Tanzanian entrepreneur builds cleaning detergent business from a side hustle

Vida Nasari

The gig economy is rapidly becoming the lifestyle of many workers. Vida Nasari was one of these skilled freelancers who worked outside of her regular job to earn an extra income. While employed as a marketing manager for the Coca-Cola Company in Tanzania, she offered marketing consulting services to various companies that had no conflict of interest with her employer. She also established the Women in Balance Kitchen Party Gala – a dedicated platform for women to network and discuss social aspects such as marriage, business, health and more.

When a big opportunity presented itself in July 2013, Nasari retired from Coca-Cola to start her own business, Kazymate Company Limited, a marketing company that manages corporate events and experiential activities. “That business required me to focus on it for at least a month and I wasn’t going to get any leave from the office due to the pressure facing the industry. (It wasn’t a good season for business). The decision was also easy to make because I needed a change.”

In 2015 Nasari added another portfolio to the company, namely the manufacturing, packaging and distribution of household cleaning detergents under the Viax brand. “Coming from a fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) background, I wanted to use that knowledge and experience to build my own manufacturing business,” Nasari explains. She researched different sectors and finally settled on manufacturing cleaning products. She also did the necessary training and acquired the skills to get proper certification.

How did she grow her business?

When Nasari launched Viax in 2015, she employed three people and began producing packaged multipurpose soap and toilet liquid soap for friends and neighbours. Over time, customers started asking for other cleaning products. She slowly responded to their needs by producing more products and increased her staff to 12. Today, Viax has 20 product lines across three categories – personal hygiene (shower gel, shampoo, bar soaps and hand washing soap), general cleaning (multipurpose, disinfectant, window cleaner, car shampoo) and household needs (toilet gel, dish washing liquid, tile cleaners, etc.).

“The business was financed through personal savings as well as bank loans. We started making profits two years after its establishment. Before then, it was breaking even and sometimes making a small loss.”

According to Nasari, Viax products were created to fill the gap in affordable and quality products – targeting middle to low-income earners. “Our marketing and distribution strategies focus on meeting that demand at a very low cost – yet efficiently.”

Nasari says Viax’s success hinges on maintaining its product quality and its responsiveness to customers’ needs. This has helped Viax to gain high customer retention and loyal distributors.

“My experience at Coca-Cola helped a lot when I started my business. It gave me the confidence I needed beyond the master’s degree I obtained. I learnt a lot about marketing and sales techniques from the best trainers in the world as well as practicing it. I was exposed to all kinds of situations that I later encountered when I started my business.”

Surely there must have been challenges?

Like many young business owners, in the early stages Nasari encountered employees who only wanted to benefit themselves and almost bankrupted the company. “I discovered their intentions and fired them. From there on, I started using recruitment agencies,” she reveals.

Due to financial constraints, Nasari used to buy her chemicals and packaging in small quantities from different suppliers. This caused quality control problems and rejections by the market, as well as an increase in operational costs due to the replacement of goods. To resolve the issue, she started buying in bulk directly from the manufacturers who now offer her reliable, quality goods at good prices.

Another challenge she faced was the bureaucracy of registering her business. According to her, the process of getting compliant may look simple, but when she began to register her products for certification it became a costly nightmare. She found that there was no difference between the registration process for SMEs and large companies. “We were all categorised as one,” she recalls. However, she joined an association that was advocating for an enabling environment for manufacturers where she found guidance from other business owners.

Nasari says she is yet to have her worst moment as an entrepreneur. However, she recalls a week in March 2017 when she almost gave up. Due to payment delays by customers, she had no cash. The previous week, she had made a huge purchase which left her with no money to pay her employees, service the delivery trucks or pay the monthly loan. She says that was a difficult moment for her, but it had taught her how to structure payments in future.

What can we learn from her story?

Nasari likens being an entrepreneur to being in a classroom where there are always new things to learn. “Most of the things I know were learnt through networking with other entrepreneurs, participating in various events and reading books.”

She says people who plan to start a business should understand that it is a difficult but rewarding journey. They should be prepared to work very hard, sacrifice some things, but be smart about it.

“Do enough research. Know the rules and regulations. Understand the market and make sure that you offer what the market wants, not what you think or are capable of offering. Set your goals and hold yourself accountable. If you cannot do it alone, your business partner should have the attributes and strength that you do not have so that you can complement and complete the relationship, rather than competing with one another.”