Sep 05, 2013 (The Times of Zambia/All Africa Global Media via COMTEX) — DAVID Chisulo, a youthful and determined Zambian has gone against all odds by setting up a small company called Zelo Foods Limited.
For the sake of this column and the readers, I will refer to Mr Chisulo by his first name David as he does not mind that.
David, proprietor of Zelo Foods says he has been driven by his passion for self empowerment in business. He says that just like he will graduate soon from being a youth, he sees his company growing big also.
Though Zelo Foods is working progressively, it has already amassed local awards and has been heralded by Government and the private sector.
“I have taken the first step probably even the second and third step. God knows how many steps I have made; all I know is that Zelo Foods has been a journey for me. They say that a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step and that is exactly how it has been for me,” David said.
The passionate business executive says his success in business has not been done in isolation; he works with a committed team whom he says he is grateful for.
Zelo Foods Ltd is an agro food processing company whose first product line was pounded groundnuts which is an essential ingredients in most local vegetables such as chibwabwa (pumpkin leaves ) and mothers use it mostly to mix with maize meal porridge for infant feed.
Besides the business motive of making profit, David’s company was driven into business by the passion to add value to the seemingly valueless unimpressive or inferior indigenous food crops so that they can appeal to the increasing middle class and upper market in Zambia and the export market in a profitable way.
This is exactly what we have done to pounded groundnut locally called Ntwilo, which is the trade name of our product.
According to Mr Chisulo, Zelo Foods was the first to introduce Ntwilo-Pounded groundnuts on the Zambian market. It is the first ever indigenous local food product to be developed into a global brand.
As any business, Zelo Foods has had its own challenges in its quest to get established. One of those challenges was the start-up capital which at some point made David to almost give up on his business venture.
Had it not been for his passion which kept whispering to him to never give up after the issue of capital dragged his Zelo idea, David would not have reached another challenging stage where the first package of the Ntwilo product was found to have a short shelf life.
This anomaly was rectified and the Zelo Foods products have now a long shelf life span.
To have such a quality range of products, David knew that he needed outside intervention and with the involvement of a team of scientists from outside Zambia and of course other local experts in the food processing industry , Zelo Foods came up with the current special package which keeps the pounded groundnuts fresh for more than a year without going stale or tasting bitter not forgetting the pack design which is superior in look.
By doing that David’s Zelo Foods achieved its initial objective and passion which won the company local and international recognition.
Locally, Zelo Foods won the prestigious Republican President’s award as the most innovative youths during the March 2013 Youth Day awards.
“What is remaining now for us to achieve now is the business objective of growing our enterprise. ”
“Thanks to Zambia Development Agency,(ZDA) to which we are a member and the Ministry of Youth and Sport for nurturing us up to this stage, through many youth empowerment programmes which include training,” David said.
At this year’s Zambia International Trade Fair (ZITF) we won an award as the Most Improved Government Empowered Youth run company.
Despite all these achievements, David said Zelo Foods has to grow and for it to grow it needs financial backing.
He bemoaned that due to the size of his company, it has been tricky to access bank loans which suit his firm’s financial requirements and needs.
Unlike big companies and commercial farmers who are able to influence the loan structures to suit their business operations, Zelo Foods’ stage in business disadvantages it.
“For instance, if we obtain a bank loan in August to buy groundnuts during the harvest season for processing into Ntwilo for the coming year, till August next year. We are meant to pay interest every month for the raw material which I will use in August next year.
“This makes my production costs high and eventually the cost of doing business even higher. While my counter-part with a bigger business or a commercial farmer will influence the bank to tailor its loan to suit their business and they will only pay interest on money which is in the business activity already,” David lamented.
He said acquisition of Zelo Food’s own infrastructure or factory building has also been another challenge and as a result he hopes to resolve this issue as soon as funds are readily available.
Zelo Foods has just introduced new toy drinks and Organic Honey on the market. The Zelo Toy drinks have received overwhelming demand more than we anticipated.
While maintaining the core business of agro-food processing, David said he found it necessary to diversify the business to toy drinks as a way of making his business more dynamic.
“From our product range its evident that Zambia has immense resources and business opportunities that one does not need to look further than his back yard to seize the business opportunities,” he said.
He ended by saying that the prestigious awards that his company has won this year are not simple achievements but are as a result of hard work and dedication to work not single handedly but alongside his team.
He encouraged his fellow youths to dream big and work hard in order to them to achieve their goals.
“Don’t dream to be a tea-boy to an investor but a co- director, a co-worker, a business partner. Don’t settle for anything less than the best. If your mind can conceive it your body can do it!,” David said.
Copyright The Times of Zambia. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com).