, NAIROBI, Kenya, March 2 – When you meet Tei Mukunya, her dreadlocks and dashing smile steal your heart, but it is her intelligence, passion and zeal for life that keeps you in the conversation with her.
“I’m more interested in living a wholesome and healthy life. I’m also practicing gratitude and seeking to strike a balance in my various roles,” Mukunya, founder and CEO of Azuri Health, told participants of the Timeless Women’s Conference in Nairobi.
Mukunya says she started Azuri in 2010, with a starting capital of Sh2 million, which was her retirement benefits package from British America Tobacco where she previously worked.
Her company specializes in the production of naturally dried food products that include fruits such as mangoes and pineapples, and the manufacture of flours such as sweet potato flour, terere flour and dried tomatoes.
According to Mukunya, the products are naturally dried, and contain no additives. They also have zero fat levels, no cholesterol and sodium.
The products are processed and packaged in the country. However, artwork for the packaging is done in Mauritius. “The kind of packaging we wanted was unavailable in Kenya, mainly because it was too expensive. And being a startup, we opted to do it elsewhere.”
Today the company supplies to various outlets that include Carrefour, Tuskys Supermarkets, Chandarana stores and Naivas among others.
Mukunya opened up to Capital Business on what inspired her to this business; “My father is actually the person who influenced my choice of business where he challenged me to produce something that would benefit people, ‘haven’t you been selling cigarettes for so long? Now give us something that will help us,’ he challenged me and since then, I have not looked back.”
She partnered with her sisters in running the business, but admits the partnership did work out as planned. “We decided to end the partnership to preserve our unity as sisters.”
Mukunya says that after doing the business locally and regionally for almost 8 years now, she is ready to go global. She has recently signed a new partnership with a German national – a partnership she says is not ready to talk about yet, – but hopes will help her plan for expansion.
The road to founding an enterprise that continues to thrive has however not been without challenges. For instance, Nakumatt Supermarkets, where she had been supplying for a long time, went under leaving her in debt.
“The fall of the supermarket left many businesses in debt including mine. But we are slowly recovering and we are hopeful. The incident taught me to never think that any business is failure-proof. Anyone can fail, including the big giants.”
Her message to upcoming entrepreneurs: “There are no shortcuts in entrepreneurship. You have to go out and learn your lessons. You have to put in the work. Success is not available on a silver platter as some tend to think.”