Meet Sharon Ndegwa, an alumna of AWEC Cohort 1 from Kenya who actively engaged in the year-long program and has recently raised $10,000 in seed funding for her food business. Sharon began her entrepreneurship journey one and a half years ago when she founded Nature’s Bowl, a healthy and nutritious food company.
“At Nature’s Bowl, we support mums to raise healthy kids by providing natural flours for them to make tasty meals,” said Sharon. Using 100% indigenous grains and tubers, Nature’s Bowl sources the raw materials from farmers, processes them into flour and packages them for sale. In addition, the company builds communities by providing support services for mothers and menu options for kids.
Sharon’s AWEC Story
Sharon applied and was selected to join the first AWEC Cohort in 2018. She raves about the lessons she learned during her AWEC year and how the experience helped her business gain a competitive edge.
“The AWEC network has been invaluable for perspectives and support,” said Sharon. She found that the big boys in the market have been operating for a long time but the tools and resources from AWEC helped her build a growing customer base. In particular, she learned how to create a business model, identify her key customers, and understand their needs.
She also learned that providing a support system, from menus to community services, was helpful to keep her customers satisfied. And, her AWEC Mentors, Annika Lindorsson Krugel and Moiyattu Banya-Keister, provided real life support to build a strong foundation for her business.
Sharon still maintains contact with her Mentors after completing her AWEC program year as she plans for the future of Nature’s Bowl. She continues to keep up with the cooperative, especially her fellow Kenyan counterparts and other fellow members of the AWEC Alumnae from other countries who are operating in the flour industry.
Raising $10,000 in Seed Capital
Sharon had the opportunity to apply for the Standard Chartered Bank Women in Technology program (WIT) in Kenya, where she lives. Combining her experience from the AWEC program with the rigorous WIT business development classes, she was shortlisted as one of the 10 top businesses from over 200 applicants. Her end-of-the-program pitch earned her $10,000 seed funding which she intends to use to grow her business.
“I tested the market and the AWEC program helped me understand my customers so I am ready to scale this business and help more mums raise healthy kids,” she said. Sharon plans to invest in machinery to produce better quality and tastier flour, as well as training her team to reach the ambitious targets set for the business. “We want to triple our customer base in the next three months,” she said.
She provides a few words of encouragement to the next cohort: “Find a niche market and add something of unique value.”
Sharon entered a very competitive space where some of the operators have been in business since Kenya’s independence, yet she has found her niche market. “With technology, you can solve an old problem in a new and better way,” she said, as she uses social media and WhatsApp groups to connect mothers to help solve the challenge of finding organic and healthy foods for babies.