SME Profile: Aduna
Founded by Oxford Said MBA Andrew Hunt, Aduna operates in health and beauty, selling products to leading retailers in London. But there is more to this SME than meets the eye.
When Oxford Said MBA Andrew Hunt suffered a bout of clinical depression in 2005, he was raised out of the dark by an opportunity to use his marketing skills for a social enterprise in The Gambia, West Africa.
He had spent previous years in the advertising industry (with leading companies such as Heinz) but felt no sense of purpose.
Andrew planned to stay for six weeks, but ended up staying for four years. His London-based SME, Aduna, was born from his passion to help others.
The start-up is an Africa-inspired lifestyle brand with a focus on the intersection of health and beauty. But it is also a social business that seeks to create demand for under-appreciated natural products from small African producers.
While the company does social good, it is a business, too. Aduna turned over a staggering £100,000 in its first year of operations. In the last 12 months the business has taken the African super-fruit baobab from being almost completely unknown to being the best-selling super-food in leading London retailers - including Wholefoods Market.
Andrew thinks his MBA was essential to dropping his advertising career and becoming an entrepreneur. And he has plans to recruit more MBAs who share his social vision, as he explains to BusinessBecause...
What is the company’s size?
We turned-over £100k in year one.
Which sector does it operate in?
Health and Beauty.
What does the business do and what are your core/flagship products?
Aduna is an Africa-inspired lifestyle brand with a focus on the intersection of health and beauty. Aduna is also a social business whose purpose is to create demand for under-utilized natural products from small-scale African producers.
Our first product is the African super-fruit baobab, which has the potential to provide sustainable revenues to 8-10 million rural households.
Which regions are covered?
Aduna is based in London, UK, and is currently expanding into Scandinavia and mainland Europe.
How was the company founded?
I started off my career in the advertising industry, creating and launching brands for multinational company's like Pfizer and Heinz.
While my work was successful and I received successive promotions, I felt no real sense of purpose in my life and in 2005 I suffered a bout of clinical depression.
When I was at my lowest ebb I received a random phone call from a family friend inviting me to volunteer my marketing skills to a social horticultural enterprise in The Gambia, West Africa.
Instead of staying for six weeks I stayed for four years and developed a passion for working with small-scale producers, and also for Africa. In 2008 our Gambian Enterprise won three international awards, including a United Nations World Business and Development Award.
After returning to begin an MBA in the UK at Said Business School, University of Oxford, I was looking for an entrepreneurial opportunity that could combine social and commercial impact in equal measure.
This ultimately led to me co-founding Aduna with my business partner Nick. From a personal perspective, Aduna has enabled me to leverage everything I learned in the advertising industry to tackle a mission that I feel passionately about, and one that inspires me every day.
How has obtaining an MBA benefited your business?
In all honesty I don't think I could have created Aduna without the skills, confidence and inspiration provided by my MBA at Oxford. While I had run a small sales and marketing business in The Gambia, I didn't have an intellectual understanding about the basics of running a business.
Learning those frameworks and the understanding of entrepreneurial finance and strategy has been huge. And so has being around such a large number of ambitious and committed people who inspire you to believe that anything is possible.
You plan to recruit MBAs for internships and consulting projects - can you tell us a little more about how people can get involved?
Aduna has some very interesting strategic projects that we need to look at, but don't currently have the resource, such as a market-entry strategy for the US.
We need MBA-caliber people who share our passion for making an impact with communities in Africa.
Tell us something interesting about the company!
Aduna means 'life' or 'world' in Wolof, the local language of The Gambia and Senegal, which I speak.
In the last 12 months we have taken the African super-fruit baobab from being almost completely unknown to being the best-selling super-food in leading London retailers including Wholefoods Market.