Scholarship Stories: Carolyne Wambui Njung'e - 2021 Business Competition Winner

November 29, 2021

Carolyne Wambui Njung'e graduated from our Sinapis Entrepreneur Academy in 2021, thanks to the Sinapis Scholarship Fund created and supported by our generous donors around the globe. Carolyne is the co-founder of Candi Fresh Kenya, a social enterprise with an innovation around the “Food On Wheels” concept. It was created with an aim of delivering safe and affordable street-food whilst offering employment opportunities for the youth in Kakamega and Kisumu Counties, Western Kenya. She launched her business just as the pandemic solidified in early 2020 with one food cart and has grown it to over 45 carts!

We asked Carolyne a handful of questions about her business and her experiences at Sinapis recently in the interview shared below.

Introduce yourself - give us a sense of who you are and what led you to starting Candi Fresh.

My name is Carolyne Wambui Njung'e and I am the Co-Founder of Candi Fresh Kenya alongside Allan Omondi.

In my former years, I actively engaged in various youth and women empowerment programs across Western Kenya, Rwanda, and Tanzania. These volunteer programs fanned my drive and passion towards improving livelihoods while ensuring sustainability. It wasn't until the time while I was working in the banking industry and engaging micro-enterprises that I realized a vibrant sub-sector under the food industry had been neglected. The street-food industry was unregulated, disorganized, and was termed as unbankable. But, it held immense potential.

Additionally, the rising rate of unemployment among the youth was a concern and this prompted me to think of a way of merging the potential in the street-food market to that population of unemployed youth. An innovative model that required a low-skill set to venture in and attracted youth who had  lost their jobs or college students who had recently ended school.

With efforts and expertise from my team, we were able to formalize the street-food sub-sector by setting up standards and systems for the distribution of products and training the street-food vendors, thus giving them an edge in their daily activities.  

Thus, Candi Fresh Kenya was created as a social enterprise with an innovation around “Food On Wheels” concept with the aim of delivering safe and affordable street-food whilst offering employment opportunities for the youth in Kakamega and Kisumu Counties, Western Kenya.

How  many youths have you employed since you started Candi Fresh?

From a single food trolley in March 2020, we have been able to grow the numbers to 45 food trolleys. And with these assets, we have been able to have a turnover of over 80 young people from campus and informal settlements benefit over the period of time.

 

Why did you apply to join the 2021 Sinapis Scholarship class?

Training MSMEs (micro and small to medium enterprises) back at the bank, and now starting off as an MSME was a different ballgame. We needed to unlearn a few cultures to be able to build Candi Fresh Kenya. One strategy was finding a voice on the digital platform. I had enrolled for the Sinapis Sales and Marketing Module in March and was already on for about 4-weeks when I came across the KCJF Call for Applications. After review, I was informed that I had not met the threshold and instead got a 40% scholarship to attend the Sinapis Entrepreneur Academy. I was not able to join the immediate class that was set to begin early May. A staff from Sinapis reached out for follow up and presented an exciting opportunity for a 60% Scholarship set to begin late May. I couldn't give away such a lucrative opportunity as luck doesn't come twice they say. That's how I joined the amazing Entrepreneur Academy.  

What is a lesson from your time with Sinapis that has helped you the most since you graduated? 

Sinapis Entrepreneur Academy has been my 1:59 INEOS Challenge where I have acquired MBA knowledge in such a short time, 4-months only. I have one topic from the training that I always go back to, Customer Discovery Journey. This topic couldn't have been taught at a perfect time. Opening our second branch in Kisumu City was actually a Sinapis Journey, and this time around we had to do it by the books and from a level of experience unlike our first in Kakamega Town. Identifying our visionary customers saved us time, money, and human resources as we have been able to get it right from the word go. This knowledge from Sinapis could never be underestimated. It is with high regard that I recommend any entrepreneur out there to join this network.

In what way(s) have you been able to integrate Kingdom Business lessons into Candi Fresh in the past year as you’ve navigated COVID with your team? 

Being a Christian believer and running a Kingdom Business has been a fulfilling journey despite the business dynamics. My faith has enabled me to build on my spiritual capital by doing what is right to others, not only in their eyes or what benefits them, but also what is right in God's eyes. This knowledge and belief has grown my love and service for humanity and wise stewardship of God's resources while setting me apart from unethical practices of corruption, bribery, and injustice. Through such practices, we have steered the team’s belief to bring in a culture of love, unity, and a sense of purpose in their lives. Our vendors have become more like family and we continue to inspire their ambitions and improve their livelihoods.

What led you to start the Covid-19 resilience program and how many beneficiaries has it had?

Candi Fresh Kenya was actually born during the pandemic as a disruptive model in alleviating social and economic stress among those who had lost their jobs. When we ventured into this business, we did not clearly envision the social impact it would have, especially on the young people. Our fulfillment came when the business served as an incubation centre for campus students to transition to formal jobs upon graduating. The work-study program enabled them to engage in street food vending to raise school fees, pay bills comfortably, and sustain themselves while in school. The program also killed the idleness among the youth and gave them hope during the pandemic break. This spared them from communal vices such as drug abuse, prostitution, and crime. With that transformation, 30 vendors joined and together we registered CandiFresh Self-Help Group that enabled them to attend training workshops and engage in savings schemes like table-banking. This has been the very reason that kept us going despite the economic harshness. We dubbed this as our COVID-19 Resilience Program, where over 100 vendor households depended on us for sustenance as we had created more than 80 jobs directly and indirectly.

Are there any concerns you have about the 2022 general elections with it being your first election year as an entrepreneur?

Yes. 2022 is a year with mixed emotions for most entrepreneurs. Personally, having been a victim of the 2007 post election violence in my hometown, Eldoret, and yet still, having plans of opening the next Candi Fresh branch in such a vibrant economic hub, sets my ambitions whirling. I saw my parents’ thriving business go under and it cost them years to rebuild again. Such unpredictable moments challenge me to start preparing early enough for any eventualities. 

Has what you learned in the Sinapis Entrepreneur Academy helped you prepare for what business may be like in an election year? If yes, please give a few examples of what you will apply in 2022.

In my thoughts, if my parents had gotten a chance to learn through the Sinapis program, a lot would have been handled differently. Now thanks to the lessons I've learnt, I am better prepared and equipped to manage business expectations during the election period. One key lesson is having a contingency plan for leveraging expectations in areas around insurance planning, cashflows management, and funding options in case of financial crisis. Forming an advisory board will also be key in helping us navigate through the areas we haven't polished yet and also guide on our expansion strategy within 2022.

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