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How I grew tea company with $200 – Senegalese businesswoman

Adja Sembene Fall, an entrepreneur from Senegal, said that with only $200 asset, her new tea company, Contanna had no alternative but to launch its…

Adja Sembene Fall, an entrepreneur from Senegal, said that with only $200 asset, her new tea company, Contanna had no alternative but to launch its startup operations online.

The Senegalese businesswoman, who won the African Development Bank AgriPitch competition under the “Women Owned/Led-Business category,” opined that digital marketing was essential for the success of luxury tea startups.

“Due to lack of finance, it was not possible to get a physical shop. We started out in the backyard of my brother’s house. We sold our teas via the social media for three years,” Fall said.

She said her line of luxury brand tea products was more than taste. Fall said Contanna teas sold a “Senegalese experience” that promotes a women-owned, 100 per cent locally sourced and processed product based on recipes infusing family and cultural traditions.

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“Digitising our buying process was really important. We were also able to present and adjust the packaging of our product online to emphasize it was premium and different from what was available in Senegal,” the 29-year-old added.

She said that Contanna, in its first year of business, brought in $5,000 in online sales with a concentration on Instagram and its website. Fall claimed that as the internet business expanded, the company reached sales of $12,000 and built about 2,000 customers.

At Dakar’s Sea Plaza shopping centre, Contanna recently established a pop-up booth. It was recognised as a winner in January of the African Development Bank’s AgriPitch competition, which promotes African youth agripreneurs by enhancing their company’s bankability and guaranteeing that they are “pitch ready” for potential investors.

Almost 750 complete entries were submitted for the 2022 AgriPitch competition, which began in October, by “agripreneurs” in the agriculture industry from 38 African countries.

EldoHub, an organisation that promotes technology, innovation and education for young people and women, was also a member of the judging panel. Private Equity Support, a women-led enterprise support advisory firm, the Private Financing Advisory Network, and a global network of experts in climate and clean energy financing, made up the panel.

The competition, which this year awarded $140,000 in prizes, is a key activity of the bank’s ENABLE Youth Programme.

Edson Mpyisi, the bank’s chief financial economist and ENABLE Youth coordinator, said the African youth had great ideas. It was exciting to see the high level of innovation and passion from these young agripreneurs, particularly the large number of women-owned enterprises like Contanna,”

For a two-week virtual company development boot camp, the AgriPitch organisers chose 25 semifinalists, 68 per cent of which were women-owned or operated firms. Nine agripreneurs were chosen to advance to the finals after a pitch session at the boot camp’s end.

“I was pitching in front of my shop, where customers were passing by. They were so encouraging when they discovered that my business was a 100 per cent a Senegalese company, and especially that the founder is a woman,“ Fall said. She received $25,000 as the winner in the AgriPitch competition women-owned business category.

Fall said she would invest some of the winnings toward computer and digital skills training for the company’s all-female workforce, as well as upgrade a digital payment system.

“We don’t eschew hiring men, but the women were first to apply and were qualified. They currently log their work production and stock building in paper books. We are training them to build capacity to use Google Sheets and other digital software,” Fall added.

Contanna and other 20 contestants who placed in the top 20 will continue to have access to the AgriPitch “deal room” for the purpose of utilising post-competition digital skills, company growth and investor engagement.

“We look forward to working closely with the entrepreneurs in the coming months through individual business advisory support and investor engagement in the deal room,” said Diana Gichaga, managing partner at Private Equity Support.