Adapting to reach new customers

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In the series ‘Our Year in Stories’, we highlight several stories from our 2020/2021 Annual Report. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to big challenges for entrepreneurs. In this blog, you will read the story of changemaker Sada. With training and support from VSO, she was able to successfully respond to the economic and social changes caused by COVID-19.


As COVID-19 took hold in Tanzania, 43-year-old Sada Nalinga felt conflicted about her soap making business. Her liquid soap had been regarded as a luxury, but it was now an essential item. Sada saw an opportunity to expand her business, but travel restrictions prevented her from moving around her region to engage potential customers.

Sada knew she had skills to adapt because she had taken part in VSO’s Tanzania Local Enterprise Development project. This promotes sustainable economic growth by supporting women, young people, and people with disabilities to grow businesses and create jobs. Since 2015, it has provided guidance to 5,000 small businesses and created nearly 3,000 jobs.

Advice Sada received from volunteers became critical. 29-year-old business expert and volunteer Grace Kajange explains, “It’s sometimes difficult to change the way people run their business”, especially since “some men do not allow their wives to do business and believe that women are supposed to look after the family.”

Grace realised that COVID-19 required her to adapt the training; “There is a real need to help our entrepreneurs to adapt to the situation right now, for example using digital marketing and online social networks to promote their businesses.” Adaptation was vital because economic factors including lower incomes, price increases due to scarcity and decreased ability to save, affected businesses. Displaying the positivity and resilience she encourages in participants, Grace adds “In every challenge there is an opportunity.”

After attending trainings, Sada formally registered and licensed her business. Registration meant her product acquired Tanzania Bureau of Standards certification and a barcode that allowed her to supply supermarkets. Her digital marketing training meant she found new customers online. Annual production grew from 240 to 1,200 litres of soap. Sada now invests in the business and support her husband and child.

“I get orders from various companies such as lodges, restaurants, pharmacies, nursing colleges and schools to make liquid soap for them. I feel good that the demand is high, and I can now sell more due to the high demand in the community”. Sada now supports others, “I have conducted trainings on soap-making to various Small and Medium Enterprises as a way of supporting my community in the fight against COVID-19.”

By working with VSO, Sada’s experience shows how businesses can adapt and support their communities during crisis. She demonstrates that scaling and growing means embedding local knowledge and expertise.