Patricia Ankunda is a twenty-two-year-old Ugandan female pursuing a Bachelors Degree in Food Processing Technology at Kyambogo University where she is in her third year. She comes from a family of seven, where there are three girls and two boys. Patricia describes herself as a spontaneous person, who to even starting her coffee business Afro-Heritage, was very spontaneous. Pat is a Let’s-get-it-done kind of person and she likes being around people that push her forward, people who are better than her, as she believes that these people challenge her to BE BETTER, DO BETTER, and aim to be BIG. People who make Patricia think outside the box.
In the next five years, Patricia believes she is going to be the next BIG THING. She also believes that it may not be necessary for the Coffee Sector, but as an entrepreneur, she is going to reach the top! So while you read Patricia’s Story, enjoy what this lady has got to say and hopefully, you get some insights!
BRIEFLY TELL ME ABOUT AFRO-HERITAGE COFFEE
Coffee is something I got interested in 2017 after attending so many conferences, talk shows about coffee, and people discussing with us about the advantages that are in the coffee business, and how the product is rising again as one of Uganda’s top exports. So I listened and interacted with different people who are in the coffee business for value addition. This is people who own cafes, coffee brands. I started Afro-Heritage in June 2018.
WHAT INSPIRED THE NAME AFRO-HERITAGE?
Well, first as an individual I believe in Uganda being ‘forever home’ so whatever it is of value and we can share, we have to sell it out there. Also, I don’t see how I would be helping a coffee farmer out there in the village if I went and purchased another coffee that has been imported yet we have our own here. So when I sat to think of the name, I noted that the coffee I do grows in Mbaale, the Mount Elgon regions of Uganda. So I am looking at coffee that is produced here and having value added to the local communities here in Uganda. Afro, Yes! I am African and I am proud to be one. Heritage? This is home. It is where my origins are.
Also, coffee has been in Uganda from as far as we can remember. It is used in traditional ceremonies, especially for the Baganda people. Coffee has been in our heritage and that is actually what inspired the name.
WHAT TYPE OF COFFEE IS AFRO-HERITAGE AND WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THAT PARTICULAR TYPE?
Well, it is Arabica coffee. We have two kinds of Coffee commonly, that is Arabica and Robusta. There is also one called Nsansa but it is not so commonly grown here since the soils don’t really favour it.
I chose Arabica because as an entrepreneur, the focus is on solving problems. My research showed that different consumers preferred Arabica to Robusta. Also, while in Quality Control Analysis, we can tell the difference between these two types of coffee and for a person who understands coffee, they can tell the difference once they taste the two. Arabica grows at higher altitudes. Arabic is also not as common as Robusta since it is only in Mountaneous regions like Mbale, Kapchorwa and, Kisoro around Mountain Rwenzori in Kasese. However, Arabica also varies in tastes, influenced by the region from where it grows. So this coffee has different flavours and tastes as well.
My consumers, however, tend to prefer Arabica, as those are especially my target market. Some producers also blend Arabica and Robusta, and the reactions to this blend also vary from consumer to consumer. Not so many people seem to like this blend, however.
Arabica also has a less caffeine content than Robusta.
WHAT’S YOUR VISION FOR AFRO-HERITAGE COFFEE?
I visualize us growing into a really big brand and a reliable product for numerous households. For our product to be trusted and reliable to our customers. The vision is also that we are not necessarily coffee and we intend to expand. We are a startup right now but Afro-heritage shall certainly be much larger than it is now with so many other products also in the coffee value chain. I hope that we shall have improved the lives of farmers in this sector.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE COFFEE?
Well, for starters I am a food scientist. I love food, value addition, and the provision of quality food products to the society. I choose coffee because it’s purely organic. It’s a product in which I am not going to add any additives or chemicals or even alter it in any way. Once the coffee is stored correctly say in tetra-bags it can even last close to a year without expiring. Coffee only goes bad once it is exposed to air. That absorption affects its quality and essence. And that is exactly why I chose coffee. No additives.
Secondly, I chose coffee, especially because very many Ugandans are consuming imported coffee. We have a lot of farmers but all their coffee is exported much as its mostly robusta. A lot of coffee beans also ripen and fall off. So it goes to waste. All this made me see this coffee business as a venture I can go in.
Another thing was to make the youth also come to a realization that much as there is barely employment, there is a lot of employment opportunities in the agricultural sector.
Also, I was able to get people to push me forward. I started this coffee when I was doing an internship training with CURAD, The Consortium for enhancing University Responsiveness to Agribusiness Development Limited (CURAD ) an Agri-Business Incubation Center in Uganda, that helps young entrepreneurs turn their ideas into something like a product. While there, I was mentored by different people who have been in this field for quite a longe time than me of course. First I did my research, learned who my target market is, and other activities. So it was mostly because of these people that I was able to start.
There are also other things I can’t afford or do on my own, so CURAD is truly important for both me as an individual and by the enterprise. For example, a roaster is quite expensive for me, so I use one at CURAD. Being in contact with the right people has really pushed me far.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CHALLENGES YOU ARE FACING AS AN EMERGING ENTREPRENEUR IN THIS FIELD?
Ahah, well first, there is no business without challenges right? Say if you are looking at being an entrepreneur in whatever field, challenges will always come. So for me basically, the first challenge that I encountered was that when I got a distributor for my coffee up country in Sheema Mbarara, a certain supermarket complained that the product didn’t have an expiry date. So I was faced with the challenge of how long and devasting the branding and packaging process for the product can be sometimes. Of which if I wait till everything is done, then the business might never start running. It is an expensive process of getting everything together. Some clients or customers might not see this.
So, I need to consider things like online branding, getting expiry dates printed on the packages, etc. All these can slow down the enterprise development.
Another challenge has been dealing with some people as they are not informed. Many Ugandans are for example not aware of what is happening here or there. There is a scenario where I employed a lady to sell my coffee around Kampala, but she would reach some places and people would ask her what coffee is. Probably because they really didn’t know what coffee is or because what the word (coffee) means, calling for a translation in given local languages, and even further explanations of what she was selling. In a better scenario, one would rather ask what was so special about this coffee, rather than what coffee is. So now, most of my customers are foreigners and the upper-class Ugandans. These are the people who take coffee to keep awake, be able to meet deadlines or even put habit. Otherwise, most people are engrossed into the tea-culture and are unaware what to do coffee with.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR EXPERIENCE AS AN ENTREPRENEUR?
Well, for me this has truly been an eye-opener. It has been something good and if I hadn’t started, I wouldn’t know where I would be right now. Also, it has challenged me to explore deeper into the business sector, with a problem-solving mindset. I learned that income comes after you solve a problem. I have also been able to network with different people, meet people that I Would otherwise never have met, some of which have been clients turned to mentors and vice-versa. I also learned that business in Uganda is very possible. You have to be SMART, and you have to THINK SMART.
Actually, some of us youths might be waiting for the government to give us money, create employment opportunities for us which is a problem. If you aren’t out there networking with people who are going to push you closer to your goal, you need to change that. Say by me starting Afro-Heritage Coffee, I have been able to attend different seminars, workshops, etc, through which both showcase my products and also professionally network. These are the people who will later call and give me feedback on my product, thus allowing room for development. I am also having exposure in not only coffee business, but also other sectors I might want to venture in with time.
WHAT WOULD BE YOUR ADVICE TO SOMEONE OUT THERE?
‘Invest in what you believe in’. If you believe in something, take the fear aside, take one step and invest. And while you are doing so, surround yourself with people who believe in you and what you stand for. Start, even if small, find the right people to push you, groups that can help you, innovation hubs, Uganda Research Institute, among others.