How to build your network of African distributors – The Yenati example

I felt the need to become known in my region before moving to West or East African countries @tinnasusan Click To Tweet

The first step Tinna-Susan Mereki took towards building her network of distributors was to reach out to a friend. Tinna-Susan is the founder of Yenati Fragrances and Yenati Brand Communications. Driven by her passion to promote authentic African brands, she has successfully managed to design and develop a cosmetics brand that provides the highest quality products at the most competitive price.

Yenati Fragrances also fosters philanthropic work. They offer business starter packs to financially challenged single mothers or widows through their distributor network. Also, they have a programme where fragrance packages are given to students from poor homes who have done exceptionally well throughout the year.

Tinna-Susan has built a network of over a 150 distributors for Yenati Fragrances in the Southern African region in a space of a year. Curious to know how to build your own network of distributors? Look no further, Tinna-Susan willingly shares advice from her experience.

Reaching out to your networks

It was through an acquaintance that Tinna-Susan started building her network of distributors.

“[My friend] became interested in the business after seeing me post my products on Facebook. I told her I could supply her with stock and she could help me distribute my products. She took it on and after selling my products for a while, I persuaded her to connect her other friends to join my company.

It was not difficult to convince her because she was happy with my products. I offered an incentive of a cash payout for every distributor she connected.”

Tinna-Susan then started to repeat the process with other distributors and slowly her network started to grow.

Choosing the countries to start in

Tinna-Susan was born in Masvingo, Zimbabwe and was raised between Zimbabwe and South Africa. So when deciding which African countries she wanted to work in, she just went with what was familiar.

“I decided to work in Zimbabwe first, being my home country, I felt I could manoeuvre my way around the nation. I knew the trade secrets, the ins and outs, the market and the competition.

“This enabled me to set up my business with ease. My next target was South Africa, as it is the country of my residence. Other SADC countries followed as I felt the need to become well known in my region before moving up to West African or East African countries.”

Namibia, South Africa and Tanzania have opened up their doors to Yenati and they have been doing business in these countries consistently.

Tinna-Susan also gets a lot of enquiries from countries like Ghana, Nigeria, Uganda, Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Kenya. Always up for growth, she is hoping to start building networks in those countries soon.

Want to sell your brand across Africa? Find out how @tinnasusan does it with Yenati brands Click To Tweet

How to build your own network of African distributors in a year Yenati style

For Tinna-Susan, the biggest tool in building Yenati’s distributors was increasing her online presence (as a business of course). Facebook alone helped her reach audiences and networks in a short space of time.

“Through their “targeted reach ads” I was able to expand and stretch my advertising and select audiences based on language, gender, location, workplace or even profile keywords.

I also noticed that people like to follow brands that have a good image. After I started to take care of my brand identity, people started to notice my products more. My products started to receive a lot of attention.”

Another important step is to keep in touch with your network, customer care is of utmost importance. Constant communication is also key, Tinna-Susan speaks to her Yenati distributors through Whatsapp groups almost daily.

“I help them with sales and marketing techniques, and I help them advertise their business by creating ads for them on our pages.

I call them business partners as opposed to distributors as I believe they are partnering with me in building the Yenati brand. My business partners are very important to me and I always try to remind them of how valuable they are to the business.

When they are happy and content, they begin to grow the market themselves and I always encourage them to build sales teams.”

@tinnasusan calls her distributors business partners as they're partners in building her brand Click To Tweet

Building an African entrepreneurial dream

Tinna-Susan believes that the most successful Africans in future will be the ones that master the ability to partner with other Africans.

“The minute we reach beyond race, tribe, and national borders, we will tap into the explosive potential of this continent. I am all about building the African dream, and it begins with us.

“The dream where we trade with each other and remove border restrictions between nations, and become the United States of Africa. Where we use our countries’ natural wealth for the benefit and development of Africans as opposed to funding overseas companies.

“The dream where we do not hate each other as Africans and do not kill each other through xenophobic attacks. The dream where we live in peace, harmony and pride ourselves in products made by Africans for Africans, as Dr. Strive Masiyiwa once put it, “We value Africanisation”. All the wealth comes from Africa and yet we are classified as ‘Third World’. We need to change to the ball game.”

Successful Africans will be the ones that master the ability to partner with other Africans @tinnasusan Click To Tweet

Four lessons learned from distributing

Finally, I asked Tinna-Susan the four lessons she’s learned from distributing Yenati across Southern Africa. Here’s what she shared;

  1. Put measures that protect the brand and business. “I have had my fingers burnt through over-trusting.” she says.
  2. Always be innovative as they are other similar products on the market. You always have to find ways to remain competitive and relevant with eminence.
  3. Be accommodating. “I have learnt to accommodate other cultures, religions and tribes as I deal with people from different backgrounds and from all walks of life.”
  4. Customer service skills are important for when you have to deal with queries and complaints.

If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, let us know more about you and your story here.

About Rafeeat Aliyu

Rafeeat loves food, learning about pre-colonial African history and watching horror movies. She writes weird and speculative fiction sometimes.

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