Most families with luxurious lawns and compounds often treat hibiscus trees as decorative plants. However, for Regina Nakyenga, the shrub which sometimes grows into a small tree is a story of its own.
In 2009 during the onset of her menopause, she developed hot flashes—a hormonal imbalance which often sets in when a woman reaches menopause. It is characterised by excessive heat which comes with sweat. She felt uncomfortable for three months until she approached a woman who told her that boiling the hibiscus leaves and drinking them could solve her problem.
When she tried out the drink with a dry bittersweet flavour like that of a pomegranate, it turned out to be an invaluable medicinal plant.
Today, Nakyenga, the executive director of Rena Beverage Solutions Ltd, produces natural beverages from hibiscus products. They include hibiscus juices, ready to drink hibiscus concentrates, hibiscus tea and hibiscus wine which are packed in pocket friendly packages of 300mls, one litre, three litres and five litres. The hibiscus tea is packed in 100gms and 200gms, sold at Shs5,000 and Shs10,000, respectively.
After listening to people talk about the plant several times, she explored the market and discovered that the Sudanese were buying its powder and tea bags because it is more user friendly than the petals.
Benefits of hibiscus
A quick Internet search reveals that hibiscus is medicinal and it treats heart diseases, high blood pressure and helps control cholesterol levels.
It also indicates that hibiscus helps unclog closed pores. In order to treat acne and sunburn, one has to crush the leaves and flowers of the hibiscus and spread a paste on the face or on the acne affected area and keep it for 15 minutes before washing it off. Hibiscus flower extracts are also used in many herbal ointments in the treatment of eczema and allergic problems.
The plant also treats dandruff and hair loss by mixing coconut and sesame oil to a bunch of hibiscus flowers and leaves and massaging the mixture on the scalp.
For those who fear age catching up with them, the plant also brings good news for you. It promotes hair growth and prevents premature hair greying by stimulating blood circulation and ensuring the supply of essential nutrients to the hair follicles.
According to Nakyenga, the hibiscus plant grows anywhere in Uganda. It is rich in vitamin C and other organic acids.
The birth of Rena Beverages
She explains that the enterprise started in 2009 as she was looking for a retirement project. Her idea was to address the nutritional needs of the working class, an idea she developed while lecturing development courses at Kyambogo University. She observed lecturers going hungry during lunch and most of them were consuming soda which to her was not healthy.
She thought of preparing for them something nutritious and she embarked on making passion fruit concentrates. Along the way, she thought of making something for working mothers who would wish to have their children drink juice but cannot risk allowing the maids to prepare it.
With an initial capital of Shs50,000, she bought containers and the sugar. She started off with pineapples and passion fruits and when they picked up, she also started making hibiscus wine packaged in 2kgs of the powder and sugar which came to about Shs50,000.
She explains that to make the wine, she boils water to bubbling stage and soaks the flowers. When it is hot, it can be taken as tea and when cold, it becomes juice.
“We have various artificial preservatives and the plant preservatives. We have preservatives like ascorbic acid and other acids,” she says.
She says her market is vast because she now sells her products among the corporates where she targets especially working people who want to take juice in office, supermarkets, schools as direct consumers and health centres.
“We produce between 1,000 litres and 4,000 litres of the juice because we are still incubates. We make between Shs6 million and Shs10 million a month because we are still a growing company,” she says.
The company employs five people and they have increased working capital, bought equipment for production and the distribution centres have increased because the number of customers has also increased.
Currently, the company grows its own hibiscus and has suppliers from Mukono and Mityana.
The company acquired a hibiscus grinding machine and a small boiler.
However, when they get big orders, they go to Makerere University.
One of her challenges is in packaging which has affected marketing.
Not only does she find difficulty with supermarkets which are unreliable in terms of payments but also employees who don’t meet their targets when they evaluate sales.
She hopes to supply to more than 300 distribution centres in addition to Jinja, Mukono and a new outlet that is soon opening in Gayaza.
aice to others …………
• Her aice to upcoming entrepreneurs is to start small, be persistent and learn to improve. Research is also very important.
• Listen to feedback, and pick what is necessary.
• Use technical know-how and knowledge because there are many things she used to struggle with but when she engaged Makerere University and the Uganda Industrial Research Institute, she overcame them.
• It is important to network for purposes of marketing your products and building contacts.
• When the profits come, keep re-investing them.
5 : Number of people she employs at Rena Beverages.
Shs50,000: Initial capital of the hibiscus beverage business.
4,000 litres : Average production capacity of the company in a month.
Shs10 million : Amount of money she makes in a month.
SOURCE: Daily Monitor