Former Nike employee Lauren Russell Nkuranga left her job to begin a successful food distribution company in Rwanda.What began as a work trip with the Nike Foundation in 2012 ended as an eye opening experience for Nkuranga. Her Western misconceptions of the country were replaced when she realized the potential in Rwanda. Rwanda’s economy has expanded by an average annual rate of 7.6% between 2007 and 2016.
Nkuranga says “During my two years here with Nike in Rwanda, I saw Rwanda transform – new roads, new buildings, new businesses, new restaurants, new national parks. It gives you a feeling of possibility, of going-for-it, of making big dreams happen,” Thus, when her work trip came to end, she decided to leave her job and stay in Rwanda to begin her own business- a food distribution company. She says, “I thought to myself that if I go now, I’d be missing out on the biggest opportunity of my life – that no one has really cracked food distribution in Africa.” In September 2014, she established GET IT, a food services business based in Rwanda’s capital Kigali.
The inspiration behind the company came from her personal experience living in Rwanda. “Really, it was my simple home grocery purchasing that inspired GET IT,” Nkuranga explains. “I had to go to five stores to find the ingredients to make something simple like lasagne. I thought if I couldn’t find what I wanted, maybe others are having that problem too.” The company begin with a focus on supplying products to households, but demand from restaurants changed that. Today, commercial kitchens are GET IT’s primary focus. It sources and delivers a variety of fresh, frozen and dry goods – including fruit and vegetables, meat, and dairy – along with kitchen supplies.
“We serve anyone who is cooking for people eating outside of their homes. On one end, we serve high-end lodges, hotels and notable restaurants in Kigali… On the other, we serve schools, churches, and company canteens,” Nkuranga explains. “We cater mostly for commercial kitchen needs instead of household needs because we see there are lots of opportunities there. Households are a very small fraction of what we do.”
GET IT is currently looking to expand into all parts of Rwanda, then regionally into Uganda and the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Nkuranga says “We’re building models to transform food distribution to humanitarian crises like refugee camps or famine-hit regions – to incorporate locally-sourced fruits and vegetables into food aid. The list is endless – and that’s what makes doing this business so energising.”
Advice for entrepreneurs:
Nkuranga’s advice for aspiring entrepreneurs? “Don’t go big too quickly… Try and get 20 customers who love your product and can’t wait to order your product. If you can’t get 20 customers to love your product, then you don’t have a good product. And if you can’t get 20 people to love your product, you can’t get a hundred let alone a thousand.”
She also suggests “If you want to start a company, find 10 people and ask them to convince you not to start a company. If they can persuade you, you’ve dodged a bullet: it means you’re not cut out to be an entrepreneur. And that’s okay – very few people are designed to create early-stage companies. If no one can convince you it’s a bad idea – that means you might just have the make-up for being an entrepreneur.”
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