Alore: Please tell us about the birth of Kuunda 3D
Elizabeth Rogers: While I was working and living in The Netherlands, I bought a 3D printer and used it for about one year. Out of interest, I used to hang out in 3D print shops in Amsterdam and took some online courses. I was by no means a 3D printing expert at that point.
I developed this business idea when I participated in a business model competition – Impact Hub Amsterdam’s Business Model Challenge – and ended up winning a grant (Impact Makers Fund) that allowed me to embark on this incredible entrepreneurial journey.
I moved to Tanzania almost two years ago to test out the business idea – offering 3D printing & design services in a market heavily reliant on imports. I brought with me 2 DIY 3D printers, a handful of filament rolls and a limited knowledge of 3D printing.
Alore: How did you come up with the name Kuunda?
Elizabeth Rogers: The name derives its roots from Swahili. It roughly translates to “‘to make or assemble from pieces’ or just ‘to make or create’. This is also our credo – we aim to empower communities around us to make, create and assemble new and useful articles.
At Kuunda 3D we are not just providing people a livelihood, but also developing the next generation of problem-solvers.
Alore: What were the initial challenges you faced?
Elizabeth Rogers: Setting up the business in Tanzania was full of challenges, and required an incredible amount of patience. It took close to 6 months to have everything in place. In comparison, setting up the same business in Kenya took 2 weeks.
This also really highlighted to me that apparently similar markets can be incredibly different, and some countries are open to investment while others are not. It may not be worth the pain in some markets unless the opportunity is huge.
Alore: What have your key business learning been so far?
Elizabeth Rogers: I’ve learned that the most important thing is having good people and great talent around. Taking the time to find the right business partner and setting up proper agreements in the beginning avoids a lot of pain later.
My Kenyan business partner, Cynthia Kahumbura, is a former RSM MBA classmate, so we have known each other for many years and are well-aware of each other’s capabilities and complement each other’s skills. Trusting each other is incredibly important because if that trust wanes, the business can be affected.
Alore: Globally, 3D printing is a relatively underutilised technology, considering the massive potential it holds. In introducing this concept to emerging markets, have you faced reluctance to adopt this technology?
Elizabeth Rogers: As we are trying to introduce a relatively new concept into an emerging market, we have had to educate and develop our market as we try to grow our business, which is not an easy task. In addition, we have often found it difficult to communicate value to our different customer segments. 3D printing can be applicable to a diverse range of clients and across multiple industries, and the overall market is currently overall small to focus on just one segment.
This means we need to be able to articulate a unique value proposition for each different client. And specifically, for 3D printing, we need our clients to bring us their ideas to print; yet many are not creative or struggle to see how 3D printing can benefit them. It constantly comes back to being able to communicate the value of our products and services to our clients.
Alore: How robust is the supplier universe for Kuunda 3D
Elizabeth Rogers: Despite these struggles, we feel confident we are building a sustainable business that will grow at the right pace.
We’ve established many partnerships with suppliers like Ultimaker and Innofil3D, served high profile clients and developed local talent.
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You can reach Kuunda 3D at email@example.com.