals in her tomato garden in 2019 Temwanani Agrifood Enterprise is a registered business under the Business Registration Act (No. 12 of 2012). The enterprise was established in 2019 with an initial investment of K35, 000.00 to grow crops such as tomatoes, beans and maize on a piece of irrigated land measuring one acre. After harvesting and selling the agricultural produce, the proceeds were re-invested in the value addition of honey, fruits, beans and rice. This followed the identification of a business opportunity in value addition and the possibility of becoming an off-taker for smallholder farmers that produce rice, beans and honey around the Mazembe Area in the Nkhata Bay district.
Processed honey displayed by Fula General Dealers in Zomba The rice, beans and honey are processed and packaged in attractive plastic jars and sachets. The packed products are distributed to selected shops in Blantyre, Lilongwe and Zomba. Some of the products are sold directly to consumers in Malawi in Mangochi, Mzuzu, Blantyre, and Nkhata Bay, and others to consumers in the United Kingdom (UK).
Temwanani Agrifood Enterprise processing unit operates from a rented building at Kande Trading Center in Nkhata Bay. The enterprise has obtained pre-designation approval to manufacture, sell and distribute products covered by mandatory Malawi standards from the Malawi Bureau of Standards (MBS).
Currently, the enterprise has 4 permanent employees. Temwa Disi is assisted by Enrique Phiri in the Sales and Marketing department and Minor Manda in the Production department, and there is a Mr Chirwa in the Security department. The business plans to recruit 16 more permanent staff once it scales up to the desired growth level. The 16 staff will be employed in the following departments:
1. Production and Extension
2. ICT research
3. Sales and Marketing
4. Coordination Services.
Temwanani Agrifood Enterprise was established in 2019 with a start-up capital of MK35, 000.00 which was channelled into horticulture farming. When the business sold its harvest, it brought in MK150, 000.00. This money was re-invested into the business to diversify to processing honey and later expanded to include rice and beans value addition.
Today, the enterprise’s net worth has increased manifold. It is estimated to be at MK2, 500,000.00. The enterprise has also managed to expand its customer base because of the quality products that it supplies. It continues to get positive customer feedback from as far as the UK, which has hugely enhanced its confidence.
Temwanani Agrifood Enterprise works with several beekeepers and rice smallholder farmers. The farmers are also registering some business successes due to this relationship. For instance, the beekeepers at Chesamu in Nkhata Bay have been able to buy cattle while others have managed to acquire more land.
Temwa Disi seated (Front left) attending one of the MBS training sessions organized by SMEDI at Mzuzu Hotel Temwa Disi believes that the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Institute (SMEDI) has played a crucial role in her business’ success. According to her, SMEDI has contributed significantly to the growth of her business. Temwanani Agrifood Enterprise can now access structured markets because it benefited from the 50% discount on the total cost of product certification under the SMEDI/MBS partnership and got its products pre-certified. She is a beneficiary of one of the sessions of training on standards and food hygiene that are facilitated by the MBS in partnership with SMEDI. The interventions have helped to position the business to leverage more market opportunities. The facilitation of market linkages by SMEDI through trade fairs has also hugely exposed the business to potential buyers and expanded its networks.
Of course, any scaling up of operations brings new challenges to any business. Typically, after employing more people, the owner must have staff management skills and more careful control is needed over business finances, especially the production and distribution costs. Business management and financial planning skills are also required to stay ahead of competitors. Prudent business investment decisions are needed for both new equipment and improved packaging. The larger production volumes also require production planning skills and may create a need for environmental protection through waste management. Other issues, such as market research, product development and the business image, also increase in importance.
Temwanani Agrifood Enterprise, naturally, faces some of these challenges on its growth path. The major challenge that the business is facing is access to finance to support the projected growth. The business has a business plan to guide it to deal with some of the issues mentioned above. However, a lack of adequate working capital is affecting business operations as the business relies on raw materials that are seasonally available. Adequate working capital is required to purchase enough raw materials to last a whole year to supply both existing and new markets. A lack of modern processing equipment is another challenge. It is difficult to find locally produced honey processing equipment to improve product quality and quantity. Better processing equipment can only be procured in South Africa or China; that costs an arm and a leg.
Temwa Disi displaying her products during SMEs Market Fair at Game Complex in Lilongwe Despite all the challenges her business is facing, Temwa Disi has this to say to the youth who aspire to be entrepreneurs: “One does not necessarily need external funding to start a business. The little that one has should be enough to start a business. In my case, I started with MK35, 000.00 and multiplied it to over MK2.5 Million. Most of the fellow youths who participated in the AIYAP training with me have not started businesses because they are still waiting on external financiers to fund their start-ups. As it is, I am ahead of them and have gained more experience in agri-business operations”. Temwa Disi implores the youths to change their mindset and fully embrace the idea of starting small and gradually growing instead of waiting for donors to provide them with start-up capital. “The biggest capital one can get from an organization is the knowledge and skills we acquire through training”, says Temwa.
“When business opportunities come, let us quickly pounce on them. Currently, there are many opportunities targeting youth agri-preneurs from the government and other non-governmental organizations. Unfortunately, many youth entrepreneurs are reluctant to take advantage of the available opportunities because they are only after quick gains and therefore shun investing in long-term business solutions like agro-value addition”, laments Temwa.