Still on track, sharing business secrets and spreading inspiration as far as our reach can go. Today we bring you another amazing story of one who has defiled all odds to pursue her passion with tenacity of purpose.
Yvette Ondachi abandoned her bourgeoning marketing career several years ago to seek and tend her green pastures. Her first foray into agriculture was in greenhouse tomato farming in eastern Kenya, where she made huge investments in the hope of reaping great profits; but events didn’t exactly turn out like she expected.
Like most young entrepreneurs, Yvette made mistakes which in fact began her learning experience.
“I had a brilliant strategic plan that was going to make me the next big millionaire but the one thing I overlooked came back to bite me, and that was testing the soils. In the fifth year I lost everything I had invested, millions of shillings. I lost every ounce of my savings,” She states in an interview with How we Made it in Africa.
Gifted with the spirit of entrepreneurship, Yvette remained strong, learned her lessons and took a more calculated plunge;
“I went back to the farm and did it right. That year I made back everything I had lost and the next year the revenues doubled. What changed is I tested the soil, and I was more aware of the risks,” she says.
With her experience and clarity of purpose, the young entrepreneur started a new venture she named Ojay Greene which produces and sources fresh fruits and vegetables from smallholder farmers to sell to supermarkets, restaurants and hotels in urban areas. Yvette founded Ojay Greene in March 2014 after quitting her marketing job, ending a 15-year career with pharma giants AstraZeneca and GlaxoSmithKline.
It’s definitely not the kind of risk many young people will dare, but Yvette had her reasons…
“I decided to risk it all and walked away from my nice, comfortable nine-to-five job. There have been some gut-wrenching moments, there have been moments that have been physically very difficult but there have [also] been moments of satisfaction that I have never felt in my entire life. I call it bittersweet.”
Ojay Greene currently works with more than 200 smallholder farmers and signs contracts with them to produce specific food crops, which it commits to buy. It then offers them high quality seeds, access to its demonstration farms and agronomics support.
The company also organises training programmes where experts engage these small holder farmers on emerging issues such as climate change with the hope that the farmers will remain loyal and more productive, as they enjoy their support.
Yvette’s desire is to increase her company’s production capacity to supply products all year round, thus stabilizing food prices. She hopes to implement this through a project that will see many unemployed rural women earn more income while they develop modern agricultural skills.
To date, Ojay Greene has contracts with 5 supermarket chains, which makes their position even stronger in the market. There winning strategy is going directly to smallholder farmers to collect the produce, rather than relying on a collection center, which makes their model easier for the farmers.
Since its inception, Ojay Greene has increased the incomes of 30 out growers by up to 40%, and improved the livelihood of about 200 farmers.
It is always rewarding to know when to take the plunge, when to step out of one’s comfort zone to create change. We were all born to make a difference. Discover your sphere and take charge of it, bearing in mind that time is of the essence.