Malawi: Entrepreneur capitalises on gap in cleaning products industry
Imani Investments manufactures cleaning mops, branded as Easy Mop, from its factory in Blantyre, Malawi. The company has been run as a full-time business since 2018. Co-founder Moses Nyirenda (44) answers our questions.
1. Give us your elevator pitch.
Imani Investments started as a part-time business in 2016. We are an innovative eco-inclusive company that manufactures cleaning supplies for Malawi and beyond. We envision consumers using environmentally friendly products as an alternative to unsustainable traditional mops. Our mops have re-usable handles which differentiates us from our competitors. We supply retailers, wholesalers, individuals, hospitals, schools, offices and hotels.
2. How did you finance your start-up?
At first it was through self financing and then in the second year Imani was financed by a grant and a loan from the National Bank of Malawi. The grant came under the Growth Accelerator Programme which is supported by The Royal Norwegian Embassy and UNDP.
3. If you were given $1 million to invest in your company now, where would it go?
Most of it would go into scaling up of our manufacturing operations. We need more equipment and materials to meet the growing demand in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region. It would also solve our current problems of shortages and delays in our supply chain. We would be able to hire more skilled and unskilled labour and acquire additional workshop and storage space to offer a more professional service and meet the demand.
4. What risks does your business face?
We import some of our materials from overseas and there are challenges with shortages and delays. As a result, we are sometimes unable to fulfil our orders.
5. So far, what has proven to be the most successful form of marketing?
Direct marketing has been the most successful. Our products are new on the market and direct marketing helps to promote our products directly to customers. We have been able to showcase how Easy Mop products are used, how users can take care of them and how mop-heads are replaced. It has helped us receive prompt feedback, too.
6. Describe your most exciting entrepreneurial moment.
Signing supply deals with international supermarket chain stores. When we started making mops, our targeted customers were local retailers, wholesalers, individuals, hotels, schools and offices. Little did we know then that the quality of our products would meet the expectation of international retail chain stores. We are confident Easy Mop can sell anywhere in Africa and beyond.
7. In addition to your own industry, name one untapped business opportunity in Africa.
The African continent has temperatures that reach into 50°. I feel we are not doing enough to produce eco-friendly insulating building materials for the construction industry. Africa has plenty of grass, leaves and straw with excellent insulating properties. Grass sheets of about 5cm can be placed in walls, attics and ceilings to cool dwellings in summer and keep them warm in the winter. Natural grass or rice straws can be easily harvested and replanted with minimal environmental impact.