- Self-employed - Food Preparation
Born in Nairobi
Kenya’s Vision to become a middle income economy is pegged to a large extent on the growth of SMEs. This vision would only be realized if SMEs are able to create employment, increase production and access markets. Access to markets would almost certainly trigger the realization of the other two.
The market however is more and more demanding for safer food products; an assurance they get through the certification systems. Lack of information about standards and conformity assessments, cost of hiring qualified employees among SMEs, makes it even more difficult for them to comply with market demands. Establishing a food safety system, and acquiring recognition through third party certification can be a costly and painstaking journey, as was realized by Julie and Rosy, the two directors of Sous Chef Ltd. in Kenya. At the time they could only afford to pay a qualified professional to appear once a week, and could not afford to employ permanently.
Their story as an SME begins in Kenya, where Julie and Rosy made garlic and ginger puree from home. Over a period of time, they started making “Cocktail Samosas”. The demand grew for convenient foods during parties. Their formal entry into this business materialized when they formed Sous Chef and had to move into a building housing a salon on the same floor directly opposite. The premise was certainly not designed for food processing but was there a choice? Sous Chef now had to face the challenge of paying rent which the sales could not sustain and the search for new markets began.
That is when Sous Chef realized that demands for product certification and HACCP existed. But what were these? Rosie and Julie had been supplying for two years and the samosas were tasty. No problems had ever occurred. What was different? The market required the certifications.
It was then that Julie and Rosy saw an advertisement about the ITC programme that ran in collaboration with Kenya Bureau of Standards.The project was ProInvest linkages for access to markets, targeting SMEs. To join the program one had to fill in an application, and write a note of motivation. Faced with the challenges they were already experiencing, the two directors quickly agreed to make an application to join the program. The EU-financed ProInvest assigned an adviser trained as part of the programme, who worked with the enterprise to establish, document and implement a food safety system. In this programme, Sous Chef was able to access technical standards and conformity assessment information. Sous Chef was able to establish, document and train its employees on hygiene requirements and implementation of Standard Sanitary Operations and Procedures, at minimal cost due to the availability of the trained adviser.
Sous Chef applied for HACCP and product certification and was awarded both. Sous Chef products are now in every store of the largest chain supermarket in East Africa. Its products are enjoyed in some of the largest five star hotels in Kenya, as well as crossing borders through its supplies to airline suppliers. Sous Chef took over the entire floor in the building from where they operating, and upgraded its premises to ensure that the process layout meets with food safety requirements. It also added more persons to its staff, employing sixty persons. Presently Sous Chef is at the final stages of negotiations with an investor, that will boost the capital to meet demands for higher production. The directors are of the opinion that without the support of ProInvest program, the journey may have been longer, more costly and energy consuming.
Sous Chef is now seeking ISO 22000 Certification while the trained adviser has now assisted SMEs in Rwanda and currently in Tanzania.
-Written by Julie Gwaderi, Director, Sous Chef Ltd, and Margaret Kola Ouma, ITC trained adviser who assisted the company.