Business Startup Spotlight: East Africa Fruits Farm & Company

East Africa Fruits

East Africa Fruits Farm & Company’s purpose is to eliminate post-harvest food waste by providing timely collection, storage, and transport of fresh produce through cold chain logistics.  They create value for both customers and small farmers, ensuring they both benefit using an eco-friendly cycle.

East Africa Fruits

Co-Founder, Peter J. Msafiri

Name: East Africa Fruits Farm & Company

Location: Dar es Salaam


Product / Service Offering: Supply of Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

Co-founder Interviewed: Peter J. Msafiri

Other Key Management Team Members: Mr. Elia Timotheo – Founder and Managing Director, Mrs. Adelina Shayo – Director, Diana Nshangeki – Chief Finance Officer, Coletha R. Simon – Human Resource Manager, Michael Luni Libes – Founder & Managing Director of Fledge, Darren Lobo

This article is part of our Business Startup Spotlight series featuring entrepreneurs and their companies. We hope that these founders’ interviews will inspire and motivate you as you undertake your own entrepreneurial journey.

Tell us a little about yourself with a focus on what motivates you.

Peter Msafiri is an Entrepreneur and Marketing Manager of EA Fruits Farm & Company, a fresh produce trading and distribution company. East Africa Fruit’s purpose is to eliminate post-harvest food waste by providing timely collection, storage, and transport of fresh produce through cold chain logistics. Peter is responsible for overall marketing and sales of the business and all customer and supplier’s portfolio. His long-term goal and motivation is to see his community end poverty through sustainable agribusiness thus ending hunger and malnutrition.

When did you establish your company and where did the idea originate?

East Africa Fruits Farm & Company was established in 2013.

Where did the idea come from?

In East Africa, nearly half of all agricultural produce goes to waste. Poor production practices, lack of storage options, and a highly fractured trading system all contribute to the high post-harvest losses that occur between farm and fork. Each year in Tanzania alone over 4.5 million tons of food is wasted, which is a total value of $800 million. Produce that does make it to market must pass through a number of traders and middlemen, which increases price significantly. By the time a product reaches its final consumer, it can cost as much as four times what was initially paid to the farmer.

What need or needs does your company seek to fill for its customers?

Supply of fresh fruits and vegetables.

What is the one thing that sets your company apart from its competitors?

East Africa Fruits is different from competitors due to our long time experience in the industry and selling with the use of modern facilities, which increases shelf life of the produce. This helps us attain higher premiums, especially during off seasons.

7 Steps to Assess Your Competitive Environment

What was the biggest challenge you faced while getting your company up and running, and how did you overcome it?

East Africa FruitsI will admit that when we first began looking for financing the company was little more than just an idea. When one of the first funders showed up for a site visit, all that existed was less than a hectare of pineapples and a mud hut. East Africa Fruits first got off the ground largely through the support of its six original shareholders. These initial shareholders include the mother of Elia Timotheo, who is also an entrepreneur, and Peter’s father, Mr. Msafiri, who each contributed financial support to this young venture.

While still in its early stages, several investors did see the potential in EA Fruits and stepped in with equity or debt. The first was an angel investor from Belgium who was introduced to EA in 2013 through the BiD Network. Providing $65,000 in exchange for an equity stake, the angel investor encouraged EA’s leadership to further formalize its plan. This strengthened the company’s financial position considerably and made it more attractive for the approval of a loan from the Tanzanian Investment Bank (TIB), one of the largest banks supporting agriculture in Tanzania.

Are there resources you have utilized that other founders might find compelling or useful?

  • Human resources: Building a team of sales people and marketers to ensure the company generates more revenue
  • Financial resources: Helping us run our operations, repaying debts, and further investments like purchase of cold refrigerated trucks and construction of a two-story cold storage facility

What steps have you taken to secure funding for your company and what, if anything, would you do differently if you had to start over?

EA Fruits has secured several grants and awards, both direct investment and long-term commitments, to finance its operations. Grants of $250,000 and $150,000 from the Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund (AECF) and an African Entrepreneurship Award. An additional $5,000 in prize money was awarded to EA Fruits in 2015 from SEED Africa. Beyond the money, each of these early financial partners has provided a tremendous amount of mentorship to EA Fruits while its leadership was developing and launching the company.

If we had to start over, we would do the same steps to secure funding. Today, there are many avenues that startups can take to secure further funding. From angel investments to crowdfunding.

What challenges, if any, are you grappling with?

  • Inefficient technical infrastructure
  • Difficult business environment
  • Taxation, work permits, business incentives, etc.
  • Technical Experience
  • Export Certificates

What is the most helpful tip or “hack” you’ve ever learned, stumbled across, or been given?

“Never borrow money that accrues interest to start a business; only borrow to grow your business.”

Is there anything else you would like to share about your company?

East Africa Fruits has a strong team with more than 30 years of experience in the horticulture industry and an added advantage of technical expertise and market linkage from Africa, Europe, and America. Our business creates value for both customers and small farmers, ensuring they both benefit using an eco-friendly cycle. We have a governing board that ensures day-to-day activities of the company.

Are you familiar with other startups you believe should be spotlighted?  If so, we would like to hear from you.  Tell us about them in the comments below!

Sandra Sloan

Sandra has previous supply chain and business operations experience which she is leveraging as an author with FundingSage focused on spotlighting entrepreneurs and their startup efforts.