How this Senegalese entrepreneur grew her luxury tea brand with only $200

Adja Sembene Fall, a Senegalese entrepreneur, emerged victorious in the AgriPitch competition sponsored by the African Development Bank in January 2022.

With just $200 at the start of her business, the 29-year-old CEO of the luxury tea brand Contanna had to establish her company online owing to financial constraints.

She told the African Development Bank, “Due to [lack of] finance, it was not possible to get a physical shop. We started out in the backyard of my brother’s house. We sold our teas via social media for three years.”

Her tea company delivers a “Senegalese experience” while marketing a women-owned, locally sourced, processed product with roots in family and cultural traditions.

Having seen the impact of the digital space on her career, Fall said, “Digitizing our buying process was really important. We [were] also able to present and adjust packaging of our product online, [to emphasize] it was premium and different from what was available in Senegal.”

Contanna’s creative strategy, the Bank stated, produced remarkable online revenues, which increased from $5,000 in the first year to $12,000, in addition to a devoted following of over 2,000 clients.

She also opened a pop-up stall at Dakar’s Sea Plaza shopping mall. Her business however received a boost after winning the AgriPitch competition women-owned business category held by the African Development Bank two years ago. The initiative, part of the Bank’s ENABLE Youth Program, drew 750 entries from agripreneurs in 38 African countries.

Following a rigorous screening procedure, 25 semi-finalists, 68% of whom were women-led businesses, were picked for a thorough virtual boot camp. Through this intensive program, they refined their abilities and business sense, readying them for a pitch competition in which nine finalists were at last chosen.

Fall’s pitch won the judges over. “I was pitching in front of my shop, where customers were passing by. They were so encouraging when they discovered that [my business] is a 100% Senegalese company and especially that the founder was a woman,” she recounted.

The entrepreneur was awarded $2,500 in prize money after her presentation, which she intends to use to improve Contanna’s digital payment system and give her staff—all of whom are women—computers and training in digital skills.

Dollita Okine

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