Two Ugandan Women Win the Feed the Future Growing Women’s Entrepreneurship Award
We are proud to announce that Linnet Akol of Krystal Ice and Sylvia Natukunda of Farm Reap are the recipients of the Feed the Future Growing Women’s Entrepreneurship (GroWE) award through the Feed the Future Partnering for Innovation program.
The two women entrepreneurs based in Kampala, Uganda, are transforming their business visions into reality: fruit popsicles for Linnet and yogurt for Sylvia. The GroWE award recognizes their promising business ventures and positive impact on the smallholder farmers they source from.
As winners of the award, Linnet and Sylvia will have the opportunity to design and receive a suite of business support services they identify as most valuable for taking their companies to the next level. Local service providers knowledgeable on the entrepreneurs’ respective markets will deliver these tailored services, such as conducting market assessments and developing marketing and distribution strategies.
In Every Challenge There Lies Opportunity
The GroWE award aims to address the challenges faced by women-owned or operated businesses in emerging markets and help accelerate their growth. While women lead approximately one-third of small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in emerging markets, they remain disproportionately underserved and often face less favorable terms for financing and limited access to markets, market information, and digital technology.
Meet Linnet and Her Business: Krystal Ice
For Linnet, assistance with logistics, distribution, and marketing is at the top of her list. When she started Krystal Ice in 2018, she set out to produce a healthy alternative to ice cream and sugary popsicles that children (and adults) could enjoy on hot days. She believes that her business “should not just be about me — it should benefit the whole community.”
Unable to secure a loan from a bank, she started operations using incubation funding, a loan from her women’s saving group, and knowledge drawn from previous experience in the commercial ice industry. Two years later, she now produces six flavors of popsicles — mango, apple, orange, mixed fruit, pineapple, and watermelon — all of which are made from real fruit sourced from a cooperative of smallholder farmers as well as from local fruit aggregators that source from cooperatives and individual farmers. However, the lack of cold storage and transportation hampers her production capacity.
With the GroWE award, she aims to address her distribution challenges and rebrand her product to emphasize its healthy attributes as well as to differentiate it from other frozen products currently on the market. Looking forward, Linnet aims “to help the whole ecosystem. It shouldn’t just be about me; it should benefit the whole community.”
Meet Sylvia and Her Business: Farm Reap
Sylvia is also keen to focus part of her GroWE support services to grow her yogurt business and overcome market positioning and product branding challenges that prevent Farm Reap from expanding. She hopes these customized services will launch Farm Reap into new markets such as schools and supermarkets. “I can produce and produce, but if the product is not being bought, the company isn’t going anywhere,” she says.
And that would certainly be unfortunate, given the steady success Farm Reap has achieved since its inception in 2014. The company’s five flavors of yogurt — chocolate, strawberry, mango, vanilla, and plain — are currently offered in a variety of sizes at nearly 100 locations across Kampala. Sylvia used funds from a small grant and her own savings to found Farm Reap, drawing upon her previous work experience at an agribusiness advisory company. During the last six years, she has increased her production staff to five and works with a commission-based sales team. Sylvia was interested in starting a business that would make a positive contribution to her community. “If you have resources, you should think of the things you can do for your community,” she says.
Their Impact as Entrepreneurs
Sylvia and Linnet share a motivation to create products that can drive growth in their communities. Sylvia also sources her raw product from smallholder farmers, procuring 100 percent of Farm Reap’s milk from smallholder-supplied milk collection centers located across the region. Both women aspire to source their raw materials directly from smallholder farmers and to create jobs in their communities.
Surprisingly, the similarities between them don’t stop there. After being introduced through the GroWE award process, Linnet and Sylvia realized that, years ago, they attended the same secondary school in Kampala. In a twist of fate, their paths have crossed once again — this time as women entrepreneurs with a vision and a plan to grow their businesses and support smallholder farmers and food security in Uganda.