From Waste to Valued Assets: Irene Muja tells us how it all started

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Irene Muja

Up on our series-profiling Africa’s future this week we have Irene Muja

Irene Muja is an International Business and Project Management Student at Tanzania Institute of Project Management (TIPM); Youth Activist, Social Innovator and Entrepreneur in Recycling Environment sector. She established MABAKI MALI ENTERPRISES  “All Waste Are Worth Value” which deals with recycling of waste tires into Furniture, Garden Decorations i.e flowerpots and Recreational Items i.e kids storage. Not only aim to solve a problem of environmental pollution, deforestation and carbon emission; but also to create jobs, eliminate poverty, encourage economy and emphasizing waste management in the worldwide. But also joined forces with strong young CEOs to create Young Women Entrepreneurs so as to enhance the talents so as to get opportunities for young women to develop their entrepreneurial skills; through exhibitions, conferences and networking opportunities in recycling and fashion industry. Lastly, she was recognized as Most Inspirational Woman of the July-Month on Environmental Sector, Tanzania, 2018. Awarded as 2nd Position-Best African Brand in Nigeria, 2018. Nominated as Smart Cities and Innovation; Certified 3 months incubator program under World Business Angels Investment Forum in Ghana, 2018; and 3rd Position in Entrepreneurship Organizations Global Student Entrepreneurship Awards in Tanzania, 2018.

2. How did your business idea come about?

I had an opportunity to go to India for Youth Mission, and I was accommodated with a family which had full tire furniture. I was fascinated and eager to learn more about it. Then, I was trained for few days and and advance my skills through Youtube and Google. After that I decided train 1 of the street people to help me out with the work.

3. What was your key driving force to become an entrepreneur?

The main force was an Intrinsic Motivation also known as the “entrepreneurial obsession,” It refer to the predisposition to work on something because it’s interesting, engaging, stimulating, satisfying or challenging on a personal level. As an entrepreneur I was able to identify the entrepreneurial dream, by developing skills which will enable to run the project, such as: organization, marketing, sales, creativity, leadership, and many other skills required to compete in the business world

4. What is your startup into and how far have you gone in achieving your vision?

My business is called MABAKI MALI ENTERPRISE “All Waste Are Worth Value”. It is a social enterprise company from Tanzania based on collecting of wasted tires into furniture. And garden decorations. It deals with recycling of waste tires into furniture and garden decorations.

Mission is to provide answers for safe and smart waste disposal and recycling.

Vision is to work so as to fulfill our mission without wasting environmental, financial or people resources such as deforestation which affects the land degradation and ecosystem in Tanzania.

Aim to build a low-cost waste collection infrastructure turns into eco friendly products such as furniture while raising general awareness on the importance of recycling for environmental sustainability. And social welfare gained from reduction in pollution by going around the community for collection of tires in offices, garages, streets and markets. And fight against diseases like malaria towards the community.

Current Milestone

Since the inception of the social enterprise in 2018, Mabaki Mali has surpassed several important milestones. Mabaki Mali has:

  • Cleaned up more than 500 tires from piles and properties across the city.
  • Achieved approximately 200kg collection per month.
  • That 0.5 tons in 11 months turns into furniture and garden decoration worth 600 USD revenue
  • Stimulated few people into  jobs creation in the city.
  • Ensured that minimum burnt tires are reduced or dumped to landfills.
  • Injected over few hundreds dollars into research and development to develop sustainable next-generation products containing recycled tire rubber.

5. How did you raise funds for your business?

Funds were raised through family and savings from my pocket money and neither got an opportunity to receive funds from grants nor donors/government officials.

6. How do you market your business, and which tactics have been most successful?

Our corporate goal is to grow Mabaki Mali to become one of the top 3 waste recycling brands in the Tanzania which is why we have mapped out strategy that will help us take advantage of the available market and grow to become a major force to reckon with not only in Dar es Salaam but also in other cities in the Tanzania.

