When you enter the sprawling campus of Kahama Oil Mills (KOM) Group, one of Tanzania’s leading manufacturers of agro-processing products and industrial goods, it’s easy to forget that this multi-industry giant was once just an idea born from the frustrations of a community. Dr. Jesca Mhoja Nkwabi, the formidable woman steering this conglomerate, remembers those days vividly.
“I come from an entrepreneurial background. My late mother always encouraged me to embrace the business world, and my father, a hardworking entrepreneur, taught me the essence of resilience and dedication,” she says. “My family has been involved in the business sector for over 20 years. The first time entrepreneurship caught my attention was when I became an intern at my father’s small shop. As my interest in business started expanding, so did my general knowledge and experience of how businesses work, including sales management, customer service, and accounting,
Dr. Jesca’s education was equally instrumental in shaping her vision. With a master’s degree from De Montfort University and a doctorate from the University of the West of Scotland, she was well-equipped for the journey ahead. She also attributes her business acumen to stints at business schools in India and the United Kingdom.
Filling the Gaps
KOM Group, founded in 2002, was a response to an evident need. “Customers in Kahama (a town in north-western Tanzania) had to wait for essential goods to come all the way from Dar es Salaam (Tanzania’s commercial city),” Dr. Jesca recalls.
The company initially focused on ginning cotton and producing edible oil. Over the years, it has expanded into an industrial empire, covering sectors like steel, plastic and pipe manufacturing, agriculture, food, and beverages.
“I was keen on delivering quality products at affordable prices,” she emphasises. “We now serve 26 regions across Tanzania, employing 200-400 people in various capacities.”
A Diverse Team Fuelling Success
It’s not just about the numbers; it’s also about the diversity of talent. “We have a highly diversified team. Their collective ingenuity is the backbone of our operations,” says Dr. Jesca. The result is an ever-innovative approach to product development and services, designed to meet and exceed customer expectations.
On how she stays motivated in the face of challenges: “My work has been a rollercoaster; but, whenever I faced any business-related challenges to the extent I thought of giving up, I would go back to the person who introduced me to the business world: my father. We would sit down and analyse the hurdles I was facing – and then brainstorm ways to solve them. This has been one of my motivations; that despite how difficult a challenge would be, it could be solved.”
Advocacy and Empowerment
While many would be content with such an illustrious career, Dr. Jesca’s aspirations extend far beyond her personal achievements. She’s an advocate for women’s empowerment, especially in entrepreneurship.
As the Chairperson of Young Women Entrepreneurs and a member of Women Power Africa and Women Empowerment Network, she invests time and resources in initiatives that uplift and empower women.
“Through entrepreneurial workshops, we guide young women on how to kick-start businesses across various sectors in Tanzania,” she elaborates. Dr. Jesca was recognized for her trailblazing efforts when she won the Manufacturing Founder of the Year under 30 and was celebrated as the Tanzanian She Hero in 2021.
However, Dr. Jesca’s desire to nurture young minds isn’t limited to entrepreneurial ventures alone. In a quiet corner of Tanzania, she set up Frazmo Consultancy, an institution that stands as a testament to her commitment to education and youth.
The consultancy specialises in guiding students to leading universities abroad. “Every year, I meet bright, young individuals eager to learn and grow. I believe that education is the best way to arm them for the future,” she says. In addition, Frazmo aids young scholars by providing research consultancy services, catering to undergraduate, master’s, and postgraduate students alike.
But Frazmo is not just about academic aid. It’s also a hub for innovation, providing budding entrepreneurs with invaluable guidance on investment ideas and crafting meticulous business proposals. “Our aim,” Dr. Jesca adds, “is to ensure that when these young minds step out, they’re not just academically enlightened, but also equipped with a business acumen that can rival any seasoned professional.”
The Road Ahead and Business Advice
When asked about her future plans, Dr. Jesca is crystal clear: “We aim to be the leading local manufacturing and supplier company for a wide array of industrial and agro-processing products.”
Reflecting on her own journey, she leaves a pearl of wisdom for aspiring women entrepreneurs: “Identify what you are good at and turn your passion into business. Create a robust business plan. Entrepreneurship is a process; it’s not always easy. But through resilience, you can achieve unprecedented heights.”
The word ‘entrepreneurship’ carries a unique meaning for Dr. Jesca. “For me, it’s about providing solutions. It’s about making a difference,” she says. “We keep innovating because our satisfaction comes from meeting the needs of our customers, our community, and, in a small but significant way, our world.”
And so, Dr. Jesca Mhoja Nkwabi continues to break barriers, not just as a successful entrepreneur but also as a beacon for women and young people.
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