It doesn’t take rocket science or a degree in culinary studies for one to understand, taste and feel the difference that using freshly picked vegetables and herbs brings to a meal. It is for this reason that our grandmothers and mothers (especially those of us who grew in the rural areas) almost always had a cherished kitchen garden in the backyard and if not, they’d make faithful trips to the local market to source for the best produce.
If we had it our way; we’d probably uphold tradition and follow in these very steps. But think about Nairobi and its hustle; you can hardly find time in between working hours and getting stuck in traffic. In the event that you actually manage to free up some time, the thought of having to wade through mud and a sea of people in the not so clean local markets are enough to convince you otherwise.
But what if someone could save you all this trouble by conveniently bringing top-notch farm produce to your doorstep? Exciting, right?
Mboga Concierge was formed on the premise of this need.
I met up with the founder, Suzzi Helfer, a very charming and exuberant lady with whom we had a lengthy chat in a bid to demystify this innovative concept that’s revolutionizing the mama mboga business.
What was the inspiration behind Mboga Concierge?
I’ve lived in Nanyuki and Nyeri where I’ve always had fresh vegetables in my garden and access to other farms and Farmer’s Markets for the stuff I didn’t have. Whenever my sisters would come to visit from Nairobi, they’d raid the shamba and carry as much fresh veggies as they could. Sometimes I’d have to visit the local market to shop ahead of time just to make sure they went back with fresh supplies. So recently, when I moved to Tigoni and I hadn’t set up my veggie garden yet, I was forced to buy produce from different places. It was very frustrating; I was spending a lot of money on very little produce whose quality was not exactly the best. I’m a big fan of big-leafed spinach and sukuma wiki and fresh, crunchy carrots. Sometimes I wouldn’t find these, and it was very disappointing. This led me to start my own small garden. Again, *chuckles*, the sisters wanted veggies from the garden like they were used to in my old place.
I decided to venture into the Limuru Market on one market day, and I discovered that there were vendors bringing in very fresh, beautiful produce from Kinangop and Molo at very affordable prices. I’d buy these in bulk and send some to my sisters. They encouraged me to make something out of this. At first, I was reluctant, so I dilly-dallied a bit. But then I was getting bored in my house, and I figured, why not?
One morning I woke up and decided to finally follow through with the idea. I called my sister Naomi, (She’s actually the one who suggested the Mboga Concierge name) and told her I wanted to start a mama mboga business of some sort for door-to-door delivery of veggies. She thought it was brilliant and told me to run with it. That was around April-May this year. It was cold, rainy and muddy. People don’t usually like going to the market in that kind of weather. What if I did it on their behalf? I enjoyed going to the market anyway. Why not? I posted about it on my personal Facebook page, and that’s how it all started.
How was the response?
When I first made the Facebook post, I was amazed at the feedback because people actually wanted me to go the market on their behalf. I decided to make it official and put up the Mboga Concierge page. On my first day of delivery, I had three clients; then they doubled on the second day. Suddenly, everyone was recommending me to their friends.
Almost two months down the line, the numbers have grown immensely. I am still overwhelmed by how fast it has picked up.
So how does the Mama Concierge model work?
It’s very simple really. I take orders twice a week and make deliveries on Wednesdays and Saturdays. The Facebook page has a long list of all the produce that’s available alongside with the prices to give someone a general guideline of how much they’d like to spend. Once you’ve figured out all the stuff you need, you can send me the shopping list via inbox or Whatsapp and then we can agree on your desired drop-off point. I charge a flat rate of Ksh. 400 bob for all areas within my delivery radius.
Mboga Concierge operates on the principle of mutual-trust hence our Cash-on-Delivery model. I trust that you will pay for my services because you have trusted me to go to the market and pick out the freshest, healthiest and juiciest produce for your family and have it delivered to your doorstep.
You’ve mentioned a delivery radius…
Yes, right now I am delivering to the CBD, Waiyaki Way, Ngong Road, Langata, Karen, South B & C and up to Kasarani on Thika road. However, if a client doesn’t come from any of the delivery zones, they have the option of either topping up on the delivery fees or meeting me halfway.
What’s a typical day like in your shoes?
I have to be up by as early as 3:30 am, or 4 am on shopping days so that I can reach the market in time to get the best produce. After that, I have to do all the cleaning and packaging for the different clients in addition to running my other chores. On the delivery days, I have to wake up early to prep everything in readiness for the start of deliveries at 9 am. I get back to the house at around 5-30pm extremely exhausted. The other days in between are set aside for doing personal stuff.
Have there been any challenges so far?
Yes! Having to wake up early six days a week is a real struggle. Also, we’re still very new and currently, it’s just my driver and I who are running everything. The driver isn’t very conversant with Nairobi routes, so I have to do both the shopping and accompany him when dropping off the deliveries. At first, it was extremely draining, but I’ve come to enjoy it because it builds a personal relationship with the clients.
There’s also the challenge of locating small, young farmers from whom to source produce. Being a small business, I’d prefer to buy from small-scale farmers so that as I grow, they can also grow. It makes more sense for me to support these farmers rather than the large-scale ones who’ve already made it.
The other difficulty is constantly having to update the price list because fresh produce market prices keep fluctuating after every other week. I have to factor in these fluctuations, whether up or down, and adjust them accordingly to reflect in the commodity prices.
What does the future hold for Mboga Concierge?
I plan on doing three delivery days instead two because of the increased demand. I also plan on expanding my farm so as to be able to produce more food and especially the rare veggies and herbs. I intend to sustain the one-on-one kind of relationship with my clients even as we expand.
Supporting local farmers is one of my main goals, and I will definitely continue to do that as I grow into a proudly Kenyan brand. Lastly, I plan on incorporating my love for baking and probably start a “bakery concierge” as well in the future.
Any last words?
When are you ordering?
PS//: To place orders, head over to the Mboga Concierge page on Facebook or call 0712 013 783