Sabiha: Setbacks shouldn't mean the end of the world

Co-founder and director of Rosho Tanzania Sabiha Rashid. PHOTO | COURTESY

What you need to know:

  • Sabiha’s competence, hard work and faith in God lead her to success

Dar es Salaam. Sabiha Rashid is the co-founder and director of Rosho Tanzania, the first gourmet nut butter and snack company.

They use healthy, ethically sourced, and organic-certified local cashews and other ingredients to offer a wholesomely delicious experience.

Her roles at the company include shaping the direction of the company and overseeing all aspects of the business, but she places a particular emphasis on product development and marketing.

Her leadership journey started in 2019 with a business dream of starting a business with her husband soon after she returned to Tanzania from pursuing her degree in Political Science and International Relations at the University of Birmingham.

She says the plan was to export avocados and cashews from Tanzania to the Middle East.

Everything was set, and the day their first shipment of avocados was in the cold room at the airport, ready for shipment to Dubai, all flights were cancelled due to Covid-19.

She says, they sold a few hundred kilos of the avocados locally but the remaining tonnes of the perishable fruit had to be buried under the ground together with the export-business dreams.

That never killed her dream; instead, they used a bulk amount of cashews, which were also for export and were struggling to sell. She then decided to make cashew butter out of it.

“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Life gave me cashews. I made cashew butter. It started from a home kitchen to a tiny kitchen in Kariakoo then to a slightly bigger space in the city centre of Dar es Salaam, and to now a fully-fledged small-scale factory in the industrial areas of the city,” says Rashid.

Commenting on how her factory is empowering women, she says they only employ women in the factory to make them feel empowered and confident in themselves.

Women are gifted with having more attention to detail, and this is pivotal in ensuring whatever product or service is put out there is delivered to its highest possible standard.

She says each journey has personal sacrifices, and hers was starting the business with just one blender and no employees. Having a supportive partner who pushes her to do her best each day has helped her build her leadership skills.

Adding to that, she says, having more women at the top can be very useful in ensuring their needs and perspectives are considered in decision-making.

However, she is a strong believer that competence is key, and so regardless of gender, the most successful leaders are those who are able to adapt their approach to the situation and the needs of their team.

Commenting on what inspires her in her leadership, she says religion plays a big role in her life and that she believes in looking for the hand of God in whatever challenges and opportunities come her way as a sign for me to give my best while trusting God is taking care of me.

“I am very inspired by Khadijah, the wife of the Holy Prophet of Islam, who was an entrepreneur 1400 years ago during the Dark Ages of Arabia, when women were denied even the basic human right to life. Under these circumstances, she beat all odds to support the Holy Prophet in elevating the status of women whilst also building what we would call today a conglomerate that spanned across Arabia and nearby lands,” says Rashid.

Her leadership style is centred on creating a safe and comfortable work environment where the team feels valued and heard. Her unique perspective as a woman allows her to understand the needs and perspectives of her team members, which helps foster a sense of belonging and teamwork within the company.

She prioritises an open communication and collaboration approach and makes it a point to listen to the team’s ideas and concerns.

This has allowed them to build a strong, supportive community at Rosho and has contributed to the company’s success.

She says the company is currently in the process of finalising two new product lines that will be launched this year.

The company also breaks social norms by producing products that do not negatively impact climate and the environment by carefully selecting organic and wholesome ingredients only

“We want the world to know that Tanzanians are capable of creating products that can compete on international markets. We have proven that by exporting to three countries by our second year in business,” says Rashid.

She says that along the journey they have learnt how under-tapped the cashew industry in Tanzania is.

The harvested raw cashews in Tanzania are mainly exported without any value addition, which means the country loses 93 million USD in income and over 63,000 jobs each year, most of which would have benefited women.

Encouraging women who are starting their careers, she says women should not fixate on aspiring to achieve what men have achieved but to channel their strengths to do what they have been fashioned to do at their best. 

She says it is important for a woman to choose a career path that will allow women to excel while also supporting her to meet the reasonable needs and expectations of those around her.

“Barriers don’t have to be broken to prove a point in competing against men or against other women, but we must strive to do the best we can under our specific and varying circumstances. Self-awareness of one’s own abilities and also one’s responsibilities is key in making decisions when paving your work life right from the start,” she says.