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Purple Earth Foods:Cousins deliver meals to help heal lifestyle diseases in Kenya

Posted In Business, Health, Lifestyle - By admin on Friday, June 28th, 2013 With No Comments »
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Purple Earth Food founders Wairimu Thumbi (left) with Dr. Loise Nyanjau. After a challenging start, the two look forward to make profits selling healthy meals

Loise Nyanjau and Wairimu Thumbi are a surprising but dynamic business duo. The former is a medical doctor while Ms Thumbi is trained in finance. Their careers notwithstanding, they have joined hands to run a cuisine business, Purple Earth Foods.

Their different professions complement each other very well in their business. While Ms Thumbi crunches the numbers, Dr Nyanjau develops healthy menus for Purple Earth Foods customers during her spare time.

“One of the things I did not fully appreciate about having a partner is that we think differently and complement each others’ ideas,” says Ms Thumbi.

Looking at the company’s menu, one notices something curious. In addition to the prices beside each offering, the firm also lists the number of calories contained in each meal. Their venture is out to tackle rising cases of lifestyle diseases in Kenya by selling healthy meals.

The company was born out of Ms Thumbi’s desire to be her own boss, a decision she made in 2011 after working in the corporate world in the US.

On coming back to Kenya, she knew her place was in the consumer market and narrowed in on the food sector, a decision that was informed by her own experience.foods p

“I knew how difficult it was for people trying to lose weight or live by certain dietary restrictions to find good, tasty food,” she says.

She envisioned a business that would deliver healthy food to her customers’ doorsteps, if need be. She also wanted to train people to make their own healthy food. But there was a challenge; she needed a partner. For one, she did not have extensive knowledge of the medical needs of her would-be customers. So she needed an expert.

As providence would have it, she did not have to look far to find this expert. Dr Nyanjau is Ms Thumbi’s cousin and was at the time working as a medical doctor. Through her career, Dr Nyanjau had become alive to the challenged facing Kenyans in managing their lifestyles.

“This is very close to my heart. In Kenya, diseases like cancer and heart conditions are exploding. They are becoming a burden to individuals, families, and the state. Yet, we can partly manage them by eating well,” she says.

foodsSo Purple Earth Foods was born. The name, as Dr Nyanjau says, was meant to imply that Kenyans ought to be treating their bodies like royalty and eat quality food. Ms Thumbi and Dr Nyanjau soon embarked on research to find out the food offerings that could be easily acquired in the local market.

They also set out to learn the qualities of each ingredient before developing a menu. The study took months. They put their menu to the test by having focus groups try it out.

They also carried out a pilot project to examine their concept on whether their menu could achieve what they promised — weight loss and easier management of some chronic illnesses.

A group of 20 people of varying ages were enrolled onto the programme. Their health indicators, like cholesterol levels, were measured before they were put on a diet of Purple Earth Food meals. They received regular medical examinations and a month later, significant differences were noted.

“Over 90 per cent of them lost some weight. We were able to bring down cholesterol to normal ranges and we even helped one of our clients to manage gout,” said Ms Thumbi.

After several months and at least Sh3 million in investment, the firm now delivers ready-to-eat meals to people around Nairobi — in their offices, homes, or even at functions. It also trains people to prepare healthy meals.

The firm has trained 41 people and makes about 150 meal deliveries a week. Given that the firm is still in its startup stages, the going has not been easy. For instance, within days of opening, the partners faced their biggest hurdle — the logistics of delivering. The duo tried to deliver the food themselves but this soon proved disastrous.

“People were receiving their breakfast deliveries at 11am. We were constantly frustrated,” says Dr Nyanjau.

They had to go back to the drawing board. They decided to bought a motorbike and hire a rider. They now contract other riders to deliver the food. The partners had to learn quickly how to control the boda boda riders eager to take on extra assignments in addition to delivering Purple Earth Food meals.

Dr Nyanjau and Ms Thumbi believe that they have now reached a comfortable medium with an efficient in-house delivery man as well as a reliable network of contractors.

Despite the obstacles they have had to overcome, both are confident that Purple Earth Foods has a bright future. http://www.purpleearthfoods.com/

 

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