Founder Resiliency Stories: Pick Up Mtaani

Founders Resiliency Stories:

Pick Up Mtaani

Pick Up Mtaani is adapting to COVID-19 conditions.


COVID-19 and the restrictions put in place across Kenya to control its spread have had detrimental effects on small businesses and startups across the country. However for ygap Kenya 2020 Program participant, Pick Up Mtaani (formerly Drop Desk), who specialises in door-to-door delivery services for online businesses in Nairobi, the pandemic has created a growing demand for reliable and affordable delivery services across the city. 

“We have partnered with 25 other small businesses, where these strategic business premises can serve as drop off and pick-up locations in different residential areas of Nairobi.   This has allowed us to establish a presence in new residential areas and assure our clients of our ability to deliver anywhere within the city“, ygap Kenya alumni and Pick Up Mtaani founder, Robert Mwalugha remarked. 

ygap Kenya alumni venture, Pick Up Mtaani, is establishing presence in new areas around Nairobi with their door-to-door delivery service for online business.


The ygap Kenya team spoke with the founder of Pick Up Mtaani, Robert Mwalugha, about the impact of the pandemic on his venture, how Pick Up Mtaani is meeting increased demand across Nairobi, and their vision for a world beyond COVID-19. 

 

How has COVID-19 affected Pick Up Mtaani?

Pick Up Mtaani offers door-to-door delivery services for small, online businesses across Nairobi, delivering small parcels to their clients door step. Given the lockdown restrictions put in place throughout the city, a large proportion of Kenyans have turned to online shopping to meet their day-to-day needs. With a new found affinity for e-commerce, small businesses have been scrambling to find delivery partners to ensure that their products are delivered to their customers in a safe and secure way. At Pick Up Mtaani we’ve seen a spike in demand for our reliable and affordable delivery services.


What support is Pick Up Mtaani providing to those affected by COVID-19?

Pick Up Mtaani is helping small, online businesses across Nairobi meet the growing demands for e-commerce and online shopping in light of the COVID-19 restrictions. By offering reliable and affordable door-to-door delivery services, the venture is ensuring that those across Nairobi can shop online without having to risk going out into public to pick up their shopping. 

 

What have been the challenges you’ve faced?

From a growth perspective, we’ve had to face a lack of appropriate storage bags to facilitate an increase in delivery of packages at the pick up locations. Whilst the restrictions have made more people shop online, we’re also seeing Kenyans experiencing reduced incomes in light of the economic consequences of COVID-19 and this has negatively affected the amount of shopping they’re doing online. 

What are the key ingredients for overcoming challenges?

For Pick Up Mtaani, the key ingredient to overcoming challenges has been reaching out for strategic advice, identifying specific action plans required, prioritizing them in line with resources available, and taking the bold step of strategy implementation. 

To help the venture pivot, Robert has reached out to the ygap Kenya team for support. The venture has received legal, strategic and financial support to facilitate this growth and to acquire the appropriate storage bags for efficient package deliveries. 

 

How have you been able to adapt so fast in the face of a pandemic?

We’ve been able to partner with 25 other small businesses, where these strategic business premises can serve as drop off and pick-up locations in different residential areas of Nairobi. This has allowed Pick Up Mtaani to establish a presence in new residential areas and assure their clients of their ability to deliver anywhere within the city. 

 

What does a post COVID-19 world look like for Pick Up Mtaani?

We will see a shift in the way people shop for personal goods, and retailers who provide a tech enabled, multi- channel approach will gain a larger share. Consumers have demonstrated a massive trial and adoption of these purchase methods over the past seven weeks. Therefore in a post COVID-19 world, online shoppers will demand a combination of speed, value and convenience moving forward. 


Pick Up Mtaani helps small, online businesses deliver their products to their customers by providing an affordable and reliable last mile delivery service. In the last 12 months, they’ve partnered with over 50 online businesses across Kenya and have delivered over 13,000 packages. For more information on Pick Up Mtaani: https://www.pickupmtaani.co.ke/

Pick Up Mtaani founder Robert Mwalugha is a participant in the ygap Kenya 2020 Program.


Founder Resiliency Stories: Mama's Mushrooms

Founders Resiliency Stories:

Mama's Mushrooms

Fanny Fiteli, Founder of Mama’s Mushrooms.


