The perfect partnership; Star Cafe Limited and Sulma Foods
The General Manager of Star Café, Elijah Kangara was introduced to Africa Agribusiness Academy (AAA) by Farid Karama, AAA Country Director Uganda and Sulma Foods Managing Director in 2011. Since then, their friendship has grown into a business partnership.
Sulma Foods grows and exports 80 per cent of its fresh fruits and vegetables to the Middle East, Yemen, United Arab Emirates, France and Germany. The remaining 20 per cent is sold locally. The company also produces award winning, pure organic honey and offers consultancy and agro-tourism services. Working with over 1500 small holder farmers, 350 of them certified vegetable farmers and more than 500 bee keepers.
Every year, the company gets new markets. Through his membership in AAA, “I have gained a lot of exposure from the exchange visits to other member businesses and countries, learnt additional skills of business plan writing and gained recognition from the Dutch business circles through networking,” alludes Farid.
Star Café Limited is in the business of growing, roasting, blending, packaging and exporting Ugandan coffee. Working with over 500 coffee farmers, the company produces high quality Ground Coffee, Instant coffee and Roasted Beans all processed from locally grown green coffee and is the only Ugandan instant coffee producer.
Sometime in 2012, Elijah went to the village for one of the coffee farmers meeting. After the meeting, the farmers gave him some honey as a gift of their appreciation. The honey was unrefined with bees, wax and some pieces of honey combs. He then called his friend Farid to refine the honey and also submitted a sample to the National Bureau of Standards. The result was that the quality of the honey was good but was contaminated.
The traditional hives were the source of the contamination. The following year, Farid donated some Kenya Top Bar Hives to the coffee farmers which were more modern. He held a session to train the farmers on modern bee keeping and diversification. Initially, the farmers thought they could only get honey from the bees. They were now empowered on how to get honey, wax, make soap and propolis from the bees. The partnership between Sulma Foods and Star Cafe began.
“Since the farmers are organised in groups to benefit from the business, I discovered there was potential in commercializing bee keeping for value addition of honey,” says Elijah. Star Cafe embarked on making the business more inclusive by commercializing value addition of honey to ensure that farmers consume quality honey and get additional income from the project.
Through the years he attributes his business success to the trainings he has received especially on business plan writing. This has enabled him to write successful plans and coach other members on business plan writing. The interaction between the members and free consultation has assisted in gaining knowledge and getting advice.
Elijah has been able to train 30 AAA members on business plan writing in Uganda, Ethiopia and Rwanda and share his business knowledge with them. The opportunities for networking have also gone a long way in building him as an individual and in the growth of Star Cafe.
The sharing between Star Cafe and Sulma Foods conceptualised an idea of setting up an apiary and honey processing plant which is a sustainable project for the coffee farmers in the Mount Elgon region.
This project will ensure that the community attains financial independence, consumes quality honey and sustainability for a food secure future.
In the next five years, Sulma Foods is working towards becoming the biggest private sector initiative in Africa with tangible results. Farid is positive that the continuous cycle of member to member interactions, “the members can benefit a lot through networking and business contacts for long term business relationships.”