Young businessman Ashlee Nyathi has made a name in an industry that most of his peers would not venture into.
Selling kapenta might be taken as trade for old market ladies, but the 23-year-old entrepreneur has grown the business to international level.
He started the business when he was 19 and many young man of his age wondered why he had taken a route that is considered a trade for the poor.
In Zimbabwe, kapenta is largely considered as relish for poor families and Nyathi, who attended upmarket schools, surprised his friends with an idea that seemed foreign to their communities.
But the young businessman now supplies markets in South Africa, Botswana and DRC. He also supplies kapenta to most local traders with Harare, Bulawayo, Gweru and Beitbridge being his big markets.
He imports kapenta from Mozambique and delivers many tonnes of the product to the various destinations every week.
In an interview this week, Nyathi said his business has been growing well and he is looking forward to invading many international markets.
“When I was growing up, I never dreamt I would be in the business of selling kapenta. I saw it as a trade for the poor, but I am happily doing the business now,” said Nyathi.
“When I visited Mbare market at some point, I realised that some people were supplying kapenta in huge quantities and the product seemed to be on demand. I got interest and did a research on the business. I realised it was an easy business and told my parents about my intention to go into the trade.”
Nyathi said his parents were skeptical about the project, but later allowed him to try it when he had given them a convincing business plan.
“I started with a few sacks of kapenta and the business grew faster than I expected. It was actually a surprise to me because I did not think it would grow in such a short time.
“I started supplying markets outside Harare and the demand kept growing. I now supply markets in Botswana, South Africa and DRC. The vision at the moment is to grow bigger in international markets. I am happy because I am one of the few suppliers who have managed to keep the business running even during the rainy season when it is difficult to preserve kapenta.”
The future looks bright for Nyathi, who now employs a number of young people in his business.