We saw the challenges that smallholder livestock farmers face to access veterinary services and proposed a solution of establishing a company to fill the gap.
Name: Ziweto Enterprise
Location: Lilongwe, Malawi
Product / Service Offering: Veterinary services
Co-founder Interviewed: Byton Simwela
Other Key Management Team Members: Victor Chambayika Mhango
This article is part of our Business Startup Spotlight series featuring entrepreneurs and their companies. We hope that these founders’ interviews will inspire and motivate you as you undertake your own entrepreneurial journey.
Tell us a little about yourself with a focus on what motivates you.
I am a social entrepreneur with a background in agriculture and community sustainability. My degrees include a Master of Science in Community Sustainability and Bachelor of Science in Agriculture. I believe that the responsibility to develop and transform a nation lies in the hands of the nationals. My motivation comes from working hard to provide practical solutions to challenges facing multitudes in the developing world.
When did you establish your company and where did the idea originate?
The company was established in 2015. My co-founder, Victor Mhango, has ten years of experience working in the livestock sector. He saw the challenges that smallholder livestock farmers face to access veterinary services and proposed a solution of establishing a company to fill the gap.
I had worked with the Ministry of Agriculture as an Agricultural Extension Officer for seven years and also had firsthand information on the challenges facing smallholder farmers and saw the need to provide solutions.
Together with Victor, I sat down and established a company called Ziweto Enterprise to provide farmers with affordable and accessible veterinary solutions. Since 2015 the company has managed to establish four agrovet shops through bootstrapping, grants and investors and managed to hire six trained veterinarians to manage the shops. We have so far served over 10,000 farmers with affordable veterinary services.
What need or needs does your company seek to fill for its customers?
Our company seeks $250,000 in the form of investments, grants, and loans to scale up operations to reach more farmers across Malawi.
What is the one thing that sets your company apart from its competitors?
Our company provides comprehensive veterinary services to livestock farmers through franchised agro-vet shops (livestock health centers), which are established within the villages where farmers live and carry out farming activities.
The agro-vet shops stock all kinds of veterinary products and provide information that farmers need for their livestock enterprises. Comprehensive veterinary services are ensured by providing farmers with training in good livestock management, provision of livestock vaccinations and medication. Qualified veterinary officers who prescribe and sell livestock medication and vaccines to farmers at affordable prices operate the agro-vet shops. Ziweto Enterprise manages the supply chain, oversees quality, and performs marketing functions for the agro-vet shops.
What was the biggest challenge you faced while getting your company up and running, and how did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge was to raise startup capital to register the company and kickstart operations. We overcame the challenge through bootstrapping and joining accelerator programs like Fledge LLC and Seed Awards.
Are there resources you have utilized that other founders might find compelling or useful?
Yes, joining accelerator programs like Fledge LLC was so helpful to help us overcome the common challenges that most startup companies face.
What steps have you taken to secure funding for your company and what, if anything, would you do differently if you had to start over?
We have been bootstrapping, applying for grants, extending invitations to investors to invest in the company and obtaining some local loans.
Have there been any questions you have had as an entrepreneur of a fledgling startup that you had a particularly hard time finding the answers to?
No, most of the tough questions have been answered through Fledge LLC.
What challenges, if any, are you grappling with?
Raising more capital to scale up operations.
What is the most helpful tip or “hack” you’ve ever learned, stumbled across, or been given?
Joining Fledge accelerator program
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