When Brigite Faustin says the future for women agripreneurs is blossoming, we believe her. The Tanzanian #MotherlandMogul is Founder and Managing Director of OBRI (T) Company. Brigite’s company makes edible oil under the OBRI brand. From raw materials to manufacturing, everything is done in Tanzania.
Brigite is a self-taught entrepreneur who has made agribusiness and human development her business. She runs OBRI company as a co-operative social enterprise, ensuring that farmers and communities are supported. Brigite wants to see more women in her industry and has suggestions on how to make this happen.
Tell us about the concept of co-operative social enterprise your business is modelled after.
Our business model lies behind the concept of co-operative social enterprise. This model promotes economic opportunities for cooperatives organizations, farmers associations and communities through the innovative application of sound business practice. The model supports smallholder farmers to adopt sustainable agricultural practices, improve land use, increase the quality and quantity of their crops, and promote safe and efficient working practices.
The model is a win-win to both farmers and the company, as it guarantees a sustainable market channel of agricultural produce to the local farmers while offering quality raw materials to the company without stressing on price fluctuation.
How many years have you been in the industry you currently work in? How do you believe your business model will improve this industry?
I researched this industry for three years and formalized our company October, last year. I believe our business model will improve this industry because most edible oils in Tanzania are imported and sold at high price.
Majority of local companies fail to meet the required quality. Our business model emphasises quality control and value for money. We only source our raw materials from co-operative unions who are dedicated to quality.Brigite Faustin: I researched this industry for 3 years before formalizing my company Click To Tweet
Was there a point where you didn’t take your journey seriously? What happened to change that?
Yes. Running a business is like riding on a roller coaster. Although it is fun and exciting, there will be times when you’ll be scared and feel powerless.
The first three months after I started my company, I wasn’t 100% sure that my brand will stand out in the market and survive the competition. I had limited perception of what my business is capable of! I chose to shed my illusions, understood the core value proposition in my business model and demystified the workings of the business world. Finally, I found myself achieving more than what I have ever dreamed was possible.
What are your experiences as a woman in Tanzania’s agriculture and manufacturing sector?
My experience has been both challenging and exciting. Like in many parts of Africa, running a food manufacturing company in Tanzania is not easy. There are lots of challenges from the policy point of view to market acquisition.
The biggest challenge so far is brand awareness. Being that I am building a proudly African brand, it takes a lot of work to penetrate the market and get people in the know. I have a global plan for my brand.
Weak policy implementation and a lack of small business support is another challenge. The government and other key stakeholders have to work on this to encourage more women and young entrepreneurs to invest in the sector.
What has been the biggest highlight of your career so far?
Seeing my products competing with both local and international brands is the biggest highlight for me.
Some of these brands have over 10-20 years in the market!Brigite Faustin: Our business model emphasises quality control and value for money. Click To Tweet
What keeps you going every day?
I always believe each new day brings an opportunity to get it right. I’m driven to become and remain successful.
My goal is to grow and sustain my company. As my business grows, so does my responsibilities. I see my company in the next three years growing across Eastern and Southern Africa, employing young minds and contributing to the society.
This keeps me going and pushes me to get it right every day.
Interest in agriculture is slowly growing across the continent, what do you think needs to be done to encourage more women to go into this sector?
I see an increase in ambitious, devoted and motivated agripreneurs daily across the continent. It is inspiring! Women are no longer waiting for someone to dish them riches on a platter of gold. They are ready to work for it and I am confident that the hard work will pay off soon.
Even with the success stories, a few has to be done to encourage more and more women into this sector.Brigite Faustin: I always believe each new day brings an opportunity to get it right. Click To Tweet
1. Mentorship, coaching and role models.
I wish when I first began my business that I had a coach. Someone to learn to and take me through the journey. I would not have made so many careless and uninformed mistakes. This would have helped me save a lot of resources (time and money) and I could probably be one or two step ahead of where I am today.
Again, the more coaching and women role models there are, the more women will think, ‘maybe I could actually do this’. So hopefully, as we start to get more role models in the agriculture industry coming through, more women will think seriously about their ideas.
As agriculture has become more commercially-orientated, the glass ceilings which held restrictions have been lifted. There are now far more opportunities within agriculture businesses for women to actively participate.
Governments have a key role to play in this relation. They should support access to land, provide financial opportunities and design friendly policies that will encourage more women to take agriculture seriously.
The future for women agripreneurs is blossoming. I think it’s high time now for women in Africa to feel confident and start to participate in agriculture for business.
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