Mabaki Mali is set to make use of the following marketing and sales strategies to attract clients;

The Company intends to use a multitude of marketing strategies to promote and expand the waste management businesses operations by;

Introduce our tires waste recycling company by sending introductory letters alongside our brochure to various companies and other key stakeholders. And actively advertises the business with its affordable contracting services through relevant business magazines, newspapers, TV stations, and radio station.

Mabaki Mali intends to maintain a website that allows customers to contact management directly over email for more information regarding the Company’s recycling services and pricing quotes. (still working on the website).

As the Company expands, the business has created social media pages on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or any other related media to reach out our customers worldwide so as to include higher levels of functionality and support.

Additionally, Mabaki Mali team members intends to continually develop a number of referral and contractual relationships within among municipal agencies, commercial enterprises, and housing communities. Since these businesses regularly require waste management services, Management sees a significant opportunity to partner with these firms.

7. What’s your greatest fear as a startup and how do you manage it?

First of all it is Fear of having no safety net. This usually encompasses money at its core. Where is the next paycheck coming from and how are you going to be able to provide not only for yourself but often a family as well?

Secondly, it is Fear of having no certainty, no plan, and no idea of what’s next. The truth about the entrepreneurial life is the opposite of comfort, routine, and knowing what to expect day to day. Yet, that can be very exciting.

Thirdly, it is Fear of failure.The Shame and humiliation of not succeeding in whatever your next endeavor is can create such fear, that many of us don’t even start or give something a try. Although as a Great entrepreneurs, are not hijacked by what people think or might say. Entrepreneur is human and still prone to the fear of failure, but to be able to take action.

Forth, it is Fear of not knowing what to do, what you love, or what idea to pick. The mind is an expert at preventing budding entrepreneurs from accessing their inspiration. It finds countless ways to stop you, putting even more fear in the way. Watch the mind, but go beyond it to the creative part in you.

Last but not least, it is Fear of all the good ideas having been taken already. The Scarcity of mind is not a quality of good entrepreneurs. On the contrary, a an entrepreneur I see more of everything: More ways to make money, more good people to hire and with whom to work, more investors to put in money, more people wanting to use what they are offering. All in all, is Abundance is the word.

Lastly,  it is Fear of not being good enough. This is at the root of so much of the behavior. The mind will dictate all the reasons you don’t have what it takes. You’re not alone here. Sometimes this belief never goes away, but you can still march ahead proudly.

8. What will you say are the best three skills needed to become an entrepreneur?

First of all, Communication is the most essentials into your business can quickly go from good to bad when communication lacks purpose, clarity, and impact. In fact, effective communication can revolutionize an idea, breathe new life into a product or brand. It is how you will be able to cultivate loyal employees, charm customers into coming back time and time again, and court investors and other sources for increasing revenue for your business.

Then Empathy is the way to have the ability to genuinely connect, understand and empathize with your customers is critical to establishing and growing your audience. In the beginning, empathy will help you assess your audience’s challenges, identify their pain points and gauge whether or not they will willingly pay for your solutions.

And Financial Management to know how to manage and grow your finances is key to success both in your business and in your personal life. Lack of the ability to manage finances exposes you to the risk of becoming unsustainable, which often leads to bankruptcy, regret and going back to a full-time job. Develop discipline and prudence, especially when it comes to purchases for personal and business purposes. Learn both technical and practical techniques that’ll help you increase your income and re-invest in the right strategies to keep your business pushing forward into the future.

9. What are some of the challenges you face as an entrepreneur?

The most challenge in Mabaki Enterprise is to be stereotyped as a female doing furniture business. Majority of male are into Furniture  business, at times people do not believe it.

Then, Cash Flow is essential to any business survival, yet as Mabaki Mali Enterprises still struggle to pay the bills like wages. Part of the problem stems from delayed invoicing from clients. After performing a job, send an invoice, then get paid (hopefully) in 2 to 4 weeks. In the meantime, you have to pay everything from your employees or any other bill. Waiting to get paid can make it difficult to get by and when a customer doesn’t pay, you can risk everything.

