Timothy Munthali, Founder & Managing Director of Tawonga Cooking Oil Processing

Jun 12, 2024
Timothy Munthali, Founder & Managing Director of Tawonga Cooking Oil Processing

Please tell us your name, where your business is located and what is it that you do?

Timothy Munthali, runs Tawonga, a company situated in the Northern Region of Malawi, specifically in the Mzimba district, within the Embangweni community. Their business focuses on processing groundnuts, sunflower, and soybean seeds into cooking oil. Their product line includes refined and unrefined cooking oil, animal feed, and laundry soap. Additionally, they offer services such as training in cooking oil manufacturing, entrepreneurship development, sustainable agriculture, afforestation, reforestation, and agroforestry.

Tell us about how you got started.

In 2018, we conducted a market research in Mzimba district and found that the communities of Mzimba district were comprised of numerous small-scale women and youth farmers cultivating sunflower, soybean, and groundnuts. However, these farmers lacked a proper market for their products. To address this issue, we secured contracts with three institutions and raised about $10,000 through personal savings and relative contributions to establish our operations. We purchased a cooking oil extraction/expeller, filter, and refinery to produce cooking oil, animal feeds, and laundry soap. This setup has enabled us to create a market for the small-scale women and youth farmers and has created employment opportunities for ourselves. Initially, we established Tawonga Cooking Oil Processing Enterprise as a partnership and began by establishing a quota contract with 330 small-scale women and youth farmers, who collectively produced an average of 1,300 liters of cooking oil per month. Currently, we have contracted 11,345 small-scale women and youth farmers.

What makes your company unique?

Our products, particularly our cooking oil, are renowned for their distinct structure and aroma, which is a favorite among Malawians. Additionally, our cooking oil is characterized by low cholesterol levels. We cater to our customers' preferences by offering cooking oil and animal feeds in various sizes, tailoredto fit their financial capabilities. 

No business is without setbacks, can you tell us about a time when you faced a significant setback and how you recovered from it?

In 2019, our business faced significant losses following the outbreak of COVID-19. However, we were able to recover by adapting to online sales, successfully selling our products through digital platforms. In 2023, we faced challenges due to widespread droughts and floods in many areas, which severely impacted the availability of sunflower, soybean, and groundnut seeds. To mitigate these effects, we implemented smart irrigation systems, enabling us to maintain a steady supply of raw materials and continue our operations.

How do you define success and to what do you attribute your success?

Tomy understanding, success means setting a clear direction for myself and working diligently towards that goal, guided by my team. It is about reaching the finish line and savoring the journey. Success is about making progress, learning from mistakes, and ultimately feeling a sense of pride and accomplishment in what we have achieved. We attribute our success to the lessons we learned from our mistakes and our ability to move forward.

What's next for your business, what will it look like in 5 years?

I aim to expand our operations to all eight districts within the next five years, generating sales revenue exceeding $250,000. Additionally, I envision working closely with 50,000 small-scale women and youth farmers. Furthermore, I aspire to reduce the importation of cooking oil by 20%, promoting local production and supporting the growth of our domestic agricultural sector.

What do you think the future holds for Africa-focused entrepreneurs and advice do you have for entrepreneurs who are just starting out?

I believe that one significant factor contributing to the continent's growth is pure demographics. Africa boasts the youngest population globally, with 70% of sub-Saharan Africa comprising individuals under the age of 30. The continent's population is projectedto double to 2.5 billion by 2050, adding 800 million people to the workforce. If we provide these individuals with the necessary training and resources in entrepreneurship, we will be able to rapidly develop the African continent across various sectors, including social, economic, environmental, political, and technological.

Owning a business while balancing a personal life can be challenging; how do you take care of yourself?

I usually set boundaries between my work and personal life to avoid burnout andstress. This is achieved by practicing self-care, delegating tasks, and seeking support from fellow entrepreneurs and business mentors. In addition, making the most of my free time, practicing mindfulness, and building a supportive network helps me maintain a healthy balance between work and personal life.

What is your favorite quote or mantra?  What keeps you going?

My favouritte mantra is “never give up. Today is hard and tomorrow will be worse, but the day after tomorrow will be Sunshine.” and “If youdon't drive your business, you will be driven out of business.”  

What is your favorite app or a business tool that you can't live without

I use Sage Accounting and Microsoft Excel


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