How does it feel to have the same damn thing in your diet over and over? And how about when it’s the only thing you can afford? Well, this’ what I had to put up with the entire period of my childhood growing up in the village.
I am Hudson Shiraku, a 32 year old young man from western Kenya whose nickname growing up was Mabuni. Mabuoni in my native dialect translates to sweet potatoes and I earned this name because we eat boiled sweet potatoes every day. We eat them boiled for breakfast, eat them boiled for lunch and eat them boiled for supper. As kids; we eat them raw or roasted playing in the fields. My friends taunted me that my intestines would turn as yellow as sweet potatoes. My primary school classmates avoided sitting next to me because I emitted pungent fumes characteristic to bad stomach from eating potatoes. Very humiliating.
I am have now schooled and grown to be an environmentalist, a blogger and a writer currently working at the Biovision Africa Trust as a programme assistant. The nickname ‘Mabuoni’ has since disappeared.
Someone once said, there are clouds so that we can enjoy sunshine. Can you imagine what it would have been like if we had sunshine throughout without clouds? We would have taken it for granted and we wouldn’t have enjoyed it. I see my challenges as a kid – eating potatoes everyday and being humiliated in school, as a business opportunity and a chance to help the community. The bad fumes are associated with boiled potatoes only so I want to eliminate the problem by providing alternatives to boiled potatoes.
I want to make it possible for people to make baked goods, such as breads, cookies, muffins, pancakes, and doughnuts, and thickener for sauces and gravies from sweet potatoes. With these; no fart fumes and there will be a variety of sweet potato products to grace our tables at meal times. I want to start making sweet potato flour.
The Business Idea
I want to establish a sweet potato grinding mill. Sweet potato flour making process is fairly simple once you have the hammer mill. After harvesting potatoes or buying them from farmers as will be my case: they need to be cleaned and trimmed in order to remove soil and other foreign material from the surface. They then need to be thoroughly washed and brushed as the quality of flour depends on how the washing has been conducted. The brushing is also a relevant step because it reinforces the removal of the soil and an important portion of the skin, especially when red skin colored sweet potato roots are being processed into flour.
To increase their surface area for faster drying, they are then sliced. Drying can be either traditional solar drying, technical solar drying or drying using sophisticated industrial equipment. I will adopt traditional solar drying. Dried potato slices can then be ground using the hammer mill, packed and sealed immediately to avoid re-hydration and insect infestation. Materials with little permeability to water vapor, such as cellophane, polyethylene or polypropylene should be used. I will use polythene bags to package mine.
Why Sweet Potatoes for Health and Wealth
Women will get ready market for their sweet potatoes: By opening this venture, our women who are often exploited by middlemen will get premium prices for their produce. I will buy their Sweet potatoes at higher price than their gate prices. The venture will also open up other businesses for the community members as besides hiring some, they will open up eateries where they will serve sweet potato juice, cakes and other products. Sweet potatoes are among the healthiest foods known, a fact that is increasingly getting recognized the world over. People are becoming more conscious of what they eat and my community members stand to gain from these health benefits.
Besides the economic gains that I will accrue as the entrepreneur, I am motivated by my desire to help my community. Where I come from sweet potatoes are in the league of the so-called “orphan crops”, alongside cassava and millet. Many who can afford have abandoned these crops because they are considered the poor man’s food. I want to change this mentality by helping people make money and keep healthy by eating and trading in value added sweet potato products.
My motivation is also partly due to the challenges I went through as a kid; eating boiled sweet potatoes everyday because it’s the only thing we could afford and also we didn’t know about the options of baking bread, cookies, crisps, chips, jam, juice, chapati and mandazi. Neither did we know about the health benefits. Its flour is high in fiber and contains a higher level of carbohydrates and lower level of protein than common wheat flour. It is more healthier and is commonly used in gluten free cooking and baking. I am convicted by all these reasons to venture into this business.
I am already conducting my research about the venture and I believe this is a very vital step. I already know where and how to buy the hummer mill and where to get my raw materials (sweet potatoes). My first step will be ordering for one or buying one locally.
I will then rent two rooms at the market place where one shall be the miller and the other shall be a warehouse cum shop. I will also have my business registered legally. To create a wide customer base, I am already preaching and will continue to preach the gospel of the health benefits of sweet potatoes as opposed to wheat.
This US$5000 grant is all I need to fly into the world of self employment and economic empowerment.
The hammer mill will cost me about US$2000 and buying can be done immediately fund come in.
Rent for the rooms will cost US$600 for six months to be paid up front before starting,
Registration of my company will cost US$200 it takes two weeks but can be done as the business runs
Branding attractive packaging bags will cost US$300 and it’s a week long activity
Labor (two people) will cost me US$200 per month
The rest shall be invested in buying raw materials from the women farmers on need be basis and voila!! I’ll be en route to success. Success is equal to profits made where (profit = revenue – expenses)
Blogpost and picture submitted by Hudson Shiraku (Kenya) – hudson_wereh[at]hotmail.com
The content, structure and grammar is at the discretion of the author only.
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