Defying the odds, Zimbabwe man goes from prison camp to food company founder

Abu Mubarik November 08, 2023
Lesly Marange, founder and CEO of Glytime Foods. Photo credit: How we made it in africa

Lesly Marange, 34, is the founder and CEO of Zimbabwe-based Glytime Foods, a healthy food company with over 40 employees. Marange had to overcome several challenges to build Glytime, which is now one of the thriving companies in the southern African country.

One of his first challenges was combining his project with being a new father. He had welcomed his first child just at the onset of his business. As if that was not enough, he had also enrolled in an MBA program.

“I had an obligation to pay fees. I had an obligation to fund the family, [and] I had an obligation to run a business,” he told How We Made It In Africa. “When I reflect on it now, I actually ask myself, ‘What was I thinking’, but, you know, passion sometimes drives you to do crazy things,” he said.

Aside from the micro-level challenge he faced, he was also confronted with macroeconomic challenges. Zimbabwe’s soaring inflation and exchange rate depreciation were other hurdles he had to overcome for his business to stay afloat. Inflation eroded most of his profit. At a point, he got orders worth $20,000 but had no funds to purchase the needed raw materials.

However, he overcame this challenge after discovering a purchase mechanism where businesses receive funds to fulfill existing orders. He got $20,000 of this financing from Old Mutual Finance. This was after his uncle offered his property as collateral. 

“It was a risky move, but he agreed to it,” the Glytime CEO explained. The interest rate of the loan was high, and Glytime had to pay back the entire amount within three months. “I had no option … I just had to stay in the game.”

According to him, he lost $5,500 of the money he got after he had given the $5,500 to an acquaintance to exchange for local currency, leaving him with just $14,500.

“I convened my team and said, ‘You know what, we’ve been given money by the bank, and of that money we already lost US$5,500 and this money has to be repaid within three months … the only way we can manage this is to make sure that we work very hard to … keep this business alive.”

However, within three months, he was able to turn the US$14,500 into US$37,500. He subsequently paid off the loan he took plus interest, all amounting to $26,000. He reinvested the remaining amount in his project.

But during the COVID-19 pandemic, more of his products lingered on shelves. Meanwhile, Glytime’s preservative-free granola had a shelf life of just four months. This brought problems to his business in 2021. Thankfully, by April 2022, he reformulated the granola to have a longer shelf life, and as consumers started grabbing his products, he expanded his company’s production capacity.

Marange’s success in the food business isn’t surprising. Growing up in a prison camp, he loved cooking. His father served as a prison officer, while his mother was a school teacher. He studied food science at Chinhoyi University of Technology and got inspired by the success stories of big food enterprises like Kellogg’s and Nestlé to start his own food company.

Before Glytime Foods, he started a small business in his backyard, making roasted maize. He subsequently became the product development manager of a sugar factory but quit that job in 2018 to start Glytime.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: November 8, 2023


Must Read

Connect with us

Join our Mailing List to Receive Updates