“I am proud of my success. But I dream of growing my business bigger… It’s all for my daughter.”

Lilian always knew she wanted to be a businesswoman, just like her parents. She grew up watching them run their own business, and envisioned herself one day having an operation of her own. 

At the age of 24, Lilian launched a small manual distribution center, called Lilian MDC, in the Kinondoni District of Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania in 2005. A manual distribution center is a business that sells Coca-Cola beverages in metropolitan areas where neighboring communities have unstable roads and an infrastructure that makes it difficult for delivery trucks to travel. Those who own micro distribution centers employ others in the area, who then sell and distribute our beverage products to retailers, often by bicycle, motorbike or pushcart.

For Lilian, running her own business was not easy and her resources were limited. She was the sole manager, as well as the stock controller, cashier and salesperson – with only a pushcart to help her. At home, she was also a wife and the mother of a two year-old daughter, Angel. To increase the size of her business, she sold a portion of her family’s land, investing all of the proceeds in her entrepreneurial dream.

Shortly after her business was up and running, Lilian suffered a challenging setback when her husband left her and Angel, robbing Lilian of all the product and cash from her business. 

Rather than quit, Lilian appealed to Coca-Cola South African Bottling Company (SABCO) for assistance to re-open her business. To help her get started, SABCO allowed her to sell product directly from their trucks.

Lilian was successful, and she was soon able to rent space and grow her business.  In 2012, Coca-Cola invited Lilian to participate in 5by20, where she received training and mentoring that has helped her to run a more efficient business. She now knows how to manage the operation, save money, keep records, and communicate with staff and customers.

By applying the training and skills learned, Lilian’s business has more than doubled in size. She now manages 11 employees and has increased her sales to an average of 25,000 cases monthly to more than 500 customers, making her one of the top distributors in the area.

Lilian’s success has made her a pillar of the community. In addition to serving Kinondoni through her business, she also serves as an inspiration to other women and gives back by providing advice and business knowledge. According to Lilian, “If you love something, you have to put [in] a lot of effort.”

Lilian with her daughter Angel

The growth of Lilian’s business has also allowed her to realize personal aspirations including providing for her daughter, now 12 years old and a top student at her private school with dreams of a career in science. Lilian is proud of the new home she is building for her family.

Although Lilian’s business has already achieved much success, she dreams of more. She intends to open a second micro distribution center, expand to other communities and continue employing other women.