Agribusiness is any business that not only deals with farming land and producing animals, but also offers services to farmers that can enhance the value of their produce.
Working with local farmers is a great way to add value to your community by:
- Reducing the footprint that products travel
- Working hand in hand with them to ensure they produce quality, affordable produce
- Ensuring that money made stays in the community longer
- Offering farmers assurance of consistent market for their produce
For further reading, check out 7 proven ways on how to start a successful business for guidelines on how to identify a business you want to do, all the way to how to register it and hit the market.
Beeutiful Creations is a Christian social enterprise started in 2016 with Sean Lawson and Nathalie Imanishimwe at the helm, based in Muhanga which is approximately an hour’s drive from Kigali. They source 90% of their raw materials from beekeepers in Rwanda and each of their products includes Rwandan beeswax or honey. This means that they are able to fully utilize what a beekeeper produces, hence maximizing the profits and reducing waste. They have been slowly transitioning the business to be 100% Rwandan-owned.
The sales representative is Claudine Tuyisenge, and she’s in charge of all retail and wholesale orders that come into business.
How do you start your agribusiness with a local farmer?
Start with a culture of ‘fair trade‘
According to fairtrade.org, this is where you connect disadvantaged farmers and workers with consumers, promoting fairer trading conditions and empowering farmers and workers to combat poverty, thereby strengthening their position and taking more control of their lives.
Beeutiful Creations works with bee-keepers across Rwanda when making their handmade beeswax candles, cosmetics, furniture polish, children’s candle kits/modeling clay, and of course, raw honey. They ensure they pay the farmers a fair price for their produce to be able to support their families, provide health insurance and engage in further village-based micro-enterprising schemes.
Work with integrity
Many farmers have had a bad experience with entrepreneurs who were less than honest with them and taken advantage of either their rural back ground or lack of access to certain infrastructures.
When working with a farmer, ensure you are forthright with them to develop a firm base on which to build your partnership. Avoid promises you can’t keep.
For example, I know of farmers who have been asked to grow a certain amount of produce for the entrepreneur to buy from them each month, only for them to flake out last minute leaving the farmer with huge losses.
Beeutiful Creations works on contract-based agreements with beekeepers on quantities that they know they can handle. They have built that trust and are always assured of the quantities they need to produce their line of products each month. This trust goes beyond just buying and selling as the bee keepers can also trust the company when they suggest to them the ways in which they can be more sustainable in their farming or any new ideas to enhance their produce.
Show them the benefits of working with you
It’s one thing to approach a farmer and ask them to partner with them, but how do you convince them that it’s in their best interest to work with you and not another person?
Line up all the advantages you will be offering a farmer, that includes and not limited to:
- Saving their time looking for market
- Offering good value for their produce
- Helping farmers get access to training and sustainable farming methods to improve their yields
- Showing them the end-product of their produce
- Giving them access to the end-product that they can use to show other farmers or use themselves
Beeutiful Creations believes in holistic development and invests time and energy in ensuring their partners can increase their skills and knowledge through training in beekeeping, candle-making and product development.
Find a consistent market
It’s pointless to have a farmer on board with you if you don’t have a consistent market to sell the end products. If you aren’t able to get buyers for your products, how will you be able to continue a sustainable relationship with the farmer? They will quickly loose their trust in you and opt to look for other ways to sell their produce.
Beeutiful Creations products can be found in Azizi Life Studios in Kacyiru, and can also be found every month at the Kigali Farmers’ And Artisans’ Market.
According to Sean, “the market has helped.. get a stable customer base, build relationships with attendees and helped [them] grow initially, without the commitment of hiring a permanent location”. They can also be found in other retail stores across Rwanda, and even in Akagera National Park.
Another way that Beeutiful Creations has ensured consistent market for their products is by partnering with businesses that would directly use their products. A good example is the informal partnership between them and Toddle Care.
Toddle Care is a woman run-business in Rwanda that produces quality educational toys – they can also be found in the market every month. They use Beeutiful Creations’ bees-wax polish to polish their toys and they both cross-advertise this fact, further enhancing the #MadeinRwanda initiative and increasing brand-visibility of their products.
Promote the farmer as you promote your business
As you advertise and market your products, don’t forget to give credit to the farmer who has helped you achieve this.
Not only does this give the farmer morale but, they will also have pride in what they are doing. They will want to continue to be wholly-committed in consistently producing the best.
Showing the farmer at work or what goes into producing the raw materials also helps the consumer understand what’s in the end product, the pricing structure and build their confidence in it. This kind of transparency helps sustain brand loyalty as well.
Beeutiful Creations consistently post on social media how their beekeepers work. A recent post showed how they get honey from the hives using the cold-press method and how they ensure there are no additives in their products. In a city where there’s concern that water is sometimes added to honey, this gives consumers in Kigali a relief to know that their products are untainted.
According to Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA), Rwanda is only 26,000 square km with 70% of it exploited for agriculture, with legumes, cereals, tubers, bananas, vegetables and coffee being the main crops cultivated. What this shows you as an entrepreneur, is that chances are very high that they will be many farmers per-square km doing the same thing, which of course increases competition. It’s very easy to find yourself producing the same thing like many other businesses. This ‘copy-cat’ mentality is rife in Rwanda with many people fearing venturing into the unknown.
Beeutiful creations has taken something as simple as beeswax and used it in the production of several products that few – if any – are doing in Rwanda.
By taking a traditional craft or product and adding your own twist you could take something dull and turn it to something consumers are clamoring for. Some of the unique items that they do are bees-wax lip-balms and bees-wax polish that are child-friendly, so can be used on toys, furniture and kitchen items like chopping boards.
As you know, I definitely had to ask what advice could be given to budding entrepreneurs thinking of going down this road.
It was surprising to learn that Beeutiful Creations was started with Rwf 50,000 (approximately $60). Yes! You read that right… USD 60!
They bought 15kgs of honey directly from a farmer then rendered the wax to make candles. That gave them approximately 18 jars of honey and 5 candles and their business started. Now 2.5 years later, they are able to run a viable social enterprise with 4 full-time staff members. How inspiring is this to you who had been thinking you need thousands of dollars to start a business?
You can tell the Beeutiful Creation staff is committed and hardworking. They have admitted to making several mistakes in their journey (as many start-ups would) but, they have learnt from them and this is what makes them grow from strength to strength. They also make a great team because what they have achieved together with the farmers is beyond inspirational and can be easily replicated.
Can you imagine the Africa we would have if there were thousands more agri-businesses like Beeutiful Creations willing to take full control of our lands and use our rich resources to empower one another? Can you imagine agribusinesses ran/led by women who are innovative, smart and willing to work with men on an equal footing?
Imagine never having to import products from other continents because we are able to fully maximize what we have…
Pause to imagine that Africa then take a bold step towards turning it into a reality, even if it’s to #buylocalsupportlocal.
Learn more about Beeutiful Creations here: beeutifulcreation.org.
Or give them a call on +250 782 713 748 to organise a visit.
If you are interested in joining our community market, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with a short bio of your business and pictures of your products.
[All photo credits: Beeutiful Creations]
All views and opinions expressed are the author’s