#4: Sisterhood of the Traveling Bag goes to Dar es Salaam

Posted on by Phuong Mai

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Once a sleepy fishing village, the city of Dar es Salaam is now a bustling center of economic activity, becoming one of the top 10 fastest growing cities in the world. The city’s name means “Abode of Peace” and is home to one of the busiest commercial ports in East Africa. In this lively city, our Valletta backpack traveled to Tanzania to accompany the talented entrepreneur Aneesa Arshad. Our bag continues to make its way around the world for different women to share their experiences with us—in our Sisterhood of the Traveling Bag. 

Aneesa holds an MBA from INSEAD and a bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University. Though she was born and raised in the United States, she moved to Kenya in 2010 where she later became the CEO and founder of Lamudi, an online real estate marketplace backed by e-commerce giant Rocket Internet. While traveling throughout East Africa for work, she saw an opportunity in Tanzania for fast food outlets that have quality food and good customer service. She decided to start Pizza Pie, a hip pizza shop that draws from her Chicago college days. She developed a handcrafted sauce and sourced the best ingredients to create the tastiest pizza.

We caught up with Aneesa to discuss high-growth startups, pizza, and Dar. image

 


After getting your MBA, you ran a successful real estate listing startup Lamudi, backed by Rocket Internet. What’s it like leading a high growth startup?

Leading Lamudi in East Africa was definitely my most fulfilling professional experience to date. I found so much excitement in scaling the business across 11 countries in East & Southern Africa. There was one month in which I launched one country a week. Experiencing the high of opening an office, hiring a team and seeing the traction amongst clients was a high that never got old, even after the 11th launch. What I enjoyed most was building the local teams and interacting with some of the sharpest minds in each country. While the cultures of each country are so diverse, the drive and hunger amongst the young professionals I hired was inspiring everywhere. Most young professionals in these markets and many developing markets lack opportunity and seeing how they made Lamudi such a strong brand in each market was extremely rewarding.

You’re currently based in Dubai but run a company in Dar. Has it been challenging to start a company in a different region? How do you overcome these?

Challenging is an understatement. As anyone who runs an F&B outlet will tell you, you must be physically present to ensure consistency and monitor theft. I have tried to overcome this by using technology to make the distance as minimal as possible. I can view footage from the cameras in the restaurant on my phone 24/7, I can see sales reports live from our point of sales system, and I am on the phone/whatsapp with my managers, head chef and accountant daily. And of course, I make sure to visit the restaurant monthly. But despite these measures, we have experienced theft and keeping a tight hold on the operations, marketing, and finances is definitely a continuous process of improvement. image

**What was the inspiration behind Pizza Pie? Why in Dar? **

Traveling around East Africa for work, the market opportunity for fast F&B struck me daily at lunch and dinner. While there are many restaurants in all cities, the number of quality fast food options is far fewer. I remember being in Kigali for a business trip and my Country Manager told me that we had TWO options for a quick lunch. Pizza was a clear choice for me as it’s a food item that appeals to everyone—locals and expats; the ingredients are widely available and if you have the right equipment, it’s foolproof in the kitchen. Dar is an extremely vibrant and growing city and unlike Nairobi, the city I was living in, there were far fewer pizza outlets. While Nairobi and Dar have similar demographics and population, there seemed to be 5 pizza outlets in Nairobi for every outlet in Dar.

In Dar, there were quite a few traditional Italian-style pizzerias, so I decided to tap into my roots and sell American-style pan pizza. So that’s what I have delivered! Buttery, cheesy pizza with lots of toppings and a few delicious pastas and desserts. The response has been extremely positive so far and I am excited to continue to improve our service, expand our menu and grow deliveries. I also plan to open a second outlet this year. image

Dar definitely seems to be evolving, given its crazy growth in hotels, restaurants and nightlife. What are some of your favorite places to eat in Dar? Favorite places to shop?

My favorite restaurant is 305 Karafu in the middle of a residential area; the owner Gasper has turned his garage into a quaint restaurant. My favorite items are the chili prawns and apple pie. For views of the ocean and fresh seasfood, try Karambezi and Cape Town Fish Market. And for a very local experience, try Mamboz in town for Indian style BBQ.

What’s one thing anyone who visits Dar must do—besides eat at Pizza Pie ☺ Go to the beach! Go up north to Kunduchi. Or if you have time, take the ferry across to Zanzibar and you have some of the most stunning beaches in the world. My favorite beach in Zanzibar is the northern most point of the island, Nungwi. White sand beaches, warm clear blue water, it’s truly a magical place. image

**We admire how you’ve been able to pursue so many different passions. Any advice for women interested in taking the leap to pursue uncharted waters? ** Take risks, be confident and start now! If there’s an idea you are passionate about, don’t wait to start. Building a brand or refining a new business model takes time, so be patient and prepare yourself for the unexpected. Also, don’t feel that you need to quit your full-time job to pursue your venture. I’ve been able to work full-time and manage Pizza Pie as well. There are many hours in the day and technology makes our lives much more efficient, so try it out. When your venture becomes profitable and you can afford to pursue it full-time then you can make the transition. image

**How did the P.MAI backpack fit into your busy lifestyle? ** I loved it. I had a fancy, travel-friendly messenger bag that I had been using for some time and I had just gotten used to the strain of all the weight on my shoulder. Using P.MAI backpack with the padded straps and spreading the weight across both shoulders was such a relief. It’s fashionable, functional and I don’t think I can go back to a messenger bag now.  

