Learning From The Market

One thing I can say about the Master Trainers Program is that it turned out far much better than I actually expected. I remember when we went through the training, all I could think about was whether I’d be able to pull it off; having a lively class with interactive entrepreneurs was one of the things that made me a bit hesitant given that this was the first time I’d be doing this. When the sessions with our entrepreneurs started, the first two sessions were non-interactive sessions and I noticed that the group was yet to get comfortable with each other. I also realized that the entrepreneur’s became more excited when I used local examples and we would analyze all the aspects of the businesses together, this not only made them more interactive but they opened up more about their start up and existing businesses. Lastly, we used to have informal one on one session’s after the in-class sessions, where on our way to their business location, I would talk with an entrepreneur about his/her business idea and analyze it together. This came in handy since by the time we got into consultancy sessions the entrepreneurs already had a better understanding of their business idea.

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Looking back, the consultancy-type sessions were the most tasking and exciting.  One of my entrepreneur’s was keen to start an Oyster Mushroom agri-business. The key problem that he faced was that he could get a product for testing and so we embarked on a two day search for mushrooms. Most of the mushroom farmers had already depleted their stock and the next batch was yet to be harvested. We started going around the supermarkets and realized that one supermarket had the mushrooms. We bought the mushrooms and went onto the next stage which was testing the idea. We visited 2 small supermarkets, who both gave us orders. We also visited a restaurant, the restaurant is part of a chain of family businesses that comprise of the restaurant, a supermarket and butchery.They were enthusiastic about our pitch and directed us to their Procurement Manager. When we met the manager, the entrepreneur was quite nervous but she relaxed as soon as she started talking about her business idea. The entrepreneur was very excited about her product so much so that one couldn’t tell that she was nervous afew minutes ago. From the meeting we realized they preferred a different type of mushroom (button mushroom). Aside from this the Manager gave us an order to deliver five packets of oyster mushrooms within two days! In addition to this they requested that should the entrepreneur start farming the button mushrooms, they would be very much be interested in becoming her clients!

Now the second phase of searching for the mushrooms began, one of the farmers called us and directed us to where we could get the mushrooms from. We bought the mushrooms and designed some stickers for her business and made the delivery at the agreed time. The whole experience taught both of us that one should always be prepared at all times and that networks are very important otherwise I don’t think we could have made the delivery. Taking the response from the majority of the potential customers, we realized that they preferred the button mushrooms meaning that we had to go back to the drawing board and make some changes which was worth it. She has now made some changes and will be pitching for the button mushrooms. All the best to the entrepreneurs!!

Written By Agatha Muli, Balloon Master Trainer 2014

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