Astana’s entrepreneurs, Serik Azhibekov and Maral Amankulova, have been producing different dairy products; their natural butter is in very high demand. Maral Azhibekova shared their story of establishing their business.
How did you start your dairy production business? What influenced the start of this business?
I am a native of the Saryagash District of the Turkestan region. As a child, I took care of cattle and milked cows. Our mother handmade different dairy products such as butter, kefir, sour cream, and types of cheese: cottage cheese, kurt, and irimshik. She taught me the techniques to make them as well. We would make them together with my sister for hours, and the time spent together is one of my best memories from childhood. Her handmade butter was exceptional; we also sold it, and it was an additional source of income for our family. We sold it to neighbors and other members of the village. I moved to the city for my further education, and I have always missed the taste of handmade butter. The options in the city were low quality and deficient in taste; they tasted very artificial. The composition of the butters made me suspicious too; it tasted like it’s full of margarine and modified vegetable oils. I looked for many options, but I couldn’t find anything as good as my mother’s handmade butter. So I decided to produce it myself with similar techniques.
What is special about your dairy products?
Our cattle are only grass-fed, not grain-fed. Compared to regular butter, grass-fed butter has higher levels of unsaturated fatty acids. For instance, it has more omega-3 fatty acids, which are known to lower your risk for heart disease, autoimmune disease, and diabetes. The taste, color, and texture differ too; while regular butter is white, grass-fed butter is bright yellow in color. So, it’s called yellow butter. The taste is much richer and heartier; it tastes a bit grassy or vegetable-like due to the high concentration of vitamins. The texture of it is much softer too, since it has fewer saturated fats. The grass-fed homemade butter contains different vitamins, such as vitamin A, B, and D, and high-quality fats, which are essential for health. Our butter is especially beneficial for young, developing children and pregnant women.
We don’t use any preservatives, additives, or chemicals in our products. They are organic, GMO-free, and hormone-free. Since it doesn’t have any preservatives, its storage time is shorter, and it can expire quickly, but our products sell out quickly, so it’s not an issue.
What were the difficulties in the production of the products?
We had difficulties with financing in the beginning. We didn’t want to take a loan from the bank, and since we were not sure about the success of our business, I was not sure I would repay the loan. Also, the interest rate was high. So I took a loan from our relative, my husband’s brother. Thankfully, we repaid the loan very quickly and had no issues. I wish there were more opportunities specifically for entrepreneurs in farming with financing, loans with low interest, or special grants or financing offers.
How do you attract the attention of clients? Do you do special advertising?
We don’t have a physical shop in a supermarket or mall; we sell our products online through Instagram. My daughter is a social media marketer and mobileographer. She made an Instagram account and does all marketing through it; she makes Instagram advertisements through Target. Since she is an expert, we have been successful in attracting customers. Our goal is not only to attract customers but also to make them regular customers. So, we often make discounts and gifts for them. For instance, customers get a bottle of kefir for every kilogram of butter they buy. Nowadays, competition is high, so entrepreneurs should focus not on finding clients but rather on retaining them. However, the most effective way for us was “word of mouth”, clients always recommended our butter to their friends, neighbors, or colleagues. We market our products as ecologically clean, healthy, natural food, which is very popular among people who focus on nutrition and diet.
How do you plan to develop your own business?
We plan on increasing the production amount since the demand is high and sometimes we run out of butter. So, we plan on buying more cattle, investing in equipment, hiring professionals, and expanding the business. New products are planned to be added, and we are developing the recipe for melted or ghee butter at the moment since it was asked by our customers. Also, we aim to increase production of other dairy items such as cheese, sour creams, and kefir. Nowadays, national Kazakh cuisine’s food items have become popular, so our business wants to focus on making Kazakh dairy products: kurt, zhent, and irimishik.
Thank you for the interview!