“I go for what I want, sometimes people look at you baffled, others slam the door on your face, when that happens I change my approach. I don’t get discouraged, I keep going.”
That’s the mantra that has driven Hadija Jabiry, 28, founder and director of GBRI Business Solutions Limited, a horticultural export company branding European shelves with fresh produce from Tanzania. But it wasn’t always agriculture on her mind.
Jabiry has run business manufacturing soap products, started a microfinance institution solely for women and lost every single cent of her investment, and also run a botched onion farm.
“The microfinance business was not for me. It was difficult with the really low repayments. And it was just difficult,” Jabiry shudders reminiscent.
Her first attempt at agribusiness burned and crashed to the ground. But it is her resilience and entrepreneurial spirit that has kept her going from the time she was just 12 years old.
“I used to sell everything I could get my hands on. When I finished high school, I had raised money from selling beauty products, clothes and shoes and had enough to put myself through university.”
Jabiry graduated from Mzumbe University, Mwanza campus in 2012, with a Bachelors degree in Business Administration.
“I only went to school during exam time, which was also the only time I actually studied. That was my life throughout high school and University. Education was for my mum, it was her lifetime dream,” she admits.
While in University, Jabiry spent a lot of time traversing the city attending workshops, talks and seminars on entrepreneurship which was much more intriguing for her. She read voraciously and was inspired by Nigerian entrepreneur, Aliko Dangote, and African Development Bank president, Akinwumi Adesina. She was determined to build a multigenerational conglomerate akin to the Dangote group or Mohammed Enterprises.
But it was only until 2014, after three failed business ventures, Jabiry was forced to the drawing board. She sought out business opportunities through friends and fellow business people in her network around the country.
“I didn’t want to make the same mistakes I made with the onion business I had tried earlier,” Jabiry recalls.
It was during this search that she was introduced to greenhouses and greenhouse farming in Iringa region. It was in Iringa that Jabiry convinced her husband and their mutual friend to invest in greenhouses.
“I always ask and knock, just like the Bible says.” Jabiry retorts playfully.
Jabiry spent the whole of 2015 researching on her new business venture. She travelled to Dar es Salaam and spent time learning about greenhouse farming and managing crop diseases, cultivation and timing of crops. She took the time to also understand the market and find the best market to supply. She then started negotiating with her target audience marketing her business and farm produce prior to her commencement of supply. She also ensured she had all the business and agricultural licenses and certifications to operate.
“These corporate markets, the hotels and supermarkets, want professionalism, quality products and consistency of supply, I had to give them that.” Jabiry points out.
In February 2016, the first GBRI greenhouse was complete, and in July 2016, they commenced to plant in the greenhouse. Through her networks, Jabiry touched base with a Kenyan friend who was an agronomist who helped her manage the teething problems of her crop.
“The knowledge I have makes me resourceful to people around me who in turn were willing to work with me at minimal to no cost, that’s how it works, it is mutually beneficial.”
As Jabiry’s crop yield grew, she knew she needed to find more resources and larger markets to supply, she did what she did best, she used her confidence to sell herself.
“I walked into the previous Deputy Ministry of Agriculture’s office, I introduced myself, told him what my business was and shared my profile and told him I came to seek funding from the ministry. But I knew he could expose me to numerous opportunities even if funding was not available.” She recalls with a smile, that’s how she was introduced to SAGCOT Centre.
Jabiry points out the SAGCOT partnership exposed her to a larger network of agribusinesses in the SAGCOT Ihemi cluster, covering Njombe and Iringa regions, where GBRI farms are located. Through this network Jabiry has benefited from business and trip referral which has seen her travel to Kenya and Zimbabwe, courtesy of another SAGCOT partner SeedCo, to learn best practices in farming.
“It makes doing business easier to be able to make a simple phone call to SAGCOT Centre, and quickly get a referral to a SAGCOT partner in the private or public sector who immediately looks into your challenges.” Jabiry states.
GBRI is a GAP certified company growing and packaging fresh vegetables; French beans, peas and baby corn for local and export markets. After just two years, GBRI commenced exports to the European Union in January 2018 with her EatFresh brand produce.
GBRI has come a long way in just two years; and is still determined to grow the businesses and recruit and train more smallholder farmers as its outgrowers to meet the growing international demand.
It is amazing what Jabiry has been able to do at just 28 years of age, she serves as a true beacon of the future of agribusiness driven by the youth of the continent. To her peers, her advice is simple, “You don’t need money. What you need to do is be clear on what you want, be confident, plan, go after it and build networks.”
Quick Facts About GBRI Business Solutions