By Patricia Griffin, Founder, Inagape Ltd.
In 1994, I attended a Society of Women Engineers’ engineering camp organized by the University of Michigan (UofM) student section. At that camp, I learned that I wanted to be an industrial engineer. In 2001, I achieved that dream when I graduated from UofM.
I spent 7 years in the automotive industry as a manufacturing/quality/systems engineer. I returned to grad school for an MBA in 2008 when the program sent me to a rural hospital in Uganda to improve the supply chain systems. In seven weeks we saved 70 people’s lives by not running out of life-saving drugs. After graduation, I made the decision to take my engineering and business skills back to Africa where the skill combination is rare and much needed.
Working in Africa
Six years ago, I moved to Nairobi to become the operations director first at a school system where we built 60 schools in one year and then at a forestry company where we planted one million trees in two years. I then served as a consultant to 14 healthcare entrepreneurs who won USAID/UKAID grants to improve the health delivery systems in Ethiopia, Nigeria and Kenya.
Founding a Manufacturing Company
In 2014, I co-founded a manufacturing company, Inagape Ltd., that has the potential to lift farmers out of poverty by adding value to their raw produce. We are purchasing coconut directly from subsistence farmers, processing the nuts in dehydrators, and selling to retail grocery stores throughout Kenya under the brand name SNAK AFYA Coconut Bites.
Our pilot was such a success that now we have more market opportunity than capacity for production. This quandary is easily solvable with more machinery, investment, and technical expertise. We were recently one of nine companies selected from among 150 applicants by the Unreasonable Institute to participate in their East African business accelerator program. By the end of the program in August, we expect to be ready to take on external investment and scale up our manufacturing facility in coastal Kenya.
Watch this video to see what we’ve accomplished thus far.