Jessica Nanyunja is the brain behind Harmony Nutri Foods Limited with its flagship brand of Harmony pot water.
Kampala, Uganda | AGNES E NANTABA | It is a darling amongst many Ugandans who have yearned to rekindle their love for pot-smoked water. Many decades ago, most Ugandans used clay products; including kitchenware and pots to store and cool water.
“Pot water in a way revives the glory of our cultures,” says Nanyunja,“It brings in a new concept of traditionally flavored drinking water.”
Having mastered the art of food business during university time at Kyambogo where she pursued a bachelor’s degree in Human Nutrition and Dietetics, Nanyunja immediately ventured into processing and packaging of banana fruit juice in the brand of ‘Harmony Omubisi’.
But the business stalled as she went for further studies in Belgium. Her mother, Gwokyalya Harriet Ssali could not manage on her own. The initial plan was to restart the business when she returned upon completing her Master’s degree programme. But then she got an opportunity to pursue a PhD in Bioscience Engineering which took another four years. Nanyunja is proud that she graduated with a PhD in 2015 from Ghent University in Belgium before clocking 30 years. She also has a high understanding of food, nutrition and rural development. Many would expect a graduate of PhD to consider taking an academic journey of imparting knowledge and skills but she chose another path.
“Teaching isn’t my passion,” she says, “I had already made up my mind to return home and start-up something.”
She secured a grant from Belgium to reawaken her banana juice business and in 2016 focused on giving it the natural taste of locally produced Omubisi but with the professional touch of a food technologist.
Her family did not like the business. They said it devalued her qualifications. She also faced several environmental shocks. But she stuck to her passion.
However, Nanyunja noticed that her relatives liked pot water. So she thought of marketing pot water on a commercial scale.
It was easy because she already had the banana juice making factory. Her only challenge was finding the pots. In 2017, she made the first sales of pot water worth Shs300, 000. She redesigned the water bottles in the shape of pot and the business has grown. She makes up to 8000 liters of pot water per day. It currently brings in 80% of her company income.
Nanyunja is the last born and only girl in a family of three. Her father died when she was only three years old. Her mother took to entrepreneurship and hard work to fend for the little souls.
Nanyunja went to Trinity College Nabbingo and Mengo Senior School before joining Kyambogo University. She is married. She looks forward to opening the first nutrition supermarket.