Rachel Kalipi’s Mahangu Cookie Revolution
Business savvy Rachel Kalipi is an entrepreneur in the truest sense of the word. Her approach to the business of Mahangu Cookies shows the commercial potential that exists with this young Namibian woman.
99FM’s MYD Smart sat down with Rachel at her newly acquired factory space in Prosperital, Windhoek to chat about her dreams for the Mahangu Cookie and the business of food.
Born in the North of Namibia, Rachel is an accountant by profession and holds a full time job. However, she has still has managed to start a growing business and has ensured its potential by securing control over all the elements in her production line. The factory, which is a bigger space than what she had before, was acquired with the aim to grow the business into areas other than Mahangu cookies. “Cookies were just the opportunity that I saw in the market, but my bigger dream is to build a food industry,” Rachel explained.
The Mahangu cookie product was initially an initiative of the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, who wanted to develop value-addition products for Mahangu. Those interested were invited to partner with the Ministry to bring the products to market. However, in its first life, Mahangu Cookies took a turn for the worse. Rachel attributes this to sales volumes that were too small; “In this business you need volumes to just break even” says Rachel. But Rachel has in the last year brought the Mahangu Cookies brand back to life.
When Rachel moved from Oranjemund to Windhoek she heard about the product and started the process to breathe new life into the brand. “I heard about Mahangu Cookies, and contacted the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry to find out what had happened. After they told me that the product went flat, I applied to revive this product.”
Homegrown and Healthy
“I had a look at the product, I spoke to the people who had the Mahangu Cookies before, to find out what I could learn from their experience. We spent about four months just doing product development. I was very cautious with sugar addition, for example. It’s a gluten free product and we don’t add any preservatives, at all. It’s a very natural process.” The natural element, Rachel explained, was very important to her. “60 % of Namibia eats Mahangu as part of their staple food. After doing extensive testing we came up with the final product, which we took to market. And the new and improved product has been very well received.
“I have also set up a milling plant in the north. It’s a good opportunity for me to control the whole value chain. It was important for me that the cookies taste the same whether you eat them today or tomorrow. So, by processing our own Mahangu we can guarantee that our product stays the same. We control the value chain and maintain consistency of the product. So now I buy my Mahangu from women in the village and then we process it at our milling plant.”
Rachel Kalipi’s Journey
“It’s not as easy as people think, you don’t just walk into a business and start making money. We have been operating for eleven months now and we have not yet broken even. Generally, I find that my fellow young people rather want to go into tenders, because it’s once off and you get your money. I don’t believe in that; I believe in building wealth over a long time. In the first few years, I might not make money, but I know if a business has potential.”
Rachel’s entrepreneurial spirit came through whilst working in Oranjemund, when she took over the catering contract for the town. This meant she was suddenly in charge of feeding over 1500 people every day. “I wanted us to buy as much of our ingredients as possible from local sources, but our buyers couldn’t find many products. That’s when I saw first-hand the shortage we have in Namibia of basic things,” said Rachel, who is also a keen gardener and makes all her own jams and vegetable preserves. With her experience in the food industry, her passion for food and for business, “I knew I had to get into the food industry.
Advice for Fellow Entrepreneurs
“When you speak to entrepreneurs they will tell you that finances are their main problem, but I think sometimes we are just not creative enough in terms of how we think to finance our business. We mainly rely on a business loan, but if you don’t have collateral, what do you do? When I started this business, I didn’t take out a loan. Instead, I pitched my idea to my friends and family, something like crowd funding, to buy the first print run on my packaging. It’s about thinking differently.”
Rachel notes that the moment she saw the opportunity in the market was when the real work began. “You need to be determined and also passionate. Without hard work and passion you won’t last in business.”
Find Rachel’s Mahangu Cookies at various retail outlets around Namibia, including most SuperSpar’s and now in Pick ‘n Pay.
Or stay in touch with their developments by liking their Facebook page here.