The outbreak of COVID-19, compounded with cyclones, has presented a number of unique challenges for the Pacific Islands region. However,yher Pacific Islands alumni venture, Mama’s Mushrooms, is continuing to support female mushroom farmers by developing a new product line to meet the demand of the Fiji market.

“We decided to try dried mushrooms as an alternative product but also as an alternative to storage and product longevity and tested this. It was a hit. Our Naitasiri farms are now selling dried oyster Mushrooms for $40/kg!” remarked yher Pacific Islands alumni and Mama’s Mushrooms co-founder, Fanny Fiteli.


The yher Pacific Islands team spoke with the founder of Mama’s Mushrooms, Fanny Fiteli, about the impact of the pandemic and cyclones on her venture, how Mama’s Mushrooms is continuing to upskill single mothers in mushroom farming by developing a new product line, as well as Fanny’s vision for a world beyond COVID-19. 

 

How has Covid-19 affected Mama’s Mushrooms?

With national travel restrictions and curfews in place, scheduled training to increase farms and production has been postponed. And with Mama’s Mushrooms headquartered in the city of Lautoka, a temporary lockdown zone with no travel in or out, distribution has been severely disrupted – they are only able to supply customers within the area. And with tourism at a standstill, orders from hotels and restaurants have dried up significantly. 

Compounding these challenges have been Fiji’s cyclone season, with January’s training postponed due to Cyclones Sarai and Toni. The recent wrath of Tropical Cyclone Harold has left their internal grow house severely damaged.

 

What support is Mama’s Mushrooms providing in response to COVID-19?

However there is good news – domestic demand is still strong and by developing a new product line, Mama’s Mushrooms is pivoting to meet the market.

Since February, they have been working with Naitasiri farmers to produce dried mushrooms, using natural sun drying methods. Originally released to their domestic consumer base as a retail product, the line garnered welcome interest. 

Now, with the short shelf-life of fresh mushrooms struggling with COVID-19’s disrupted supply chain, Mama’s Mushrooms has doubled-down on the development and marketing of this line. Working with supermarkets, they are exploring a bulk, wholesale provision. And market research suggests strong potential as an import replacement for Fiji’s vegan/vegetarian market, who previously purchased overseas goods from local supermarkets. 

What have been the challenges you’ve faced?

When we received the word of our first COVID 19 positive case – we were worried and first thought of our safety and the safety of our children. We were also placed on lockdown and could not move out of the region we operate in called Lautoka for 2 weeks which made doing business very difficult. What resulted was that we used our 2 supplementary indoor farms to supply within the lockdown area and our Naitasiri farms to supply our Nadi market. Even this was really difficult to manage. Because crops were growing in Naitasiri, we decided to try dried mushrooms as an alternative product but also as an alternative to storage and product longevity and tested this. It was a hit. Our Naitasiri farms are now selling dried oyster Mushrooms for $40/kg. The challenge was trying to market this while on lockdown. We got creative and invited our repeat customers to give it a try. Now, 40% of them are repeat dried mushroom fans.

 

What are the key ingredients for overcoming challenges?

Always trusting and believing in yourself and knowing that you have the power to make all the important decisions and that every step needs peer support, positivity and ability. Never say that something is impossible.

 

How have you been able to adapt so fast in the face of a pandemic?

Aligned to their overall strategy, Mama’s Mushrooms were already trialing production and market testing dried mushrooms as means to diversify risk and capture market share. This foundation in place created an opportunity to scale and commercialise relatively quickly.

 

What does a post covid-19 world look like for Mama’s Mushrooms?

Beyond COVID-19, we envision a business growth spurt with the increasing demand for mushrooms as a vegan protein option. Already we are being inundated with orders for a weekly supply and delivery for individuals who have a vegan/vegetarian diet and who previously accessed their mushroom supplies through supermarket imports. We also expect to see an increase in our business customers. 

We want to help establish 2000 Mama’s Farms within the country over the next three years, spanning across three islands. They also intend to replicate the Mama’s Mushroom model in other regional countries like PNG, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.


Mama’s Mushrooms is a for-profit social enterprise helping women to improve their finances and access quality healthcare and education through micro-farming in mushrooms. To find out more information about Mama’s Mushrooms, visit their website here. 

Founded by Fanny Fiteli, Mama’s Mushrooms participated in the 2019 yher Pacific Islands program.