The Best Small Companies of 2018

The list celebrates 6 standout businesses that favour greatness over growth: a garri maker who exports her product across Africa, an entrepreneur who is breeding billions of flies on a farm to mate, lay eggs and produce maggots.

The businesses are all privately owned, profitable, at least five years old and were selected based on factors including community involvement and industry excellence.

Romal Shah, Safari Lounge Tea (Kenya)

Kenyan entrepreneur Romal Shah returned home to Kenya in 2007 wondering what he could do. Not one to give up easily, Shah decided to shift his focus to tea where he noticed a gap in the market. In a report he stated that hotels were getting “sweepings off the floor” and not the best quality tea. “Good quality coffee and tea gets exported.

“We are left with mediocre level coffee. There are a lot of four star and five star hotels in Kenya and they want orthodox tea, which is higher-end tea.” Romal Shah made contacts in the tea industry and created his own Kenyan brand ‘Safari Lounge’ and is today selling his tea to several hotel chains in Kenya.


Jason Drew, AgriProtein (South Africa)

In South Africa, this young business is doing the unthinkable. AgriProtein, owned by Jason Drew, is breeding billions flies on a farm to mate, lay eggs and produce maggots. Yes, maggots, those horrible looking creatures that are likely to make you want to vomit. These maggots are fed on organic waste material producing a nutrient-rich fertilizer in the process before being harvested and dried into a natural and sustainable animal feed.

Agriprotein’s maggot-based animal feed is more than 15 percent cheaper than other alternatives and has been proven to be highly nutrition for livestock, especially chickens (poultry), fish and pigs. The company recently attracted more than $10 million in capital to build more fly farms in South Africa.


Faustina Sakyi, Cassava Village Enterprise (Ghana)

Faustina Sakyi is a successful cassava farmer and garri producer in Ghana who was recently featured by the UN agency, IFAD.

Although she came from a very poor family of cassava producers, using her entrepreneurial talents and inner drive to get out of poverty, she started a successful village-based business with 36 women farmers. From her small cassava farm in a remote village, she has today grown a successful cassava processing business that sells garri beyond her country’s borders to Mali, Niger, Togo and Nigeria.


Anna Phosa, Pig Farming (South Africa)

In 2004, Anna Phosa started her pig farm venture in Soweto with just about $100 in hand. She bought four pigs with that money after she was introduced to pig farming by a close friend. A little less than four years later, Anna was contracted by Pick ‘n Pay, the South African supermarket and retail giant, to supply its stores with 10 pigs per week. Not long after, the request grew to 20 pigs until Anna had a huge breakthrough in 2010: They wanted 100 pigs per week!

In 2008, Anna signed a breath-taking contract with Pick ‘n Pay to supply 100 pigs per week over the next five years under a 25 million Rand deal — and if you live outside South Africa you may want to know that this is nearly 2.5 million US dollars!

Anna did not have the land or the pigs, but with a contract in hand she received funding from ABSA Bank and USAID to buy a 350 hectare farm property with 4,000 animals at a time, employing about 20 staff. Truly inspiring!


Senai Wolderufael, Feed Green Ethiopia Exports (Ethiopia)

In 2012, Senai Wolderufael started Feed Green Ethiopia Exports Company. Now 27 years old, his company produces and exports popular Ethiopian spice blends to satisfy the needs of his countrymen living abroad, especially in the United States and Europe. Fortunately, his spice blends have become quite popular with a growing number of non-Ethiopians within Africa and abroad. His company’s top selling spice blends are Shiro, Mitmita, Korarima and Berbere. All of these are mixtures of common spices like peppers, ginger and several other local herbs and spices.

A graduate from the University of Addis Ababa, Senai’s entrepreneurial success has caught the world’s attention. In February 2014, Senai, along with 29 other African entrepreneurs, was listed by Forbes Magazine as one of the 30 Most Promising Young Entrepreneurs in Africa 2014.


Claudio Scotto, Africa Felix Juice (Sierra Leone)

Africa Felix Juice is a Sierra Leone-based company that produces juice concentrates from mangoes farmed and harvested across that country. Founded by Claudio Scotto, the company buys mangoes from more than 1,000 small farmers in Sierra Leone for $250 to $300 per tree harvest, which is much higher than the $15 these farmers would have received if they sold the same fruits on the local market.

Africa Felix Juice collects these mangoes and takes them to its processing facility where they are processed (sorted, washed and crushed) into juice concentrates, the main ingredient for making fruit juices. By buying fruits from small farmers, the company is creating value from millions of mangoes that otherwise rot away and go to waste every year. The mango juice concentrates produced by Africa Felix Juice are mainly exported to Europe.

Those concentrates are the first major export from Sierra Leone since it came out from a devastating civil war nearly ten years ago.