Mr Fruto. Is that your name now?
I was born Mahmoud Dahir, then I set up this business and now everyone calls me Mr Fruto. Let’s start from the beginning. Where are you from? I was born here, in Somalia. But I left the country and moved abroad to the US, where I stayed for 25 years. That is where I studied and worked in for 15 years.
What kind of work were you doing in the US before coming back to Somalia?
I’m an ICT engineer. I worked for ICT firms in the US.
So why come back and set up a juice making and selling enterprise?
In 2012, I was requested by an official in the government to come back and offer ICT consultation services for the Ministry of Telecommunications.
Oh…so you came back home not to start a business but to engage in formal activities?
Yes, sort of. I would consult for the ministry once in a while when they needed me. Then I realised I had free time and I thought of what to do with the time in my hand. That’s when I decided to start up this business. I still consult for the government though. I have not stopped.
How did you come by this idea; the idea of a pick and go fresh juice place?
In Mogadishu, we have hot drinks and cold drinks. In many establishments, the drinks are the same. Either imported processed drinks or locally made tea and coffee. There was something lacking. Especially in the fresh juice category. I tried a few fresh juices in town, they were okay. Not good. So I decided to make really good fresh juices.
And how do you do that?
Two ways: First of all, Somalia has fruits — bananas, paw paw, water melons, lemons, mangoes you name it. I went for them, fresh and of good quality. The other thing is that I do not add anything to the juice we make.Most establishments add sugar, or biscuits. I don’t. From ICT to fruit entrepreneurship.
How does that work?
Easy really. I just transferred my experience as an IT business entrepreneur to help me set up and run the juice shop.
When did you serve your first customer?
February 2014. That was the month we opened our doors. I didn’t expect the business to pick up this fast.
What do you mean?
I had given myself about a year or more for the business to pick up and start generating returns. But upon opening, we had people lining up outside our door right from the first weeks. In a few months, we had taken off.
Was that shocking to you?
I can’t lie that I wasn’t surprised. You know, you set your business, put in capital and give it time. Ours picked a lot quicker than expected.
What exactly is your business model?
The way we operate is simple. We source for the fruits, clean them, peel them, cut them up and process them into juice. We have six processing machines and five people handling the machines. The fruits we can’t get in Somalia, we import. Like avocado. Once the fruits are processed, we put them in a freezer. We also make ice-cream.Pick it Fresh and Go The success of my business surprised me, says juice seller.