Somaliland: French Pastry Co-Business Profile


Somalilandsun – The French Pastry Company was established in 2009 by Yahye Yousef Hassan. A resident of Hargeisa and committed entrepreneur, Yahye was always interested in running his own business.

As a young entrepreneur he established his first business which was a small supermarket at the age of 19 straight after finishing High School. The origins of the French pastry Co. can be traced back to a visit Yahye made to Djibouti where he discovered the simple ‘croissant’ for the first time. This tasty marvel of a baking product, which can be found in many parts of the world, was unknown in Somaliland. After recognising a large gap in the Hargeisa market for bakery products that included croissants, pain au raisin, brioche and baguette style breads, Yahye was determined that he should open a bakery in his hometown to introduce these products to his fellow citizens

Yahye’s ownership of the Titanic Supermarket in Hargeisa, established in 1991, provided the initial funding support for his bakery enterprise and funded his visits to Djibouti where he first experienced the joys of tasty patisserie and bakery products. Travelling regularly to Djibouti to explore and secure supplier opportunities for his Titanic Supermarket, Yahye started the process of developing his business idea by bringing samples of Djibouti-based bakery products to Hargeisa and asking potential customers if they thought the samples were tasty, and more importantly if they would purchase them if they were made available locally. With a ready statement of commitment to buy any products he could produce, Yahye had all the evidence he needed to make the decision to establish his business as a going concern before anyone else decided to jump into this market gap.

Supported by his family, and an initial investment of $8,500 derived from his Titanic Supermarket profits Yahye began his baking activities by registering his new business as a legal enterprise and securing supplier links that resulted in the importing of the essential ingredients from Djibouti. To begin the local production process Yahye identified and secured the training services of Djiboutian bakery experts who then trained his first 3 bakery staff.

Developing his business involved the identification and purchase of enough bakery equipment to start a small community level patisserie (bakery), but Yahye believed that the absence of any real competition, except for the Imperial Hotel whose products were regarded as inauthentic and restricted only to hotel customer consumption, would help ensure that his new products would be well received.

With supplier agreements secured for the key ingredients, and equipment arriving soon in Hargeisa, Yahye identified a workplace in Hargeisa’s Shidka district and concluded an initial one-year rental agreement that was extended to 2012. With the bakery established and products that were in growing demand, Yahye initially promoted his pastry products through the Titanic Supermarket. Yahye also quickly found that grocery and general shop owners began enquiring where Yahye bought his bakery products, so he responded to business leads by visiting Hargeisa’s supermarkets to offer them supplier agreements and merchandising materials like his well known French Pastry adhesive stickers and posters. Yahye also explored the potential of wider media promotion (newspapers, radio and TV), but found ‘word of mouth’ messaging to be the best recommendation

French Pastry has approximately 200 regular small business retail customers who value the company’s bakery products as not only tasty, but good value for money. In Djibouti a typical croissant sells for $1 while Hargeisa’s customers only pay 28 cents!!

As the business was growing steadily, in 2012 Yahye decided to move his operation from Shidka to Xawadled where he was offered a five-year workspace rental agreement on a larger premises that offered expansion and development possibilities

With his business looking more secure, through an expanding customer base and the support of the Somaliland Business Fund for equipment upgrading and purchases, Yahye has recently also recruited a Kenyan baker who is bringing much needed bakery expertise and training support to the French Pastry company’s 9 new staff. On the subject of training Yahye says, “if a company’s staff isn’t properly trained and motivated the company will tear itself apart”. His own approach to motivating staff is based around regular staff meetings where the hot topics include ‘improving product quality’, ‘new product ideas’, identifying business opportunities and the rewarding of staff for their dedication to ensuring French Pastry products remain the preferred choice of customers.

The company, established with an initial investment of $8,500, is now worth $90,000, but Yahye is still looking for investment opportunities. As quality and expanding his company’s market share are priorities, Yahye wants to invest in food packaging equipment and a factory unit that is appropriate for food processing. Yahye believes that further investment in the company will not only promote productivity and sales, but lead to more jobs being created. As for the idea of establishing a modern well-equipped factory unit owned by him in Hargeisa, Yahye adds this would not leave him exposed to fluctuating and costly rental agreements.

Yahye and his staff have also begun to widen their customer base to include private one-off catering assignments for seminars, workshops, family and corporate occasions, so the efforts made to grow the company are proving to be worthwhile. Catering contracts have also resulted in French Pastry offering beverages alongside their patisserie and bakery products, so the supplier agreements secured by Yahye have also grown in number.

As improved access to new supplier markets has grown steadily over the past three years, Yahye is examining the options for new business trading offers and terms. Suppliers who cannot offer the levels of product quality, reliability of supply and price offered by others are discovering that French Pastry is changing its supplier agreements. With an eye on securing quality improvements in his main bakery product ingredients, Yahye is examining the options for purchasing key ingredients from new suppliers in Turkey, as their terms are more competitive than those of his current Dubai-based suppliers.

With business and entrepreneurial activity steadily growing in Somaliland, Yahye would like to see his local entrepreneurs adopting the same approach to quality and service delivery. If the choice you are faced with involves buying poor quality local products or better quality imported products at the same price you would be foolish to buy locally. Having said this, Yahye believes that these gaps in local market supply offer his fellow entrepreneurs in Somaliland business opportunities that they could and should respond to. On the subject of potential competition, Yahye says that competition is a good thing as it “forces you to be creative and being creative can only be good for your business.”

Yahye said that his business’ success is based largely on his experience of working his way from the bottom and facing a variety of, sometimes complex, challenges as a start-up. He believes that the experience of establishing the French Pastry Co has proved that he has the main attributes and characteristics of successful entrepreneurs. “You need to build your knowledge steadily, you need to have lots of patience, be hardworking and perhaps most importantly you need to demonstrate that you are trustworthy!”

One last bit of advice from Yahye for potential entrepreneurs in the bakery business – “If you enjoy your baking you will succeed!”

French Pastry Co.

Mr. Yahye Yousef Hassan