I can almost taste it. I can almost smell the appetizing aroma. I can almost feel my teeth grinding its crunchy bones to bits.
No, you are not on the wrong site! Its #EntrepreneurTuesday, and this entrepreneur has got my digestive juices working overtime!
People tend to have a negative perception of the term, ‘Organic food,’ I know I do! It usually calls to mind, pictures of grass, leaves and other unappetizing greenery, but one woman in Kenya has certainly re-educated yours truly.
When Kenyan lawyer Ann Mbugua decided she needed to adopt a healthy lifestyle to minimise her chances of developing diabetes later in life, she realised that most restaurants in Nairobi basically dealt in fast foods, and if she was going to eat organic foods on a consistent basis, she would have to be involved in making it happen.
Why was she interested in eating organic? She shares in an interview with HowWeMadeitinAfrica.
“Both my parents died from diabetes. My grandparents and uncles had also died from diabetes so I knew it was coming. I did a lot of research and eating healthy foods, free of chemicals and toxins, appealed to me. Everything organic was like a magnet to me.”
Spurred by history and an innate sense of purpose, Ann Mbugua retired from a two-decade long legal career, borrowed some money, took over a chips and fried chicken eatery, renovated it and in 2006, the Bridges Organic Health Restaurant was birthed.
“It was a big investment but I had no doubt in my mind the business would take off.”
Bridges Organic Health Restaurant -as the name implies- is not the place where you find usual meals.
Instead of red meat, it offers fish and indigenous organic chicken. Freshly blended fruit and vegetable juices replaces sodas and other carbonated beverages, and the chefs only use salad oils to prepare food. The restaurant serves whole-meal maize or wheat flour foods such as brown bread, rice, ugali and chapati.
Their produce is supplied farm-fresh by certified organic farmers, members of the Kenya Organic Agriculture Network (KOAN).
Value added services include an in-house nutritionist who offers diners free advice on healthy living and prepares meal plans for customers managing lifestyle diseases like diabetes and gout. During the weekends, Bridges hosts an organic farmers market at its premises for those who would choose to prepare their organic foods at home.
What are the specific challenges that come with this terrain? Supply of farm-fresh produce. In her interview with HowWeMadeitinAfrica, Ann stated succinctly:
“We have a big challenge with fruits, especially mangoes. The big organised farms are easier to deal with. Smallholder farmers support us a lot, but you have to constantly make phone calls and follow ups. But they have come a long way and appreciate this because they are also making good money. Water shortage is a problem for many farmers so they produce seasonally, but KOAN is working with them on an irrigation project to solve this.”
Despite these challenges, Bridges Organic Health Restaurant has grown in leaps and bounds over the years, and employs more than 20 in-house employees as its popularity and revenue increases.
Ever on the look-out for opportunities to expand, Bridges is also looking to undertake the packaging and supply of farm-fresh produce to supermarkets across the nation.
She told HowWeMadeitinAfrica:
“We hope to reach more people because at the moment many people wouldn’t know where to buy organic food even if they wanted to. We are trying to build capacity with our farmers to plant more so that there is constant supply all year long. We would like to see supermarkets have an organic corner where shoppers can access fresh organic produce. I would encourage more people to start growing organic [because] the market is opening up.”
There’s no turning back for the lady who says she has achieved her goals in legal practise, and has moved on to pursue her other passion of building a healthy nation.
Clarity+Purpose+Passion+Organic = Healthy Living!