Failing twice to run a business did not deter Paul Nyambe from giving it another try.
Unsatisfied with his full-time job, Nyambe decided to go into his own business where he thought he would make a difference for himself and his family.
But he got a harsh baptism. After his venture of supplying and installing solar energy products failed, he tried fish, but that business wasn’t successful either.
He went back to being employed and worked as a salesman for a Tanzanian food company in Lusaka.
Armed with the lessons learnt and pain of failure, Nyambe was still determined to try to run his own business. So, in 2012, he turned to goats.
Having grown up on a smallholding in the south of Zambia, he remembered his parents keeping goats not for economic reasons, but for prestige.
“I realised there was demand for goat meat in Lusaka. I started with one goat. I would use the facilities at my friend’s butchery to package the meat which I supplied to a few retail shops,” he recalled.
One goat led to another and today Nyambe, 34, is chief executive of Zamgoat Products, Zambia’s first commercial-scale aggregator, processor and distributor of goat meat and related products.
Nyambe supplies more than 100 retail outlets in Lusaka and works directly with about 300 livestock farmers in districts neighbouring the capital, who supply him with goats weekly.
“We have organised the farmers into supplier groups. By buying goats from them, we are empowering them to get out of poverty. We are also helping to modernise the trade in goat meat.”
In most places in Zambia, goat meat is traded in open-air markets and that was what Nyambe says he set out to change.
“People used to laugh at us. When we opened our butchery they would ask us, so you guys will be selling goat meat in a shop?” he says.
“For me it was about identifying an opportunity. I noticed that people liked goat meat but the fact that it was cut roughly with axes and sold in unhygienic places discouraged them. So we are happy that we have revolutionised the business and people can walk into a shop and buy their meat.”
Nyambe says the demand Zamgoat has created has outgrown its capacity and the business is now looking to expand its operations.
It is exploring various recapitalisation models to enable the firm to establish a bigger abattoir, processing and packaging equipment, and acquire more delivery vans.
“We are in a growth mood, but we are also careful that while we grow the business, we don’t burn our fingers,” he says.
Nyambe is also founder of the Youth Entrepreneurs Network of Zambia (YENZ), a business association and entrepreneur support network designed to be a collaborative platform for the promotion and facilitation of sustainable youth enterprise development.
His fighting spirit and passion for business has not gone unnoticed and has opened more doors.
In April last year, he was selected to be among only seven out of 170 applicants globally to take part in the sixth edition of the Fledge Company Accelerator Programme at the Impact Hub in Seattle.
Fledge is a business incubator/accelerator which focuses on “conscious companies” – companies targeting the unmet needs of the community.
Also last year, Nyambe was selected to take part in the inaugural class of 1 000 African entrepreneurs by the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme (TEEP), an entrepreneurship training and funding programme designed to equip emerging African entrepreneurs as champions for the continent’s economic prosperity.
“Both Fledge and TEEP were life-changing mentorship programmes, and meeting Tony Elumelu himself was very inspiring,” Nyambe says.
Looking back, he is proud he did not give up on his entrepreneurship journey despite a bumpy start.
“If I had given up, I would not have accessed the two training opportunities in Seattle and Lagos where I got financial support and more knowledge that has helped me run the business better.”
Nyambe has advice for existing and would-be entrepreneurs.
“First, with the fish business, I started with a wrong business model by giving out goods on credit, and that had an impact on my liquidity. So make sure you pick the right model,” he says.
“Second, there are no fixed codes in entrepreneurship. You must be ready to adjust to situations as they arise. Third, if you are going into partnership, pick the right partner; not everyone’s an entrepreneur.”