How They Did It: Building the Kenyan Originals Team Culture

Building great team culture

How They Did It: Building the Kenyan Originals Team Culture

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We all know what it’s like to be part of a company with a great team culture – the energy is electric and the results are evident. There is a clear vision and purpose that drives action and performance. Team members understand both their individual and collective value to the company.

Company culture is not about wearing matching jumpers to team lunches. It is in the everyday – the way decisions are made, the way people interact, the way meetings are run, and so on. It encompasses the company’s values, norms, systems and beliefs. It’s the way companies “do things”. Of the many amazing examples of culture-building that we have come across, Kenyan Originals is amongst those that stand out. Though nascent, Kenyan Originals founder Alexandra Chappatte has managed to create a great product concept, a riveting brand story and an engaged team. Here’s how she did it:

The Kenyan Originals Product

Powerful punch of 100% Kenyan fruit cider.

Alexandra’s initial focus was on getting the product right because no matter how amazing the brand story or team is, no one will buy if the product does not effectively deliver on its promise.

Kenyan Originals was born of a passion for quality social beverages that champion the African story. The Kenyan Original ciders are made from an infusion of 100% Kenyan fruit and herbs, pressed, fermented, brewed and bottled locally.  Despite facing difficulties with waste (real fruit goes bad real fast!) and procedural challenges with the Kenya Bureau of Standards, Kenyan Originals has managed to survive on authenticity, consistency and continuous improvement. As Alexandra said, “sticking to our guns on this has been a real test in resilience but critical to the product DNA.”

The Kenyan Originals product was able to target a consumer pain point and rival its competition by ensuring premium flavour, distinct packaging and accessible distribution points (restaurants, bars, events, online). Alex began by first identifying a need, then coming up with a great solution, doing intensive market research as well as product testing and finally launching with a compelling product and brand.

According to Alexandra, the step that tends to be most overlooked when starting out with product development is market research. Doing business without market research is like sailing without a compass, especially in the FMCG industry where competition is raging. Market research is essential in mapping out consumer needs, ensuring reduced risk, staying ahead of the competition, gauging the pulse of the market and ultimately, making certain that one launches the right product; not as it was initially thought of in a light bulb moment, but a data-driven version with a ready market.

The Kenyan Originals Brand

Kenyan Originals. Proudly African.

The Kenyan Originals’ target consumers are the “hipsters of Nairobi” – the mavericks and hustlers who are set on shaping modern Kenya. One of their effective brand strategies is to collaborate with people whose purpose and vision is tied to igniting a culture of creativity in Kenya. This includes matatu artists, fashion designers such as David Avido, photographers, and music festivals such as Koroga and Africa Nouveau. By being able to connect with the audience’s eclectic passion points, the Kenyan Originals team has managed to create a brand story that transcends the product.

The “brand story” – which means the cohesive narrative that weaves together both facts and the emotions that a brand elicits – has helped to maximise Kenyan Originals’ visibility, sales and impact. By constantly communicating to their consumers why the product was created and what it stands for, consumers are engaged on a much deeper level.

If the Kenyan Originals brand was built around just the functional aspects of the beverage, it would have attracted lacklustre buyers as it would fail to appeal to the human element in the decision-making process. Today’s consumers crave authenticity than ever before. As explained in How Customers Think: Essential Insights into the Mind of the Market, purchasing decisions are driven in part by subconscious cues, the biggest of which is emotion. Therefore, by choosing to communicate and sell something bigger – patriotism, creativity, individuality, pride and embodiment of the Kenyan spirit and character – the product has been well received, selling out at events, restaurants and supermarkets in Nairobi.

The Kenyan Originals Team Culture 

A team is only as good as the people in it. It is therefore crucial to hire high-performers with proven capabilities and the right attitude to get your product and brand off the ground.

Here’s to unity that inspires.

For the Kenyan Originals team, it has been extremely valuable to allow people to be part of creating the team culture. “Nowhere have we written what the company’s culture is about. It’s for these Kenyan Originals to define it.  All we’ve done is tried to hire the right tribe,” Alexandra explained.

When hiring for culture fit, it is important to recognise your biases, as it is natural to want to hire like-minded people. That is why for the Kenyan Originals team, the product value is at the focal point as this ensures that hiring and team decisions are driven by a bigger purpose. The purpose of Kenyan Originals and how it relates to the Kenyan community has been a great driver of internal and external success. In the same vein, the why has been critical in ensuring that the Kenyan Originals team continually performs at a high level. One of the simple ways this has been instituted is by having a written-down statement of intention for the brand that inspires and guides the team.

In Alexandra’s case, while creating a culture of collaboration, trust and innovation have been deliberate, it has also been propelled by establishing a team culture that enables employees to be the best they can be, then allowing them to run with it. They say that a company is an elongated shadow of its leader, therefore, the Kenyan Originals team thrives on creativity and excellence, as Alexandra embodies creativity and excellence in her day to day life.

Thank you to Alexandra and the Kenyan Originals team for sharing how they built their company culture. Their story shows the magic in synergising all pillars of the business in pursuit of success. The product influences the brand which influences the team and vice versa. Other companies can follow suit by continuously creating practices that encourage innovation, audience engagement and a team culture of trust and empowerment.

What do you think are the important elements of creating a successful consumer product and team culture? Tweet us at @Shortlisthires and watch out for more resources on company culture during our ongoing team culture campaign!