So 3 months ago I texted Daliso for the first time. A very spontaneous text to a total stranger from Zambia, after a post on Facebook in which he asked for help preparing a business plan for a shared kitchen in Zambia. To me, it seemed quite a challenging concept to implement in an African country, since I had experienced difficulties explaining the idea of a shared kitchen in Sweden already. I couldn’t really imagine how such a place would look like in Zambia, what the market would be and if there are enough entrepreneurs to make use of the place. However, the initial business plan that Daliso shared with me was very much in line with my ideas about what a shared kitchen could be like, including many social aspects. That was the reason I got excited about the project and wanted to learn more. After many phone calls and getting to know each other better, I decided to book a flight to come down and check everything out myself.
We had a very, very warm welcome by Daliso and Violet when we arrived at Lusaka. Daliso had prepared a planning to explore the existing food market in Lusaka, which has been very helpful and interesting so far! We visited the biggest market of the country, Soweto market, to get an idea of the informal food market. This is where all suppliers (farmers) bring their products in the early morning and retailers will then come and buy fruits, vegetables and other products, to sell at other places in the city. It is basically a wholesale place, but slightly different compared to the very well organised wholesalers as we know in Europe…
It was great to see what people sell and make at the market, one of the things I liked the most was the peanut butter they make right at the market! They just have the peanuts, they roast them and put them in a simple designed machine that transforms it into a very smooth and delicious peanut butter without any additional ingredients! Another funny finding is the fact that many people all sell the same products. It is quite easy to be innovative in this country… just by offering a different product or slightly change an existing product by adding an ingredient or putting it in a new package. I’m surprised by how many commercial opportunities there are in here in Zambia and that the urban area is so much more developed than I expected it to be. We also had a few meetings with local food entrepreneurs to learn more about how they work at the moment and what their challenges are. This to explore whether they would be interested in using a shared kitchen space here in Lusaka.
But what is a shared commercial kitchen space? The concept comes from the United States, where there are over 300 already. The idea is simple: facilitate a fully equipped kitchen to food entrepreneurs, who face problems with production, growth of the business or lack enough money to invest in their own place or people who even just test their product. The shared kitchen would be a solution, since they can rent a kitchen space for the time they need and they can make use of the equipment that is available in the kitchen. Additionally, the place is certified and meets all rules and regulations regarding food safety, so the products are allowed to be sold in supermarkets for example. This is not possible when you prepare food in your own kitchen, what many people do right now.
By renting the kitchen space, entrepreneurs don’t have to make a large investment themselves and they receive support in marketing, finding sales channels and getting the product to the market. A great business model in the sharing economy and it makes it possible to support smaller entrepreneurs who cannot invest in everything themselves or who have difficulties finding the market. I think this is very cool to implement this in a developing country like Zambia, where it is even harder for entrepreneurs to start or grow their business. Now it's time to explore the viability of the idea and see if this could work!
Further market research and talks with local entrepreneurs will be continued the coming days, so another update about what I’m doing these days will follow soon!