If there is anything that Kenyans are widely known for, it’s their rich culture and vibrant people. Now, picture all that in a refreshing drink! Introducing Kenyan Originals, a beverage brand that is authentically crafted and made with real Kenyan ingredients. It builds on Kenyan traditions of drink making but with a modern twist.

Meet Alexandra Chappatte, the CEO and founder of this rising star. She has vast experience working with leading international brands such as as Stella Artois and Kit Kat, having previously worked in both the UK and West Africa.From a humble shipping container to a fully fledged processing plant in Nairobi, Baba Dogo area,Alexandra has passionately built Kenyan Originals from the ground up.The mother of two tells us more about her journey.

Why did you build/create Kenyan Originals

After working in the beverage industry for a number of years, I gained a lot of practical experience especially in brand building and execution.When I moved to Kenya,I found that it had a lot of potential given its rich resources.Nevertheless, it was a new market with its own dynamics.I noted several gaps in the market which triggered the creation of Kenyan Originals.

Firstly, there were so many low end mass products availed in the local market.The few that were of high quality served as imports and there was almost nothing in between for consumers except beer.In addition, food wastage is a huge challenge in Kenya with about 40% of fruits produced often going to waste.

To that end, the real opportunity here for us was coming up with an accessible craft portfolio in the beverage industry using real ingredients from the best regions in Kenya, so that we can get the best taste for our beverages.

What makes Kenyan Originals so unique?

The fact that we use real ingredients to make our products and have a strict rule on no artificial flavourings, sweeteners, preservatives or other nasties make us unique in this market.We are creating beverages that are built on Kenyan traditions of drink such as use of fermented fruit.

In addition, our brand seeks showcase originality from Kenyan talent. The movers, the shakers, the risk takers, the Kenyan Originals. We focus on showcasing authenticity and showcasing Kenyans creative spirit.To achieve this, we collaborate with various Kenyan creatives including matatu grafitti artists to  celebrate the Kenyan culture.

What are some of the industry's key challenges that you are facing?

I would say there exist a number of challenges in this industry not because of a lack of ideas but because of unnecessary operational bottle necks especially for new entrants.The regulatory landscape in Kenya is quite stringent where requirements like acquiring licenses is quite strenuous.This is a huge hurdle for players who would like to be compliant.

In addition, breaking the monopoly of various multinationals in the industry especially when it comes to distribution has not been an exact walk in the park .These players have dominated the market for years, leaving little room for new players.

What's the best and worst business advice anyone's ever given you?

Looking back, I would say the best advice I got was to hire strong talent early enough to run the business.It may seem like a heavy expense in the beginning but its very beneficial in the long run.(Laughs) Unfortunately I didn’t take this advice in the very early days and I ended up doing most of the execution when running the business. Since then I have hired a super strong team and it’s game changing the impact it has had.

The worst advice was probably on paying too much attention to competitor strategies.This is really detrimental to any business.I think its very important to focus on one’s north star and be really solid about what that is.Do what works for you.That is what will sell.If you focus on what you are good at especially in such markets, then that’s when you will break through.

What legacy would you like to leave behind?team,industry

For KO, our vision is to build the ultimate African lifestyle brand.It’s not just about beverages but creating amazing drinking experiences.We do plan to expand into countries outside Kenya over time creating the ultimate African experience.

For the team,I would want them to have experienced the journey of building something that is world class and globally recognized. We have already won a couple of awards including 2 innovation beverage awards and that alone has already given the team immense pride. 

What's your advice for young people who are looking to venture into their own businesses?

There is really no blanket advice I could give that would work for everyone as people are different.Before starting a business, one can choose to first get some training and experience with employment or one can easily dive in straight without any of that.It all depends on someone’s passion and whether they have some sort of support network to show them the ropes when they are stuck.

How does 2024 look like for Kenyan Originals?

The ride so far has been great, having both ups and downs.2024 looks very promising.We have on-boarded some new partners and this will bring us more stability and recognition in the market.We will also focus on how we can make the business more sustainable and uplift the community while at it.We have already started by building a female entrepreneurship community for upcoming female entrepreneurs where they can get mentorship from industry leaders.