By BlueInventure / September 12, 2018
Nelly Milya’s business idea came to her while munching on popcorn in a darkened movie theater. She was tired of nibbling plain popcorn and wondered if others were bored with the healthy but predictable tasting snack. Milya set out to interest consumers in flavored popcorn and to position it as a gift or token of appreciation in the same way people give flowers or bake a cake.
“I didn’t know if people were going to buy into my idea but nothing stopped me”. – Nelly Milya
From a small kiosk run by two people near Nairobi’s Valley Arcade playground in 2015, Milya’s Flavoured Popcorn has grown to 15-person team operating at 25 sales locations in malls, supermarkets and convenience stores across the city. She also hopes to reach other customers in East and West Africa.
As a media executive with no experience in food production or retail, Milya faced several challenges getting her business started and expanding operations. Hiring and motivating employees, monitoring sales and expenses, managing inventory, sourcing popcorn flavors from multiple countries and adhering to food health and hygiene regulations were among the facets of the business Milya had not yet mastered.
“I had a lot of problems managing my business because it grew so fast”. – Nelly Milya
As a first step, BlueInventure’s team of SME business advisors assessed Milya’s Flavoured Popcorn on several criteria including financial management, business strategy, operations, production, marketing, human resources and the competitive landscape.
BlueInventure then zeroed in to help craft an expansion strategy, develop business operation processes and procedures; put together an organizational structure and hiring program; build cost, pricing, sales and profitability models and put in place accounting and other financial control systems.
“It is good to have a consultant coming into your business. You get caught up in the day to day”. – Nelly Milya
Digging deeper into her business’ daily operations, BlueInventure helped Milya setup a point-of-sales system at her owned and operated locations to track revenue and issue receipts as well as overhaul the company’s stock taking system to better balance popcorn inventory with customer demand. As Milya’s Flavoured Popcorn expanded, BlueInventure identified key positions the SME would need to fill – like a cashier at each company-run location – and assisted with the development of an employee operations manual, handbook and employment agreement.
Since launching in January 2015, Milya’s popcorn business has expanded from 2 to 15 employees, seen year-over-year sales growth of 90%, added 9 flavors to its product line and established 25 sales locations – in malls, supermarkets and convenience stores. The company is also beefing up its production system to supply a planned regional distributors network and an online sales strategy that is now a focus for growth.
What lessons has Nelly Milya learned from working with BlueInventure business advisory consultants?
“It is good to be able to share the vision with them and to flow into that vision together,” she said. “I also learned that it is good to listen … we tend to think that we know it all but it is good to humble yourself and listen.”
What challenges did BlueInventure help her face?
“Not accepting you can grow … the fear of the unknown. They helped me get out of that mindset”.
Her advice for other budding entrepreneurs?
“Believe in what you are doing,” said Milya, who was determine to add new value to an established food product category. “The only thing that stops us from getting to where we want to is just ourselves”.
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