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Young Kenyan Woman’s Big Break into Specialty Tea Export

MARKUP has supported two enterprising young women to realise their dream of breaking into the international market for specialty organic tea.
Caroline Chepkemboi and Collins K. Sainna are founders of Eldo Tea Enterprises Limited, a social enterprise working with a community of smallholder farmers in Kenya’s Nandi County and specializing in specialty tea and herbs. The company was launched in December 2016 and offers premium organic, 100% natural healthy teas and dried herbs.
‘We started off as a social enterprise company and wanted to partner with small-holder tea farmers. We hope to reach more than 1000 women,’ Caroline Chepkemboi explained. Caroline knew that getting onto the export ladder was key to the success of their company and the livelihoods of the smallholder farmers they work with.
‘At first it was difficult to export to countries like India. Their customs regulations did not even allow for tea samples at the point of entry making it difficult for us to reach retailers,’ said Caroline. ‘Accessing finance for expansion was also a major challenge to us.’
Their interaction with MARKUP began in 2019. Through ITC, representatives from the enterprise were trained in access to finance, export market access and quality control. Eldo Tea received practical support and expertise to effectively participate in selected trade fairs. The company was also supported to develop an international brand and packaging that meets world class standards.
Today, Edo Tea products are entirely for export. ‘We have transacted in Australia, Canada, USA, Taiwan, and India among others.’
Eldo Tea moved from plastic containers to tins and has developed a branding manual and bankable business plans. After training in access to finance, the company presented a proposal to Kenya Development Corporation (KDC) for funding. Through MARKUP trainings and networking, the company has built strong business partnerships with logistics and shipping firms.
‘We value and appreciate the support of MARKUP so much, because through their partnership and support, the Eldo Tea brand has grown its roots steadily in the international space with presence in major tea markets,’ Chepkemboi explained.
The company is now venturing into farming of spices and Rosemary farming. Its teas are blended with natural, organically produced dried herbs from local owned farms and women-owned enterprises.
‘Going into spices will grant us room to expand. Rosemary will be an alternative to tea farming. It’s an herb that has high yields,’ she added.