Beninese start-up and CTA Pitch AgriHack winner in 2018, Fenou Packaging, offers 100% biodegradable food packaging through its online sales platform. One year after the awards ceremony in Kigali, Rwanda, how beneficial has CTA’s support been?
In 2016, Sonita Tossou launched Fenou Foods, a company specialised in food processing. The young entrepreneur quickly noticed real enthusiasm among consumers and fellow entrepreneurs, not only for her ‘made in Benin’ products, but also for the carefully-designed packaging. As a result of this interest, in 2017, the company launched a separate initiative, Fenou Packaging, to sell 100% biodegradable packaging. “African agri-food products are of very good quality, but their sometimes unattractive presentation detracts from their competitiveness. We came up with the idea to help local producers and processors find the right packaging for their products”, says Tossou.
The innovative degradable packaging idea earned the start-up second prize in the ‘Platform in early stages’ category and a special prize, offered by Suguba Africa, at the 2018 Pitch AgriHack contest. “It was a great experience”, Tossou recalls, and one that helped her to gain a better understanding of agricultural digital technologies and to meet other young entrepreneurs in the same sector. Tossou particularly appreciated the training workshop on investment preparation, organised with Suguba Africa: “It was extraordinary! We learned a lot: how to draft a business plan, the different financing sources, how to pitch to investors... I have never had access to all this information”, Tossou enthuses. “By undergoing training, I felt as if I had already won Pitch AgriHack.”
Through the competition, Fenou Packaging received a grant of €7,500 grant, which has enabled the start-up to introduce a number of improvements to its online sales platform, but Pitch AgriHack is not only about financial awards. CTA provides sustained support to winning start-ups, including training, mentoring and facilitated access to funding, which Tossou explains is extremely valuable. “CTA didn’t just give us a sum of money, they gave us advice on how to run our company. Everything we worked on with CTA has contributed to the growth of our company.”
Fenou Foods also received CTA support to participate in several international events, such as the World Investment Forum, the Social Good Summit, where it was able to pitch its project to actors for development, and potential investors, Vivatech and AGRF 2019. Thanks to this support, the start-up also won a prize at the Agri Startup Summit, an international summit of agricultural start-ups, held in France. “Every time I take part in such events, I am even more motivated, and have new ideas for my company”, she says.
By opting for digital portal to promote and sell products that meet consumers’ needs, Fenou Foods and Fenou Packaging have conquered the Beninese and wider West African market. The company now delivers in Burkina Faso, Mali, Nigeria and Togo. “And demand is growing!”, Tossou confidently exclaims.