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This year we celebrated our 10th birthday. Over the years changes have come and gone, but our goal has remained – create sustainable change by working with small farming cooperatives to bring delicious, organic dried fruit from Africa to the American consumer. We usually don't toot our own horn, but it's a special occasion. Read through our story below.
While he was serving in the Peace Corps in Kenya 15 years ago, an idea was planted into Phil's head. What if we could create sustainable change for African farmers by selling their excess fruit in the US? We could reduce food waste while stimulating the African economy. Five years later, that seed sprouted its roots.
Phil with his Kenyan community
In his parents’ basement in September 2011, Phil began the groundwork for Mavuno Harvest. We came out with our first three products: dried mango, dried pineapple, and dried banana. All of which were sourced from Uganda. By March of 2012, we had our first sale to Swarthmore Co-op outside of Philadelphia.
With growth came change including new warehousing locations and more sets of hands. We brought on employees to expedite the fruit packing process. Many of them were born and raised in Africa in the very countries we source our fruit from. We also partnered with NSC Philadelphia, a refugee-settling organization, to give refugees employment.
Our sourcing expanded from just Uganda to include Algeria, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Kenya, Sri Lanka, and Tanzania. With new countries came new products. We introduced papaya, jackfruit, coconut, and roasted and salted cashews.
In February 2020, Lynne joined Mavuno Harvest as our Vice President of Sales. She brought along her expertise in the food sales industry and gave Mavuno Harvest a major push. But most importantly, Lynne brought her love of Africa and desire to create change. Like Phil, she served as Peace Corps Volunteer. Her service took place in Cameroon (West Africa) from 2010 to 2012.
Lynne with her Cameroonian community
We were proud to have been named to Philadelphia Business Journal’s list of fastest-growing companies in both 2020 and 2021. In recent months, we’ve expanded our product lineup to include pitted dates and fruit bites (mango & coconut, pineapple & passionfruit, banana & coconut, banana & cocoa, pineapple & cinnamon, and mango & chili). Our team has also grown again to include yet another former Peace Corps Volunteer. This past October Laura came on board as a Business Operations Associate, although she does a little bit of everything from email marketing to processing orders to social media.
But enough with where we’ve been, where are we now? As of today, Mavuno operates with 17 employees out of a 15,000 sq ft warehouse in Philadelphia. We offer 16 retail products carried online and in over 5,000 retail stores and co-ops. Most importantly, we’re proud to say in the past ten years we’ve purchased over a million pounds of fruit and nuts from over 10,000 small-scale farmers! We think that’s awesome.
Before we sign off, there’s one more person in our company we can’t forget to mention. They’ve grown right alongside us. They’ve given us a kick when we’ve got complacent and well-deserved praise for a job well done. We couldn’t work towards our mission without them. And they’re you. Thanks to you: our customers, brokers, supporters, friends, and family. Here’s to many more harvests!