I lived with my mother and my two sisters under simple conditions. I learned early on that everyone in the family had to pull their weight. I remember how much I wanted to help my mother who needed three jobs to make ends meet. As early as 8 years old, I started to sell newspapers; the reward was the happiness I felt every time I felt i contributed to something on the dinner table. The feeling was so strong, it came to dominate my upbringing and reflect on all I would do in the future. My mother taught me to believe in hard work and that nothing is impossible – as long as you make up your mind.
At age 16, I decided to be the best in MMA, Mixed Martial Arts. Three years and thousands of hours in the gym later I was appointed Swedish champion. To finance my professional career I got a truck license and began working at a warehouse; it allowed med to work the night shift and continue training two sessions per day. I alternated between intense work at home and tough training periods in the Netherlands. I remember sleeping on a mattress in the attic to afford to train with the best. The insistence paid off, I managed to get into the Top10 ranking in Europe. During this time, I reflected a lot on life and what I wanted to achieve with my life. I came to think of the Aloe Vera drink I drank after workouts and that there was not anything like it back home; there and then I realized that there was gap in the market for healthy food options in Sweden. The year was 2008, and my dream of starting my own business became a reality – Njie Group. Interest was high and business was good, but not as fast as the expiry date on the bottles. Although I was working around the clock, half of the bottles were left when the expiry date was overdue. I was still convinced of the potential and soon a new container was ordered. By now the drink started to establish itself, and everything was sold out in time. For the money earned I upgraded the moped to a white van that took the company to Stockholm. Once there I hired sales staff, started a warehouse and ordered two new containers. It didn’t take long until Njie Aloe Vera drink had dealers across the country and was available to everyone in Sweden. Just what I dreamt about a few years earlier.
In 2015 I launched a novelty which I created: ProPud Protein Pudding – A lactose-free pudding without added sugar, enriched with 10% protein. The idea came one day in the kitchen when I stood and mixed protein powder with milk and thought; there must be an easier way …I needed a bank loan to finance my first order of Aloe Vera drink. It was a great day when the truck backed into the neighborhood with a container carrying 1650 cartons (33000 bottles) on the sidewalk outside my mother’s apartment on Guldheden. The neighbors were not as impressed by the container. In the coming days my family and friends helped me organize the boxes. Mom’s living room was filled from floor to ceiling, as well as every storage in the basement and all my friends’ bedrooms. Because there was no money for marketing, I had to find other creative ways to reach out. I put my last money on a red scooter and drove around to the local gyms, salad bars and cafes. All so that as many people as possible could be reached by the good drink.
In the spring of 2016 we launched ProPud protein milkshakes; a milkshake with the same characteristics as the pudding. At the same time we also launched Freeno – a sugar-carbonated soft drink with vitamins and antioxidants, which also was well received on the market. I’m no longer alone. Today, the Njie Group has over 30 employees that develop, produce and market high quality functional foods. We work everyday to make it easier for those who want to live healthy and achieve their personal goals.//Assan Njie