**Finally: How do you carry on beautifully? ** Despite my hectic travel schedule, I try to stay as connected as possible to my family and loved ones. Work travel can be stressful and lonely, so staying in touch with loved ones keeps me grounded and comforted to take on the challenges I am facing at work.  image

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Once a sleepy fishing village, the city of Dar es Salaam is now a bustling center of economic activity, becoming one of the top 10 fastest growing cities in the world. The city’s name means “Abode of Peace” and is home to one of the busiest commercial ports in East Africa. In this lively city, our Valletta backpack traveled to Tanzania to accompany the talented entrepreneur Aneesa Arshad. Our bag continues to make its way around the world for different women to share their experiences with us—in our Sisterhood of the Traveling Bag. 

Aneesa holds an MBA from INSEAD and a bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University. Though she was born and raised in the United States, she moved to Kenya in 2010 where she later became the CEO and founder of Lamudi, an online real estate marketplace backed by e-commerce giant Rocket Internet. While traveling throughout East Africa for work, she saw an opportunity in Tanzania for fast food outlets that have quality food and good customer service. She decided to start Pizza Pie, a hip pizza shop that draws from her Chicago college days. She developed a handcrafted sauce and sourced the best ingredients to create the tastiest pizza.

We caught up with Aneesa to discuss high-growth startups, pizza, and Dar. image

 


After getting your MBA, you ran a successful real estate listing startup Lamudi, backed by Rocket Internet. What’s it like leading a high growth startup?

Leading Lamudi in East Africa was definitely my most fulfilling professional experience to date. I found so much excitement in scaling the business across 11 countries in East & Southern Africa. There was one month in which I launched one country a week. Experiencing the high of opening an office, hiring a team and seeing the traction amongst clients was a high that never got old, even after the 11th launch. What I enjoyed most was building the local teams and interacting with some of the sharpest minds in each country. While the cultures of each country are so diverse, the drive and hunger amongst the young professionals I hired was inspiring everywhere. Most young professionals in these markets and many developing markets lack opportunity and seeing how they made Lamudi such a strong brand in each market was extremely rewarding.

You’re currently based in Dubai but run a company in Dar. Has it been challenging to start a company in a different region? How do you overcome these?

Challenging is an understatement. As anyone who runs an F&B outlet will tell you, you must be physically present to ensure consistency and monitor theft. I have tried to overcome this by using technology to make the distance as minimal as possible. I can view footage from the cameras in the restaurant on my phone 24/7, I can see sales reports live from our point of sales system, and I am on the phone/whatsapp with my managers, head chef and accountant daily. And of course, I make sure to visit the restaurant monthly. But despite these measures, we have experienced theft and keeping a tight hold on the operations, marketing, and finances is definitely a continuous process of improvement. image

**What was the inspiration behind Pizza Pie? Why in Dar? **

Traveling around East Africa for work, the market opportunity for fast F&B struck me daily at lunch and dinner. While there are many restaurants in all cities, the number of quality fast food options is far fewer. I remember being in Kigali for a business trip and my Country Manager told me that we had TWO options for a quick lunch. Pizza was a clear choice for me as it’s a food item that appeals to everyone—locals and expats; the ingredients are widely available and if you have the right equipment, it’s foolproof in the kitchen. Dar is an extremely vibrant and growing city and unlike Nairobi, the city I was living in, there were far fewer pizza outlets. While Nairobi and Dar have similar demographics and population, there seemed to be 5 pizza outlets in Nairobi for every outlet in Dar.

In Dar, there were quite a few traditional Italian-style pizzerias, so I decided to tap into my roots and sell American-style pan pizza. So that’s what I have delivered! Buttery, cheesy pizza with lots of toppings and a few delicious pastas and desserts. The response has been extremely positive so far and I am excited to continue to improve our service, expand our menu and grow deliveries. I also plan to open a second outlet this year. image

Dar definitely seems to be evolving, given its crazy growth in hotels, restaurants and nightlife. What are some of your favorite places to eat in Dar? Favorite places to shop?

My favorite restaurant is 305 Karafu in the middle of a residential area; the owner Gasper has turned his garage into a quaint restaurant. My favorite items are the chili prawns and apple pie. For views of the ocean and fresh seasfood, try Karambezi and Cape Town Fish Market. And for a very local experience, try Mamboz in town for Indian style BBQ.

What’s one thing anyone who visits Dar must do—besides eat at Pizza Pie ☺ Go to the beach! Go up north to Kunduchi. Or if you have time, take the ferry across to Zanzibar and you have some of the most stunning beaches in the world. My favorite beach in Zanzibar is the northern most point of the island, Nungwi. White sand beaches, warm clear blue water, it’s truly a magical place. image

**We admire how you’ve been able to pursue so many different passions. Any advice for women interested in taking the leap to pursue uncharted waters? ** Take risks, be confident and start now! If there’s an idea you are passionate about, don’t wait to start. Building a brand or refining a new business model takes time, so be patient and prepare yourself for the unexpected. Also, don’t feel that you need to quit your full-time job to pursue your venture. I’ve been able to work full-time and manage Pizza Pie as well. There are many hours in the day and technology makes our lives much more efficient, so try it out. When your venture becomes profitable and you can afford to pursue it full-time then you can make the transition. image

**How did the P.MAI backpack fit into your busy lifestyle? ** I loved it. I had a fancy, travel-friendly messenger bag that I had been using for some time and I had just gotten used to the strain of all the weight on my shoulder. Using P.MAI backpack with the padded straps and spreading the weight across both shoulders was such a relief. It’s fashionable, functional and I don’t think I can go back to a messenger bag now.  

**Finally: How do you carry on beautifully? ** Despite my hectic travel schedule, I try to stay as connected as possible to my family and loved ones. Work travel can be stressful and lonely, so staying in touch with loved ones keeps me grounded and comforted to take on the challenges I am facing at work.  image