Myself and three other fellows are currently volunteering at the Farm Shop Trust’s headquarters in Kiambu County, Nairobi, Kenya for six weeks from mid July to late August 2015.
Working on behalf of Plymouth University and Duchy College (UK) on a project involving Comic Relief, our team consists of myself, Amber Strong (Business and Entrepreneurship) as a representative of Plymouth University’s Futures Entrepreneurship Centre, Liam Moore (IT) student at Plymouth University, Claire Reigate (Technical Specialist in Animal Health), from Duchy College, and Morwenna Roberts (Horticulture and International Development) a student from Duchy College. Our aims are to support the Farm Shop Trust in creating the framework for a shop- assistant training programme and assisting in infrastructure development. This is due to the Farm Shop Trust’s rapid expansion that will continue to take place over the next year.
On my second day since in Kenya I had the opportunity to visit Grace Mweru, the owner of an Agri-shop (an agricultural supplies store) who was then in the process of becoming a Farm Shop Franchisee. Agri-shops’ sell a variety of products that a farmer might need; including seeds, fertilisers, animal feeds, feed supplements and veterinary medicines. Agricultural supply stores are a common sight in Nairobi but some are often poorly stocked and the staff may not have the knowledge to correctly advise the farmer of the correct product to suit their needs or explain how the product must be used to be most effective. The Farm Shop Trust aims for all agricultural shops that become ‘Farm Shops’ under their franchisee-ship to be well stocked to suit the needs of farmers and must be staffed with helpful and well qualified staff that will enable Kenyan farmers to make the most efficient use of the correct products.
Until a month ago, Grace had an Agri-shop in the town of Githurai for over a year. Her shop was next to a busy Farm Shop and this inspired her to move her shop to a location nearer to her home and become a Farm Shop franchisee. Grace talked with current Franchisees before requesting to become a Franchisee herself. On Wednesday 5th of August she launched here new shop in Murera, Kiambu County, Nairobi, Kenya as a Farm Shop Franchisee. Her husband is a well-known Vet in the Murera area and treats the cows of many of the local diary farmers that I talked to that afternoon.
When I visited Grace at the site of her new shop that had just been built, the walls were unpainted and the shelves for the shop were still being built. Now, on the 5th of August, the morning of Grace’s new shop launch; her shop is fully painted, well stocked, brightly labelled and bustling. Across the road from the shop, Farm Shop Trust staff had set up a gazebo for local farmers and a DJ had arrived.
At around 11am, Farm Shop Trust Extension Officers (in agronomy and livestock health) start off the launch event to an audience of around twenty-five farmers with a prayer and the drawing of the first raffle prize ticket. There are introductions regarding staff specialisms, talks on disease prevention by certain pests such as white fly, and how best to treat common livestock infections such as mastitis in dairy cows.
The four hour event was broken up by jokes by DJ John, raffled price draws of agricultural products stocked at the new Farm Shop and finally a banana eating competition. As I helped Farm Shop staff pack down the launch event banners, farmers flooded Grace’s shop to buy various products they had learnt about that day.
The Farm Shop Trust provides a lot for their Franchisees; helping them to develop loyal customer bases.
The Farm Shop Trust provides new franchisees with:
- a free shop launch event when the new shop opens
- a free farmers outreach event 10 days after the launch to develop a local customer base
- further free agricultural demonstration days for farmers based from the shop itself.
The Farm Shop Trust also provides free training for franchisees and shop assistants in accounting, customer service, product knowledge and business management.
As part of becoming a Franchisee, the Farm Shop Trust pay on average around 5,000 Kenyan Shillings for the outside of the shop to be painted in Farm Shop colours and branding. Branding the shop links the shop to the Farm Shop Trust’s developing reputation for:
- high quality products
- extensive product range
- clean stores
- well informed and helpful franchisees and shop assistants.
It takes around 300,000 Kenyan Shillings to fully stock an agricultural shop like Grace has done and the Farm Shop Trust often link potential Franchisees to micro-finance institutions.
After the event, I chatted to Grace’s shop assistant, 20 year old Moses; who is waiting to hear the results of his exams for his Certificate in Agriculture. He has already started studying for his Diploma in Agriculture, a two year course. Like many Farm Shop shop assistants, his parents are farmers and this sparked his interest in agriculture.
For Grace and her shop, her husbands’ reputation as a reliable vet in the local area, Grace’s past experiences as a shop owner, the importance she places on having a very well stocked shop as well as the Farm Shop Trust’s assistance with training, branding and marketing all bode well for the success of her new shop. I wish her the very best of success.
If you have any questions or would like to know more about the Plymouth University’s Futures Entrepreneurship Centre or my work with the Farm Shop Trust please feel free to contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org