Ugandan real fruit ice lolly business has ambitious expansion plans

Linnet Akol

Krystal Ice is a Ugandan company that makes frozen snacks from real fruit. The business was started in 2017. Founder Linnet Akol (43) answers our questions. 

1. Give us your elevator pitch.

Krystal Ice Limited is into fruit processing. We make mouth-watering frozen snacks called Icepops, which we sell in supermarkets, play centres, schools and at events. Currently, we are still operating in the central region of Uganda but plan to cover all regions. The Icepops come in six different flavours: mango, apple, pineapple, watermelon, orange and mixed fruit. We source our raw materials from local farmers. We saw their frustration due to a lack of markets for their produce and we came up with a solution that could solve that and also reduce post-harvest losses.

2. How did you finance your startup?

I used savings from my previous job and also got support from my husband. Later I started getting support from organisations like the Tony Elumelu Foundation, Programma Uitzending Managers (PUM), the Feed the Future Partnering for Innovation programme as well as private institutions like banks and a grant from DFCU Bank Uganda.

3. If you were given $1 million to invest in your company now, where would it go?

I would scale the business into a world-class factory to produce products for export. We have already been granted the “quality mark” from the Uganda National Bureau of Standards, meaning our product is of good quality and can be exported to any country. We would also invest in more partnerships that would help us spread our wings and invest heavily in marketing and getting markets. In addition, we would improve our infrastructure to ensure we have cold rooms for storage, purchase more equipment like display freezers to put in supermarkets for more visibility, open outlets and basically expand the business to all regions of Uganda and beyond.

Icepops in different flavours

We would also allocate some funds to employee development and systems. This is because we believe if we have the right team that is well trained with the right skills and systems in place, we can achieve the company’s goals.

4. What risks does your business face?

One risk is new entrants into the market. There is also the risk of our products not being differentiated from our competitors’. Since our products are in the same line as ice cream, some people could think we sell ice cream, even though we don’t use dairy. Because of this misconception, customers may end up rather going for one of the big ice cream brands.

5. So far, what has proven to be the most successful form of marketing?

Face to face marketing at events, where we can engage our customers, has helped us create awareness of the product.

A Krystal Ice truck

6. Describe your most exciting entrepreneurial moment.

Bringing my idea to life because some people thought it wouldn’t work. I’ve also received validation through winning awards and being profiled on different media platforms.

7. Tell us about your biggest mistake.

My biggest mistake was starting a business without a marketing budget and other professionals. However, I learnt from my mistakes and pressed forward with hard work and persistence.

Further reading

[July 2020] Five entrepreneurs who’ve spotted opportunities in Africa’s food industry
[July 2020] Need to see a doctor? This Nigerian company allows you to do it online
[June 2020] The Ethiopian entrepreneur who wants to disrupt the paper industry
[July 2020] Young entrepreneur making tasty crisps from cassava in Gabon
[June 2020] Burkina Faso: Food processing company adds value to locally-grown cassava