For Mercy Kitomari, ice-cream is more than just a treat. It is a lifestyle. What’s more? She is certain of one thing: there is no sex in this business. In this interview, the Tanzanian Boss Lady tells us how her endless craving for quality and get-work-done philosophy has built her ice-cream brand into an African success story.
Can you briefly describe yourself and your business?
I’m Mercy Nenelwa K., founder of Nelwa’s Gelato (hard ice-cream) brand. Nelwa’s Gelato maximises on the availability of natural fruits and spice flavours available in Tanzania which is then blended into fantastic gelato/sorbet offering.
What is it like being a female entrepreneur, and why did you chose to be one?
When I started, female and entrepreneur were not in my mind. All I wanted to do was to make Gelato (ice cream), just flow the market with ice cream viosk. Then I grew into the position after learning the Impact I was having in my community and meeting people who shared with me their stories, how I inspired them.
What new innovation have you introduced to your business?
I use our local exotic fruits such as Bungo (very bitter and tangy), Fenesi (jack fruit), Madalansi (pomelo). Such fruits make very interesting dessert sorbet. To my market in Tanzania, what I do is fairly new (untapped). But in the developed world, ice-cream (dairy) technology is far advanced.
What will you say is responsible for your success so far?
The dream: I am yet to manifest the full dream of how I want the ice-cream industry to grow (revolution). Passion: the love of what I do is intense, I call it the labour of love. Persistence: there have been some ups and down, a faint heated person would have quit by now. My vision is to have ice cream viosk and be part of daily snacking in Tanzania.
My friends, my network, my family are the best. The core of it all is Prayer! God is good all the time
In your opinion, would you say that there are any unique challenges that female entrepreneurs face?
If one chooses to see them that way. However, when there’s shortage of milk, cream or sugar, it has nothing to do with being female or male. It is business.
What values and principles have helped you so far?
My faith in God. Quality, quality, quality over anything. Consistency learning and growing from each challenge, mistake and failure.
Why did you decide to go into this particular line of business?
I saw a great opportunity that had been fully explored in Europe by the time I was a student in London 2010, but not yet tapped into in Africa especially in Tanzania. In a city like Dar es Salaam, there should be ice-cream parlours in every 5 miles.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced, and what’s kept you going?
Challenges are many: from supply chain, to staffing, sourcing capital, falling out with landlords, partnerships that didn’t go well… Above all, this dream is bigger than all the challenges put together.
What’s your five-year plan for your business?
I am working on factory level production to produce 1000 litres per day. Also, the brand is growing well. In 5 years’ time, we will have expanded our market reach to East Africa and franchise. Nelwa’s Gelato will be a brand worth buying. Watch the space.
What do upcoming female entrepreneurs need to do to be successful in this path?
Start now, start with what you have. Commit and do not compare yourself. Build a relationship with your bank.