By Prudence Minayo
Terry Gathu is the founder of Ella Organic Foods in Nairobi, a company that makes organic jam suitable for the growing health conscious community. Terry graduated from the University of Nairobi with a Bachelor’s degree in Food Science Nutrition and dietetics.
She worked in a number of companies before calling it quits in her last posting in 2019 as a quality control analyst at Weetabix.
Here is her story as told by WoK.
Starting Ella Organic Foods
While she was still employed, Terry harboured dreams of starting a business of adding value to fruits. Thanks to her background in food science and nutrition, she had a wealth of experience in quality production.
The entrepreneur worked as a quality control inspector for Truefoods Limited and later as a quality assurance specialist at KCC. In her role, she analyzed food from its initial production stages to make sure it is of the right temperature and it meets the company’s quality standards.
The entrepreneur started the business as a part time hustle in 2018 before fully immersing into it in 2022.
She seeks to demystify the myth that organic food is expensive. According to her, buying organic food is investing in yourself. While buying cheap jam may seem inexpensive, the health implications can be far-reaching.
Sourcing for fruits and quality control
She sources fruits to be used to make the organic jam from farmers around Embu and Naivasha. These fruits are pesticides free in a bid to make all her products organic. After receiving the fruits, she analyses them to make sure they are the quality her business strives for.
The fruits are then sorted, cleaned and taken through the process of production. As the end product will be organic, she advises customers to refrigerate the jam once it is opened.
Challenges and future plans
One of the challenges she has faced is farmers lying that their fruits are organic. Once they receive them, they conduct tests that show whether the fruits were cultivated using chemicals. Sometimes after testing, they find out the fruits have chemical traces.
The other challenge she has faced is standardization of the products since KEBS does not have a body that certifies organic food products. This has made it hard for her to get to retailers as they always ask for the mark.
“When I go to retailers they always ask if I have a Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) mark of quality. But KEBS does not have a body that certifies organic food products. KEBS requires me to have my products on the shelves for a whole year before I get the quality mark. But they have agreed that if my products are of a good standard, they will certify them,” she told The Standard.
Capital has also been a huge challenge. In a month, she can supply up to 150 jars if she sells to hotels. If not, the number can reduce.
The businesswoman, who has previously worked as a nutrition specialist at Gertrude Children’s hospital also sells organic yogurt, both probiotic and Greek yogurt. She only contracts farmers who employ organic practices. In future, she hopes to target hospitals as a prospective client.