Interview: The woman behind food delivery company Mama Meals on Wheels

Describe some of the challenges you face?

We have had difficulties getting staff who can effectively manage customers. We are a known brand and we get a lot of customers. That means we cannot afford to compromise on standards.

You are one of many Kenyans who had lived and worked abroad, but decided to start a business back on the continent. What was behind this thinking?

I grew up in the US but visited Kenya quite often. Kenya has changed, and it is a big ‘wow’ for people who haven’t visited in many years. Sure there are challenges here, but the changes in the last decade have made the country viable for business. Foreign economies have also been hit in recent years with high levels of unemployment. In the US, for instance, it is very easy for someone to find themselves a slave to their bills. Kenyans in the diaspora can bring the professionalism that they have earned from organisations they have worked with. They also bring time management, integrity and other business ethos.

What advice would you give other entrepreneurs?

Passion is the starting point. Your idea needs to be bankable. You should also have a few things that will distinguish you from any copycats. Plan how you intend to achieve your goals and targets. You should also operate with integrity and professionalism. Young people should not just go to university with the idea that there are jobs waiting for them. They need to study knowing that there are tremendous opportunities in starting small businesses.

Are you worried about Kenya’s March elections?

Our business does well whenever there is anything extreme. From traffic, rain or elections and anything that makes people not want to leave their homes. However, we are praying that all goes well in the elections. We have learnt our lesson from the incidents of 2007/2008 and we are hoping for peaceful and safe elections.

Your future plans?

Starting February we will be piloting online ordering and payment using PesaPal, a service that brings together all payment platforms including mobile money and cards. We hope it takes off, because it will mean more efficient service. We also plan to expand in Nairobi and enter Mombasa. We are working with a big accounting firm to actualise franchising plans in a year or two. We have had enquiries from Nigeria, Seychelles and Uganda. We think there is a lot of potential outside the country. I hope to open up the business to other investors in about two or three years.