Elamin the Kwenu proprietor making healthy eating a trendy option
Nuba Elamin is the woman behind popular healthy food joint Kwenu Juice & Salad bar found on Kenneth Dale, off Kira Road before the Kira Road Police stattion traffic lights. With a burning need to see people eat better and faith, Elamin opened up her eatery at a time when it was fashionable to eat chips, chicken and burgers.
For years, she hung in there focused on changing one person’s palate at a time until this produced a kind of dominoes effect; these days more people are health conscious and pay attention to what they eat.
I remember one particular time this couple came to my then newly opened eatery. I was excited because that was my grand vision; whole families eating well. The lady placed her order while her partner looked like he was reading a menu written in a foreign language. Failing to make a choice, he decided to order what she had ordered. When the food was delivered, he rummaged through the salad and then in all seriousness called to me and asked when the rest of the meal would be delivered. That is how strange eating salad was for most people two years ago.
I have a passion for building businesses and exploring new ideas. I was inspired to open up Kwenu after noticing the influx of all these fast food giants on the market yet none were providing healthy food options to balance out the equation. I also wanted to create an intimate and homely place where people could meet to share a healthy meal and unwind after a long day. That is why I chose the name Kwenu which means “your home” in Swahili.
Jumping in with both feet
This was a totally new field for me and had to teach myself. Determined to put on the market the best menu possible, I locked myself up in my bedroom for three months doing research. My aim was to create a menu that was full of treats that were healthy and tasted great without adding any preservatives to enhance the taste. I researched on benefits of various fruits and vegetables and what combinations work. I came up with a menu of juices, blended juices and salads. Satisfied with my results, I pulled together capital for buying equipment like blenders, juicers, a fridge, pay rent and do decor for the bar.
This was the most challenging moment of my business life. Everyone I discussed my idea with told me I was crazy. “It is so un-Ugandan to sit in a café and dine on lettuce and kale,” they would tell me.
Taking their observations into consideration I became more innovative offering deliveries to clients as opposed to the client coming to us.
Being a pioneer in any market is such an incredibly risky venture and it taught me a few important life lessons. I have learnt that no matter how much you try to plan, you have to be flexible because things change. When we opened, our menu had only juice and smoothies then we added a green salad and then realizing that Ugandans love their meat we had to look for health versions of the meats. We have morphed and grown from listening to our customers and providing the healthiest version of their favourite meals.
I have learnt the importance of proper costing and pricing. People do not like to feel cheated; that is why Kwenu serves very generous portions of very high quality food at extremely low prices. However, at the end of the day you have to earn a profit so do not compromise yourself, do what makes business sense.
Currently, Kwenu changes its menu every six months to give our clients variety; however our most popular products remain the green juice toxin flush, the chicken salad and the beef salad.
Business at a glance
Kwenu does on average 45 deliveries daily, has a few walk-ins and regular clients that come in every few days a week to pick up fruits and salad. Have a grab and go at Kurb Cafe, Bukoto, just opposite Acacia Mall.
What I am most happy about
Before we started I thought that most our clients would be expatriates but surprisingly almost 90 per cent of our clients are Ugandans. This is such a big achievement because at Kwenu our aim is to encourage people to create healthy eating habits. It is also a pleasure for me to give other young people a stable source of income.
Start now to live better in the future
We keep telling ourselves to create healthy habits. This should be more than just a crazy diet that makes you lose weight for a moment. We like short time solutions for long-lasting results but this is not possible. If you consistently eat healthy, your palate changes with time and eventually you will find that you have an 80 percent healthy diet.