Caroline Hien proudly holds a jar of mango jam, topped with bright colourful fabric. While mango is only one of the many flavours the 25-year-old offers through her business—Carol’s Confiture—it was the first flavour she made.
Ms. Hien started her small agribusiness, based in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, with a noble goal: to reduce food waste.
She explains: “Every day I go to the market and see fruits that are starting to rot. Here in Cote d’Ivoire, 80 per cent of fruits rot in the market—and this is not acceptable. This is what motivated me to transform these fruits, make it a business, and create jobs for my brothers and sisters.”
Ms. Hien now makes jam in a variety of flavours, including watermelon, mango-pineapple, mango-grape, mango-saffron, banana, and papaya.
She started by making jams for friends and family, but now runs a thriving business. She even won first prize in the Startupper 2016 challenge for small businesses started by young entrepreneurs. She says, “I have had a passion for fruits since I was a child. There are many local fruits that I saw and consumed. But I started to make jam with mango.”
She grew her business by displaying her product at the International Fair on Tourism in March 2015. With the increased exposure, she was able to increase production. Carol’s Confiture is now sold in supermarkets across Cote d’Ivoire, but Ms. Hien is always on the lookout for a new opportunity to expand her business. She says, “We always want to update to the next level, like to semi-industrial production.”
Ms. Hien’s family and employees have benefited from this growth. Anne Beugre is an employee at Carol’s Confiture. She says, “[This] is a project that brings me a lot personally. I am able to take care of myself and also get into networks that I did not think of.”
Ms. Hien started her business despite what many might think of as a limitation: she could neither read nor write. She explains: “When I started to put my products on the market, I did not know how to read and write. It was really difficult for me. [But] I could present my products orally very well in front of people.”
She spread the word of her products orally, and used her success as motivation. She says, “Thanks to my products, each day I have the courage to learn, to professionalize myself.”
Ms. Hien still faces challenges, despite her success as an entrepreneur. Fruits are seasonal, which means she can only make particular flavours at certain times of the year. But she knows her success comes from hard work and innovation, and she is on the hunt for a solution to this latest challenge.
To see the video on which this story was based, Local fruit jams to reduce wastage, go to: http://en.agribusinesstv.info/Cote-d-Ivoire-Local-fruit-jams-to-reduce-wastage_v73.html