Afbeelding: Owner Winning Creative front shop interview

“ Investing time in relationships is the key to success!”

Tanzanian entrepreneur Mr. Justine Shirima, founder and director of Winning Creative, tells us about his dreams and the challenges he faces as entrepreneur.

Why did you start your company in 2011?
“I worked for a social enterprise OMASI. They strived to reduce poverty among Maasai people by setting up commercial businesses.  As head marketing and sales I worked on projects in the area of milk and meat processing, so I already learned a lot about the meat business. At that time I started a very small meat business at my veranda at home. Packaging and selling beef fillet. It went very well, so when the OMASI projects ended, I decided to fully dedicate myself to the meat business. Running my own business  has always been my dream, this was the time to do it." 

How did your company grow in the last 6 years?
“ I knew if I wanted my business to grow I had to offer a wider variety of meat products and also do more myself (buying animals, slaughtering, processing, packaging, labelling). I started to use Arusha’s Meat Facility for slaughtering, de-boning and packing of the meat. By renting a small space at this public slaughter house, I could hang the carcases, process the meat and store and freeze it. In 4 years’ time I managed to offer larger quantities and a wider variety of products like lamb, goat, chicken, pork and beef. I also have a showroom now close to town. Besides some processing, packing and labelling, it’s mainly a showroom full of freezers where clients can pop in to check the products. In the past 6 years we have been able to grow our sales turnover by 90%.”

What are the main challenges you face as entrepreneur?
“ Right now the two big challenges are the lack of equipment and a proper production room. The problem with the current space I rent at Arusha Meat Company is that the room is very small and I cannot control the hygiene and temperature. Moreover the room is not always available, so I’m not constantly able to deliver my products in time. If I would have a big chiller and a freezer container I can improve the quality of the meat and store larger quantities. I think that’s a big challenge for most of the small entrepreneurs: how to grow your business if you face a lack of capital, proper equipment or good workspace. You need to be creative and take it step by step.” 

How do you outshine the competition?
“ By offering a better quality than local butchers. Local meat is chewy and contains lots of fat. My clients -mostly lodges, hotels, camps and mining industry- want tender, flavourful meat. The kind of soft meat that almost melt in your mouth. My goal is not to target everyone, but I focus on specific target groups that are willing to pay a bit more for a good quality local meat. Since I work with a steady group of farmers, I can check and influence the quality of the meat they supply. So in fact I don’t face so much competition from local butchers or meat companies. Of course there are also foreign meat companies, but luckily a lot of companies here want to work specifically with a Tanzanian company (social responsibility). Another key to success is that I invest a lot of time in networking, building good business relationships. What you put in is what you get out of it, is my experience. My clients are very loyal.” 

What is the impact of the SIF loan on your business? 
“ The first loan I received was a working capital loan, so I could finance the everyday operations of my company. The second loan I want to apply for is for buying equipment. I need to buy a big freezer container and a chiller, to store larger quantities of meat and to improve the quality. Of course everything is related to something else: if I buy new machinery to increase the production, I also need a truck to transport it to other places. As an entrepreneur you always need to look two steps ahead. Maybe it’s smarter to start with a freezer container to store more meat. And when my turnover increases I can take the next step: buying a chiller to improve the quality. I want to take responsible steps. It’s all about finding a balance between business risk and opportunity.” 

What are the most important entrepreneurial lessons you learned?
“Start your business small and grow step by step. Take time to learn, you need it. Another lesson I learned is to have patience, especially with the governmental organisations. There are a lot of regulations, that don’t always make sense and take a lot of your time. Fighting it won’t bring you anything. Be persistent and have patience. But one of the most important lessons I would give to any entrepreneur is to put time and energy in building a good network and professional relationships. Be honest and do what you say you will do, so your clients trust you. This is essential for growing a strong business network." 

What are your dreams for your company?
“ In 10 years’ time I want to provide 80% of the meat, chicken and fish in the hotels, camps and lodges we serve. This growth goes with an increase of our market share by 10% in the next 5 years. A nice dream that I want to turn into reality."                                          


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