From a retirement plan idea to a thriving business : Meet Uganda’s healthy option

When it comes to healthy diet plans, everyone has their own preference. In Uganda, Nuba Elamin and her business partner identified this ever-growing need of people to adopt a healthy diet lifestyle. Not so long after this realisation did they start producing healthy juices for Uganda’s citizens under the KweNu Juices and Salad Bar brand. We spoke to Nuba and she touched on managing a team, having a business partner as well as how her business has grown to what it is today.

Background and history of the business
Nuba is the Business Development manager and Co-Founder of KweNu Juice and Salad Bar. Though of Ugandan descent, Nuba was raised in Tanzania. Swahili is therefore her first language, and this inspired the naming of her venture. KweNu simply means “Your home” and this is the message which Nuba and her partner wanted to drive concerning their business – a homely and relaxed brand.  KweNu Juice and Salad Bar is Kampala’s healthy food option. They encourage Ugandans to adopt healthy eating habits by providing healthy smoothies, detox juices and salads.  Her Co-Founder is Gertrude, who happens to be her mum, birthed the idea of running a healthy juices business as part of her retirement plan. At the time when she suggested this idea to her daughter who was living in Nairobi- Kenya then, nothing materialised until 3 years later and in May 2016 their business began its operations. The initial investment into the business being their personal savings. Today, Nuba is responsible for most part of the business.

Although their original idea was to set up a detox and blended juice bar only, their customers frequently inquired for something to bite on. This inspired them to introduce salads to cater to their customers’ needs.

Target customers
Their core target market is middle-class, corporate women around the age of 28 -45 years. These women are constantly busy and prefer ordering healthy meals especially during office hours. When I asked Nuba what attracts their customers to them, this is what she said, “I think we have been able to position ourselves in the market as the to go to place if one wants something healthy. We are very clear about our products. We have curved out a niche and stuck to it.  We ensure our juices and salads are simple, tasty and available. “Nuba also added that they depend on social media and word of mouth to help market their business.

Market opportunities and needs addressed
With the raise of internet use over the years, people are today, more than ever aware and cautious about what they consume. People are shifting to eating healthy food and KweNu is serving this need for the market. For Nuba, it is more than just selling juice and salads but building a brand. They have successfully curved out their niche and they have committed themselves to focusing on it.

How I manage my team
Nuba was very keen to mention that she is particularly proud of her team of 10. Their commitment and dedication to actioning the company vision has contributed to the continuous growth of KweNu Juice and Salad Bar. Which begs the question, how well does your team understand your company vision? Nuba believes that her team is her most important customer and when that isn’t taken care of, then a business is bound to fail.

Most exciting experience in building the business
The transition of the business from producing juices and smoothies to preparing salads based on their customers’ needs, was exciting for Nuba since this was a clear indication that their customers were happy with their products and services. She recalls that one of her greatest joys is seeing a typical Ugandan man who would rather enjoy matoke, try out their salads and come back again. To continue standing out as a unique business, Nuba is always researching on new trends within her industry. Joining the GrowthAfrica Acceleration Programme is also a strategy they adopted to help them maintain their unique profile.

Strategic changes experienced by the company
Earlier this year, they moved from the small space they once occupied. This location couldn’t accommodate storage of their perishable products and this forced them to transit between their home and the business premise, where they stored the products. This caused a high implication on transport costs.  They moved to a bigger location and everything is now centralized. The move has helped them work more efficiently and reduce transport cost.

Challenges experienced and solutions provided
Initially, KweNu Juice and Salad Bar operated on delivery basis and it was becoming difficult for Nuba to juggle between managing deliveries and growing the business. To solve this, she outsourced a delivery services company, and this helped her concentrate on growing the business. Currently their biggest challenge is how they can manage their inventory and control waste. Nuba admits that the healthy food space is facing the challenge of trying to educate people on the importance of living a healthy lifestyle and adopt healthy eating habits.

Future and advice
In the next three years, Nuba is looking to stock up gyms in Uganda with more grab and go healthy snacks and this will need collaboration with other healthy food industry players. Her advice to entrepreneurs is; ensure that plan your finances right from the beginning, network and learn as much as possible and your team is your most important customers.

Why I joined the GrowthAfrica Acceleration Programme and its impact so far
Nuba’s company was part of the just recently concluded Cohort 3 in Uganda. She joined our programme to receive advice in fine tuning the finance aspect of the business and to set up appropriate systems and structures to help her achieve this. “The Progamme has helped me understand my customers better”, she admits.

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