Margaret Komen is an entrepreneur at heart. Over the past two decades, she has grown Mace Foods Limited from a dream to a global, fair trade certified agribusiness. The company produces, processes, and exports natural, preservative-free chilies, herbs and spices, and vegetables to Europe, the U.S., and Asia. By connecting over 3,800 farmers in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania to international markets, the company is adding significant economic value in the region.
Margaret left Kenya for her university studies, seizing an opportunity to study food science and technology in Germany. Her innate interest in entrepreneurship surfaced when she worked as an intern at a German company that created premixed seasoning and food blends. Observing that the raw materials for their spice mixes originated from Africa and India, the concept of Mace Foods was born. She wanted to launch her own business immediately, but not knowing where to start, she returned to Kenya and found a job in western Kenya helping smallholder farmers with value addition for soybeans.
Margaret’s big break came in 2001. While attending the ANUGA Food Fair in Germany, she met a potential customer seeking a new supplier of chili powder. Did Margaret know chili spices well? Not quite, but that didn’t stop her. Confident in her ability to find a solution, she bought a 38lb bag of chili from a farmer and used a home blender to convert the chili into powder. Showing the moxie necessary for entrepreneurial success, she sieved the powder, put it in a polythene bag, sealed the bag using a candle, and sent the sample via DHL. When the customer wrote back asking for a 30,000lb container of the powder, Margaret knew she was in business. She would, however, need much more than a home blender!
Margaret admits she knew little about running a business at the time. She started with just $700 from her savings but soon obtained financing from angel investors and a German investor. Despite creating 18 different products and participating in four different accelerator programs, the business stagnated. “It felt like a plane on a runway that could not take off.” However, she shares that this all changed after she discovered Sinapis and joined the Entrepreneur Academy in 2021. The 16-week program gave her a holistic understanding of customer engagement, financial management, operations, and most importantly for her, human resources and leadership. Margaret reconsidered how she led her team and redesigned her management structure.
“Attending the Sinapis training was a turning point for me and my business. I realized I needed to learn how to manage my staff better and reduce my turnover. This led me to reorganize my human resources and begin investing in their development.”
Today, Margaret marvels at how far she has come. She recalls that setting up a business was tough, with bureaucracy, corruption, and the challenge of learning how to export goods out of Kenya. Thankfully, she’s grown in her ability to navigate these challenges, restore relationships with her employees, and integrate Kingdom business practices into her business.