Daucus – Student-run business that’s not just about sales
In 2019, along with two other students from Egerton University in Kenya, I started a company called Daucus Limited Agribusiness. The business was incubated with the help of Agrienterprise Incubation for Improved Livelihoods and Economic Development under the leadership of the principal researcher, Professor Patience Mshenga.
The company was then incorporated in May 2020 as a limited liability company.
The name Daucus is derived from the scientific name for the wild carrot (commonly known as Queen Anne’s lace), Daucus carota. The goal was to produce a healthy, caffeine-free drink from carrots at a processing plant we established on Rusinga Island in Lake Victoria, Homabay County, Kenya.
The company was strongly affected by the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, which led to its closure.
In 2021, we had the privilege to present a coffee substitute business idea to the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM), after which Daucus Limited received grants in the amount of 5,000 USD for business acceleration by the Mastercard Foundation as part of the transformation of agricultural universities. contribute significantly to the Africa Growth and Development Project (TAGDev).
This allowed us to launch a new product, which we called Nacafen, a coffee substitute processed from roasted and ground Bambara peanuts (Underground vine), a member of the family Fabaceae which grows widely in West Africa and in the East African countries of Tanzania and Burundi. The plant ripens its pods underground, much like peanuts.
We source our raw materials from local suppliers based in Nairobi. After delivery, the beans are carefully processed by grinding them into a nutritious and instant caffeine-free natural drink. It is then packaged in bottles, ready to be sold in our locality. The whole production process is in strict accordance with international standards.
Each month, we earn around 20,000 KES ($ 181) from the business, which allows us to support ourselves. We have segmented our market based on demographics based on age, gender, income, and occupation. Our main target customers are the health conscious.
We marketed Nacafen on banners, caps and T-shirts. We have also promoted Nacafen using attractive packaging that generates consumer interest in the product. Nacafen comes in different amounts – 80 grams and 50 grams – so that people can more easily afford it.
Our pricing policy is reasonable and the distribution channels are convenient, ensuring that our target customers can get the product easily. Our main weakness is the size of the company: Daucus Limited is still a small scale company. We have limited capital and limited resources.
However, our main challenge is to obtain certification from the Kenya Bureau of Standards. The process is slow, costs money and is very bureaucratic. Certification would allow us to target larger customers and outlets such as supermarkets.
It’s tempting to dream what it would be like if we didn’t have any competition at all. But the truth is, there are plenty of companies that sell caffeinated drinks just like us.
To compete in a crowded market, we needed a unique selling proposition. The more unique it is, the less room there is for competition. We have started using locally relevant platforms, such as Facebook, where our target customers are located, and have adopted a niche marketing strategy.
One likely way to beat our competition is to meet the needs of our shared market segment better than our competitors. We ask open ended questions to find out exactly what our customers want when they use our products or services. It is important to focus our efforts on finding solutions to customer problems, not just selling Nacafen.
Providing quality and memorable customer service is a great way to build customer loyalty and differentiate ourselves from our competition.
Our vision is to be a leading competitive nutrition, health and wellness company delivering value by being a Preferred Company, Preferred Employer and Preferred Supplier selling Preferred Products.
Thanks to a group that we later formed called Daucus Agripreneurship Youth Group, we were able to empower 20 young people, the majority of whom are women. We are also looking forward to starting to empower local farmers on Rusinga Island through bambara bean cultivation, so that we can start sourcing the raw material locally.
Beatrice Akinyi is a Kenyan environmental science student at Egerton University. TAGDev is a partnership program between the Mastercard Foundation and RUFORUM. The program is implemented at Egerton University, Kenya, and Gulu University, Uganda. The eight-year program aims to help African agricultural universities and their graduates better respond to development challenges through better application of science, technology, business and innovation for the transformation of rural agriculture. .