A graduate who ekes out a living selling fruit juice

Sunday August 12 2018

Natalia blends juice at her Zanana juice bar in

Natalia blends juice at her Zanana juice bar in Kawe, Dar es Salaam. She receives up to 500 take away orders per week. PHOTOI ESTHER KIBAKAYA. 

By Esther Kibakaya

Landing a job of their dreams is the wish of many graduates soon after they complete studies. But with unemployment on the rise, many are left jobless while some opt for self-employment.

While many are forced into self- employment because of scarcity of jobs, the case was different for Natalia Hassan,26, a Bachelor of Insurance and Risk Management degree holder who graduated from the Institute of Finance Management in 2015.

For her, following the self-employment path was a dream come true. Natalia always had a passion for doing business and so she did not bother to look for a job when she finished college. Today that passion and courage has seen her become one of the few young women who own successful business establishments in town.

Natalia owns Zanana juice bar in Kawe, Dar es Salaam which serves a variety of freshly squeezed fruit juices. She also supplies juice in various areas in the city. She receives up to 500 take away orders per week.

Natalia says while she was still in college, the idea of being employed after completing her education never crossed her mind let alone finding a field attachment during the holidays.

“I have never worked in anyone’s office. Neither have I been on field attachment as a student,” she shares.

As other students were busy looking for field attachments in different companies, Natalia was busy doing business. “I am that kind of a person who loves to think of new ideas to make money. I remember when I was in Standard Two, my friend and I used to sell baobab seeds (Ubuyu) on their house veranda and used the money we earned during study tours.”

So when she was in College, Natalia used to ponder a lot on what to do to earn money but whatever came to her mind required a lot of capital, which she could not afford at the time.

She believes God has his own ways of answering people’s prayers. Whenever they had guests at home, Natalia would make them fruit juices which the guests could not stop praising her for.

“Whenever I offered them a glass of juice they would always comment on how tasty it was. I used to live in Sinza A and there was a building under construction in the neighbourhood. I thought it would be a good idea if I sold juice at the construction site.

A Sh5,000 capital

I shared the idea with my relatives, who did not take it seriously. This kind of discouraged me and so I did not work on it for some months. One day, I just decided to give it a try regardless of what others said or thought.

Armed with only Sh 5,000, Natalia set off to Tandale market to buy fruits. “From the fruits I bought I was able to make six and a half litres of juice. I kept the juice in the fridge and the following day, my cousin and I left home at lunch time for the construction site to sell our juice,” explains Natalia.

Natalia was shocked by the construction workers’ reaction. They did not believe Natalia and her cousin were selling juice.

“They were surprised to see us carrying gallons of juice for sale. We did not appear like people who were selling juice because of how we were dressed,” recalls Natalia, bursting into laughter.

Natalia and her cousin would dress for business, unlike your ordinary juice vendors. This raised a lot of questions as people tried to understand why the beautiful young girls had chosen to sell fruit juice. People also wanted to know if they were going to school and all that. However, they bought the juice and enjoyed it. They even ordered for more the next day, says Natalia.

And that was the beginning of Natalia’s dream coming true. She sold a whole gallon of juice on her first day and this motivated her to increase production.

“My target was just one construction site but on our way back home, we got more customers.”

This encouraged Natalia and her cousin to target more customers apart from construction workers. They sought customers from shops, garages and elsewhere. And as the number of clients increased, Natalia reduced the price of her juice from Sh1,000 a glass to Sh600. They would walk from Sinza ‘A’ and around Mlimani city up to Sinza Mori.

Serving two masters

Since she was doing the business while she was still in college, Natalia found it a bit difficult balancing business and studies. She concentrated more on her business and attended classes rarely, raising suspicion among her colleagues.

“Most students thought I was partying a lot and that is why my attendance in class was poor. But I knew what I was up to,” she says.

Natalia used to pay the price during exams because she never did proper preparations.

“I used to panic a lot during exams but in the end I would tell God that he knew I was not doing something bad. I would pray hard asking God to help me out and he surprisingly did. And here I am, a degree holder,” she says, her face beaming with pride.

Her business grew with time reaching a point where she would sell over 60 litres of juice per day.

As is with any other business, Natalia faced challenges in her flourishing business. People’s mentality that smart girls cannot walk around selling juice was challenge number one.

“Some men thought we were very poor and so they would ask us to stop walking in the sun promising to take care of us. Or someone would ask how many gallons of juice we had so he would buy all of it for us to have time to sit down with him for a chat. But because we meant business, we ignored all these insults.”

Over time, Natalia thought of expanding her business by getting a place from where she could be selling her juice. “I wanted to do it more professionally but I was scared I might not be able to do it. However, my brothers encouraged me a lot. As I pondered on this, I luckily received an order to deliver 15 litres of juice at Triple Seven bar and restaurant in Kawe daily, which was a big boost to my business,” says Natalia.

This, she says was a good start and with time the owner of the place agreed to rent her a place where she could be selling her juice from. That time, Natalia says she didn’t have money for rent but she just accepted the offer because she knew that was what she wanted to do. And this is how her Zanana juice bar was born.

Natalia believes that everything is possible if one has a passion for it. All one needs is just putting all their heart into it.

“You should never feel ashamed of what you are doing. I also believe that everyone has ideas, what you need is to work hard on your ideas,” she says.

Her ambition is to see her business grow into one of the best brands in the country and across Africa. “When I look at Zanana I see it as a child who is growing up. I want my brand to be like technology which is growing every day. I want to see my business moving fast,” she concludes.