Andrew Hunt of Aduna

What do you do if there’s no demand for your product? Create it yourself of course. That’s what Andrew Hunt is doing.

Andrew is co-founder and managing director of Africa inspired health and beauty brand Aduna, which means ‘life’ in Wolof, the local language of the Gambia.

Andrew started his career in the advertising industry, developing and launching consumer brands for companies including Pfizer and Heinz. He says, “They were products I didn't have any affinity with and I used to wonder what I was doing with my life” At the age of 25 Andrew had what he describes as “a complete meltdown”. “I ended up clinically depressed,” he says, “and during my lowest moment I got a random phonecall from a family friend offering me the opportunity to volunteer my marketing skills to a social enterprise in The Gambia. I wasn't interested in anything, let alone going to some far-flung corner of Africa.” But he did end up going and after two weeks, he says, “I came back to life.” Instead of staying six weeks, he stayed four years.

Gambia was good

During this time Andrew got inspired by the idea of combining development impact with entrepreneurship. He got involved with an organisation called Gambia Is Good, a fruit and vegetable trading business which already existed but “wasn’t really moving”. By the time he came back to the UK to do an MBA the organisation had won three international awards.

Andrew describes this period of his life as revolutionary: “Before this my personal success was measured in sales of frozen ready meals but with this business I could see that if we could sell a lot of tomatoes we were buying them from a producer, I could go back and the family would be building an extra room on the house. When you see that impact delivered through business…Well, I had never done anything for anyone else before, to be honest.”

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While there, Andrew started feeling he had taken it as far as he could. “The size of the market was limited and we were struggling with making the business financially viable and commercially sustainable. He says, “I can see first-hand the failure of the aid world. There are huge sums of money (£5m, £10m) put into projects to train thousands of women to grow a cashcrop that some consultant has said is the latest thing. At the end of the project there is no thought as to how they are going to sell it. The project ends, the equipment goes rusty and they go back to subsistence and wait for the next round of aid.”

So Aduna is really the result of a lot of thinking about how to create demand for natural products from small-scale producers in Africa by connecting them to international markets.  It's about taking the impact that the Gambia is Good project proved was possible, and making it commercially viable and scalable.

Andrew decided to do an MBA to become fluent in the language of business, studying at the Said Business School’s Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship. He says, “I came out more focused on business. I feel like it's possible I couldn’t have done what I am doing without what I learned.” Moreover, he says, “The school has been really supportive of Aduna.”

Bringing baobab back

The main thinking behind Aduna products is to create demand for under utilised products. Says Andrew, “There’s a spread of existing fantastic products readily available to be harvested and exported.”

He’d discovered the baobab fruit when he was in Senegal and was keen on their nutritional properties and the potential the fruit offered: “It's one of the most nutrient-dense fruits in the world,” he says, “there is no plantation and every tree is community owned and wild harvested” This means 8-10m households can supply it but it goes to waste. Andrew says, “National Geographic estimated that if there were a global demand it could be worth £1bn each year, so that's our goal…”

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Along with his partner Nick Salter (with whom he started the company with £50,000 seed capital, a couple of friends-and-family rounds, some investing angels), Andrew has now launched the Make Baobab Famous Campaign. He says, “We figured we could create a £1bn industry through marketing. With the right partners and network we can do that without spending much money.”

It’s working. “People are good,” says Andrew, “If you're trying to achieve something positive, people come out of all sorts of places to support you.”

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Favourite books

“There are two I have really enjoyed on my journey. One is Mission In A Bottle, by Seth Goldman and Barry Nalebuff, the founders of Honest Tea and Grow, by Jim Stengel, which shows how the world's highest-performing companies use Brand Ideals and brand core values to outperform their competition. Or, in other words, your business will be more successful if you are focused on improving peoples lives rather than making money."

Favourite quotations

“The best way to predict the future is to create it.” Peter Drucker

"Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.” Goethe.

Productivity hack

“You can't realise a big vision on your own. The only other thing is enrolling others in your vision. You can’t do it on your own.”

Links:

www.aduna.com

@AdunaWorld

www.facebook.com/Adunaworld

Gambia is Good

I really hope enjoyed the interview with Andrew, whether you just read it here or got the full experience on the podcast. If you have any thoughts or comments about this episode, please do share them with us on Twitter or Facebook – we’d love to hear from you!

INTERESTED IN A CAREER IN THE SUSTAINABILITY FIELD?

As promised in the podcast, here are the details of the 3-part masterclass on How To Develop Your Career in Sustainability. An international event, covering the US and European markets, the webinars are led by market expert Shannon Houde, with input from leading sustainability recruiters Acre Resources. This is shaping up to be an essential event for anyone interested in developing their career in this field. Places are limited, so find out more and reserve your spot while there is still availability.

Eventbrite - HOW TO DEVELOP YOUR CAREER IN SUSTAINABILITY - SERIES OF 3 WEBINARS