Featured in many newspapers and books, among which “How we made it in Africa”Jennifer Bash has surely become one of the most inspiring business women in Tanzania.
Before moving to the US for studies, she had already started a small poultry business in her home country. However, as often happens when businesses are managed remotely, things didn’t work out.
When she got back to Tanzania, inspired by her experience in the US, she decided to found a company called Alaska Tanzania. Her main goal was reducing imported brands and increasing the presence of Tanzanian-made foodstuffs on the shops shelves. Leveraging on her knowledge of the eggs market, which she used as main entry point, Alaska Tanzania has currently expanded its offer to a greater number of products largely used by local customers, among which maize flour, rice and sunflower oil.
Her successful business strategy is based on three main pillars:
• A clear idea of the market: knowing the exact market segment to target is surely the first step for a successful strategy. Jennifer aims at the mid-high Tanzanian class and her whole business communication is developed with the final customer always pictured in her mind. Thus, her main distribution channels are supermarkets and the products she sells are groceries largely used in the Tanzanian tradition. It’s not surprising that she has passed from one to fifty shops and supermarkets served in six years.
• The intuition that adding value to food value chains is quite always a successful tactic in Tanzania: Jennifer soon realized that Tanzanian shops and supermarkets were (and still are) stuffed of imported products, even in the case of food items largely produced locally. Based on this consideration, she decided to work on those processes not enough implemented in her country: transforming, adding value, packing and branding. By offering quality products and building a strong and trustable brand, she has increased the loyalty of her clients and final consumers.
• A peculiar business model: Alaska Tanzania partners directly with small farmers (who are its direct suppliers) and small local street restaurants (called “mama lishe” in Swahili language, recently become part of its clients). Through partnerships, they are allowed to purchase high quality seeds or to access small loans through financial institutions.
Two things have personally amazed me about Jennifer’s story: the first one is her entrepreneurial vision, which is simple, clear and well defined. She knows where she wants to go and how and this clearly comes out. The second one is her attitude to think big, but by starting small and gradually growing. She always keeps her feet on the ground, by taking advantage in the best way of the available resources.
Jennifer is now a role model for Tanzanian youths (especially girls) and I am quite sure that with her influence she will also be able to create positive impact among new generations.