Africa is brimming with a generation of ‘venturers; entrepreneurs and innovators who are constantly establishing new businesses and developing new technologies to meet needs, solve problems, simplify lives and transform societies. Regis Umugiraneza, Uwase Larissa, Murekatete Clarisse, and Irirashenono Ada Elyse are such individuals.
Their company, CARL Group was established four years ago with an objective to provide innovative and affordable products and services in three diverse areas; agribusiness, environment and architecture, to the people of Rwanda. Through its subsidiary, CARL Sweet Food, the company produces a range of innovative food products using sweet potatoes. Co-founder and CEO Regis Umugiraneza answers our questions.
Ventures Africa(VA): What does your company do?
Regis Umugiraneza(RU): Food processing. We add value to orange-fleshed sweet potatoes species rich in vitamin A and we transform them into pastries like cakes, biscuits, and bread.
VA: What made you start your company?
RU: During my dissertation at University, I realized there were a lot of losses of sweet potatoes in the southern part of Rwanda, yet this specie is rich in Vitamin A that over 38 percent of children in my country lack. I started CARL Group because I wanted to address problems like malnutrition and food losses in my region.
VA: What is unique about your brand?
RU: Our brand is VITA, we sell nutritious and vivacious pastries. We do not only sell food but nutritious and healthy foods. Our brand of bread and biscuits are the first in the city to have the nutrients that we provide.
VA: Tell us a little about your team.
RU: CARL Group was founded by four young like-minded entrepreneurs. That’s where the name comes from; Clarisse, Ada, Regis, Larissa. We were all looking for a business opportunity that can also impact our community. Besides the team of five founders, we have been able to create jobs for seven people that work directly with us.
VA: What is most challenging about running your company?
RU: Penetrating the market with a new product that people didn’t know about was the most challenging thing for us. Also, raising funds for investments in the business is challenging especially as we are a start-up.
VA: How do you market your business?
RU: We market our business through social media, door to door marketing (for shops), exhibitions, radio spots, etc.
VA: How do you price your products?
RU: We price our product referring to the unit cost of production, and competitive prices.
VA: With your present ‘industry knowledge’ and experience, would you have done anything differently while starting your business?
RU: I believe every mistake has been a great lesson that I think we really had to pass through.
VA: What gives you the most satisfaction as an entrepreneur?
RU: Customer satisfaction
VA: What government policies in your country would create a better environment for your business?
RU: Enabling a grace period on taxes for startups especially young entrepreneurs like us.
VA: How do you plan to scale up?
RU: We plan to put into the market a well-packaged biscuit that will be exported to East African countries in a year.
VA: What is your advice for other entrepreneurs looking to set up a business in this sector?
RU: Product development is key in the sector of food processing. A high-quality product markets itself in this domain. Dream it until you realize it.