Siny Samba is a Senegalese entrepreneur, co-founder and CEO of Le Lionceau, the first baby food brand 100% made in Senegal. Before that, she worked as an R&D engineer at Blédina, the baby food branch of French food multinational Danone.
The entrepreneur noted that she has always had a passion for producing food. According to her, she was keen to know how to make jams and preserves. After her baccalaureate, she went on to do a degree in agri food. She landed a job at Blédina.
While working in France, she began to take interest in events in her native country, particularly in the baby food sector. She recalled taking a trip to Senegal and noticing that all the baby foods on the shelves of various supermarkets were imported.
“When I came back to Senegal on vacation, I noticed that 100 percent of the baby food in the stores was imported, even though we have very rich resources in terms of nutrition,” she told IFC Insights. “I felt that we were missing out on an opportunity.”
This led her to conceive the idea of starting a local baby food-producing company in Senegal. With funding and support from Women Investment Club (WIC), Hub Impact Dakar, and more recently Investisseurs et Partenaires, she co-founded Le Lionceau in 2018 with a classmate from agricultural engineering school.
Her baby food producing company now has some 20 workers and offers 15 varieties of organic baby puree, compotes, biscuits, and cereals. Since the company started in 2018, it has quadrupled its sales in the last three years.
Samba said they started Le Lionceau off small, “ really small in the kitchen,” she told the BBC. “That is where we tested out our baby food recipes.”
According to her, they had a group of more than 10 mothers and made them try out the recipes so they could give them feedback. They first started with one recipe, banana millet. “We want to do something similar to the rouye (millet porridge) which mums usually feed their children.”
Samba said she was inspired to work on new recipes for infants after giving birth. Since then, she and her team have produced a variety of baby foods, including sweet potato, moringa (a type of plant), ditakh (a type of wild fruit), bouye (baobab fruit), solom (a type of tamarind), papaya, mango, and niebe (black-eyed pea).
Having found success in Senegal, Samba said the next phase of the company is to expand to the West African market, targeting Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, and Mali. The company is also targeting the diaspora market and is exploring a partnership with online retailers Amazon and C-Discount.