Q&A… Malawi Mangoes Co-Founders

We had a chat with Malawi Mangoes co-founders Jonny & Craig about deciding what to do, achieving your aspirations & their top tips for graduates.
Jonny Jacobs & Craig Hardie spent 30 years between them, working with blue chip multinationals – Craig in International Development, Jonny as a Venture Capital lawyer. But all that changed in 2009…
On holiday in Malawi, Craig noticed rotting mangoes in a field and it struck him that such a poor country was so rich in natural resources. Back in a London restaurant, Craig and Jonny discussed what it would be like to start Malawi’s first ever fruit processing industry. And so their incredible journey began! 😃

What’s important in deciding what to do?


‘I think one of the most important things is that fear shouldn’t be a good enough reason not to do something. That’s the one thing we really want to pass onto people. Being afraid is not enough to stop you from doing something that’s important to you, something you believe in, and something that you want. There’s that very famous quote by Henry David Thoreau…
 If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”
Do the work, be committed, and figure out how it’s going to work. But don’t just abandon it because you’re scared. That would be a real shame.’


‘A bit of naivety goes a long way. Our journey has been incredibly challenging. If I’d known what we’d developed to date, I wouldn’t have believed I could have done it. So that’s a good message to people… belief!  Take the first step, then baby steps. It’s incremental. This has been an incredible journey, with the highest highs and the lowest lows. Perseverance, support and just a belief in what you’re trying to achieve are key.
I believe everyone’s naturally good at something. I think it’s important that people try to discover what that is. To try and do something that’s aligned to them, so they are more likely to enjoy themselves while they’re doing it. You also need to align yourself to the values of who or what you’re working for. If personal values are not aligned with those of the company you’re working for, it’s always going to be a struggle. But don’t worry if you end up in places like that, you learn and then you have to make the decision to move on. There’s nothing wrong with that. And that’s what I’ve done throughout my career.’


What would you say to someone looking to start a business?


‘More than any other time, I believe this is the graduates’ generation.  This is the time for people who want to do things, who have got the belief in an idea, and got the belief in themselves to say ‘I want to try this’.
We live in an incredibly dynamic world of industries that are changing; we’re not operating in the same financial sectors as 10 years ago. There are a lot more ideas that people are prepared to talk about, that were once deemed ideas out on the fringe. I think it’s an incredibly exciting time to be going out into the workplace. The advice I would give is don’t be afraid to say what it is you want to do, and then go out and look for it. You might have to look for things, it may not be straightforward, but now is your time. This generation has a better chance than any other before it, for getting stuck in to exciting new ways of doing business and new ways of operating.’

How have you achieved your aspirations?


In every part of my career (good and bad), I’ve learned something and taken it on board. Every bit has helped me on my next stage of life. You don’t necessarily know what the next stage is, but each experience helps you prepare for the next stage.

You should keep aspiring to do the things you want to do, and keep trying to do those things. It should never stop. That’s the essence of what we’re all doing here.
Whatever you do, if you’re getting bored of it, if it’s getting tired, if it’s not working for you any more, then just change it. Equally, if you’re doing something that makes you extremely happy, then don’t change it. If you can overcome the fear and do something you really want to do and put the risk aside, it sets you up incredibly for whatever happens afterwards. You’re only going to have the fear once.’



What are your best tips for new graduates?


Don’t give up. Keep going. Never stop pursuing the thing you want to do, or find out about. Odds are if you pursue it with that commitment, you’ll be amazed!
You’re talking to two guys who sat in a restaurant and said ‘What would it look like if we started Malawi’s first ever commercial fruit processing industry?’ If we’d known then how much we would have to know now, we may not have done it. It may have been too terrifying for us. A little bit of naivety does go a long way. But ultimately, figure out what it is you think you want to do and then relentlessly pursue it.’

Thank you Jonny & Craig 😀


Find out more about Malawi Mangoes & its founders:

Malawi Mangoes also goes Bananas – The World Folio
Interview with Craig Hardie


Smallholder Farming with Malawi Mangoes – Where Money Grows on Trees – YouTube
Farming First TV talks to Jonny Jacobs of Malawi Mangoes about the company’s sweet success   (5 mins)


Grad Bites: Find What You Really Want To Do
Introducing an inspiring way of doing business with Malawi Mangoes – an environmentally-friendly company that now supports thousands of locals & pioneered a new industry.


Craig Hardie – LinkedIn


Jonathan Jacobs – LinkedIn