And, Lack of Focus not only customers demand more than your capability for instance consumers would want furniture made from wood but not from wasted tires which is out of the scope and willing to pay at any cost. Also introducing new products and figure out on how they can capitalize and make more money. We do come up with unique ideas and it can become overwhelming but if there lack enough focus to narrow down options to the ones with the most potential.

10. What do you think could be done to improve the circumstances?

Stereotype problem towards women empowerment has managed to change the perception of people in the community that women can do it; and become an innovator. Through training and employ homeless people (vijiweni) upto 10 at the moment in collecting tires and designing tire furniture and garden decoration so that they will be able to get income to sustain their basic needs. Due to high rate of unemployment rate in Tanzania, I have planned to continuing helping street people with hopeless life probably creating a lab so as training in a bigger number; they can be innovative and to achieve in making eco-friendly products.

Other things that can be done to improve the circumstances which will be able to impact the business growth are as follows;

Job Creation-by training upto ten homeless people since inception and this people have started utilizing the skills and knowledge gained in their various localities.

Encouraging the Economy-by changing the inclination from being a consuming nation to a producing one. We believe Tanzania can start looking inward and start making money from unused materials.

Waste Management-Most of our raw materials are waste products. We make use of waste materials and turn them into exquisite piece thereby helping to reduce wasteful usage, help the ozone layer and protect the environment.

Poverty Alleviation-we patronize local artisans and help them to build their businesses thus helping the less privileged and the needy.

11. What piece of advice would you give young people who want to venture into entrepreneurship?

Entrepreneurship is a deeply personal journey, and it’s incredibly difficult to separate your identity from the business that you’re trying to create. Soon, business setbacks (of which there are many) seem like personal setbacks, and depression can quickly take root. To concur and stay strong the following should take

First of all, it is good to have Mentors. Every successful entrepreneur had a mentor who used to guide them. It is important seek out a mentor, don’t be discouraged by slow growth, and have a plan. Furthermore, it is good to Work with a mentor. Surround yourself with others who can support you on your journey to entrepreneurship. Get clear about how to manage your money when you are not getting a weekly paycheck.

Then, as an entrepreneur should stop instilling fear and start instilling focus. Fear of failure can be debilitating, you get caught up in worrying rather than doing. Fear becomes our companion and goes on the journey with us and we start and end every day instilling fear when we should be instilling focus.

Focus is a verb which means it involves action, you need to be intentional about what you look at, because in the end what you look at you will see come to be. Pay attention to what you want to achieve, invest your energy in what will give you the best returns. Even those small boring tasks like cold calling (prospecting) or chasing invoices. Yes, at times you have to do everything and be everything to achieve everything. You will see that when you stop instilling fear and start instilling focus you will also stop seeing the obvious and start seeing the opportunities, which is half the reason you are an entrepreneur!

Next, It’s what you do every day as an entrepreneur. By surrounding yourself with people who are going to elevate you to the next level. Start a morning ritual. Wake up earlier than normal and start programming your mind. Examples: meditation, affirmations, journal writing and watching motivational videos. Never stop learning. Keep investing in yourself. Keep your mind, body and soul in tip-top shape.

After that, entrepreneur should try anything. Do things related to your dream work, and use them to give you time and money to build your business of what you love more. Don’t be afraid to cut loose what doesn’t serve your primary purpose. And Focus on your strengths, hire people based on character more than skill sets for long term team building.

Lastly, for the new entrepreneurs need to rely on the three P’s. which are Practice, Patience and Perseverance. Keep PRACTICING what you know and what you learn a Mastermind of no more than four other entrepreneurs a little behind and a little ahead of you can help tremendously with this. PATIENCE is the absolute hardest part of entrepreneurship, “Rome was not built in a day” all good things come to those who work smart, not just hard. PERSEVERANCE is my most prized skill, and I learned it best NOT GIVE UP! (diapers are a pain).



  1. She is a super woman..congrats to Irene
    May God guide her in each and everything

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