I cannot remember the exact date; but, it was a sunny day. Some sort of conference. Huge hall. Smooth floor. Comfy chairs. Everyone smartly dressed. Some more than others. We of the media slightly casual. It is a busy environment and as a reporter you need to move around a lot. Interviewing. Jotting down names...
And somewhere along the throngs of participants, she sat. I noticed her because she kept smiling. Speaking to her was easy. No airs, no innuendos. There are strangers you encounter and feel as though you knew them before. Mercy Kitomari (pictured above) sounded and looked familiar although I had never spoken to her in my life. She was a young, clever lady and eyes did not miss her. But that caused no arrogance at all. Now I know what Kitomari’s modest manner meant.
Over the past few years I have seen Mercy Kitomari’s name popping in several places. Nothing unusual. Then last weekend I received this Email from London based Tanzanian businessman Abubakar Faraji. Mr Faraji is very good at communicating information, keeping in touch with East Africans. Networking.
“Introducing Mercy Kitomari CEO and founder of Nelwa’s Gelato” popped on my screen. Short video clip. Repeat. It was excellent because it was short. Two minutes videos are the best ones. If anyone cannot express who they are in less than three minutes, they do not understand the concept of time. Time is indeed money, as the old business adage stings.
These days everyone has to deal with congested traffic of information. First there are the constant phone calls in our pockets. Unlike ten years ago when a phone was simply a gadget for speaking, these days it is a mobile factory. Besides regular SMS texts, are social networking sites for chatting, exchanging pictures, numerous applications (Apps), shopping, buying, selling, You Tube, Facebook, Emails, TV, etc. Information technology.
Each item offers you stuff to peruse and ponder. Blogs. Twitter. Oh. Ladies. Ah. Guys.
Very hard keeping up. So brief information- well chiselled -but detailed is spot on. In two minutes, I understood that Mercy Kitomari had been hanging out at Leicester Square in London. A busy area. The cradle of businesses and international tourism. She had seen something that triggered her mind. She wanted to build something similar in East Africa. And she did not only dream, she went along and did it.
In the video, one of her friends, Renatta Rutta, offers more insight. Again she does not talk too much. A few words that continue to set the tone. That less is more.
“She is kind, she is giving, she is open.”
And how open is our Ice Creamarist?
Ms Kitomari says she paid 200 pounds (almost a million shillings) to get professional advice. You do these sorts of things in London. Several hundred thousand shillings to be advised? It was a good investment she recalls.
“I am happy I spent it well.”
Clients in Dar es Salaam enjoying Kitomari's ice creams...-pic from Nelwa's Gelato ISTAGRAM
There are repeated words. Business mantras. You have to do it. You have to do it. Do not be scared. Rutta her friend, puts further stamp on the video. “Mercy is serious, she wants to succeed. When you want to succeed you put your all into it.”
Finally the young business woman has opened her restaurant in Tanzania where she sells organic ice cream. The label name is Nelwa’s Gelato. Now. This article might look like a promotional demo. Maybe it is. But it is much more than a publicity stunt. It is about those who try walking fast to make wonders and create something fresh. So many come to London (or overseas) and return home empty handed. Or mess around. Here is a former university graduate, who is proving to be the fresh face of future prosperous, hard working Tanzanians. Born in South Africa, Mercy Kitomari grew up in Lesotho (for five years) then Arusha and finished secondary school in Morogoro. After working with Tigo, the telephone company, she came to the UK to study business administration.
As days go by, Ms Kitomari gets busier. Here at a business conference, recently. Pic Nelwa's Gelato Istagram.
In London ice cream is eaten for only three months during summer. In Tanzania it is hot throughout the year; therefore, ice cream sales are better. She saw an opportunity and grabbed it.
Making homemade organic ice cream, she uses locally made products.
Nelwa Gelato is a combination of Gogo (her original tribe) and the Italian method of making ice cream she learned in Europe. “Gelato” is ice cream in Italian. Nenelwa means Mercy, her name, in Kigogo.
Ms Kitomari has been financing her business from her own pockets while working for a local bank. She declares in her website that she would like to inspire younger girls to succeed. Furthermore: “There are so many opportunities in Tanzania. There is no point copying someone’s business. Opening a business is easy and we are lazy, that’s all. People shouldn’t blame Tanzania, they should blame themselves.”
Inspiring words. As delicious as ice cream. For more info tel +255-754-938-577.