My Business Story

Young Entrepreneur Shares Exciting Story Of Greenhouse Farming

A young entrepreneur who started out helping a neighbour on his farm has ended up creating a modern farm that would leave many green with envy

Feyisayo Fatodu has always considered himself a hands-on person, and farming is not new to him. Growing up, he used to help out on their neighbour’s farm.
Although he looked forward to a white-collar job when he was in school, he knew it wasn’t what he wanted to do all his life. After working in Brussels and the UK, Feyi moved back home to pursue his many business interests.  
Feyi said, “I visited the Netherlands last year and saw the number of greenhouses that littered the sides of the highways. This increased my interest in greenhouse farming, so I started reading up extensively on the topic and also spoke with farmers who were accustomed to the more traditional methods to compare both methods. With greenhouses, I am able to produce tomatoes and fresh vegetables all year round with minimal acreage.”

Business brief
Started: April 2017
Instagram: @kijani_farmsng

Greenhouse farming is an all-year-round, space-managed high-yield cultivation under regulated climatic conditions. To put greenhouse farming into perspective: it yields up to 4 tonnes of tomatoes in a six-month season from a single 8m x 24m or 192m2 greenhouse, compared to the traditional open-field tomato cultivation which, with best agricultural practices, yields a maximum of 7 tonnes per hectare (10,000m2).
Greenhouse cultivation of tomatoes replicated over one hectare yields 19 times more than the traditional open-field method. “The numbers don’t lie if you get the processes right” he said.

However, the practice is associated with high cost, making it difficult to compete in the market.
But Feyi said he devised a method to stay competitive. “I have zeroed down my market and focused on a specific clientele for the short term. As the business expands, we can then expand our target market to supermarket chains and foreign off takers. For us to compete with our bigger rivals and ensure quick sales, we need to focus on our main customers.”
By “specific clientele” Feyi means the mid-level to upscale restaurants in Abuja, which can afford to pay a premium above what traditional farm produce commands for fresh tomatoes and vegetables with a longer shelf life.
Logically, more greenhouses mean more farm produce for Feyi. However, the peculiarity of his method of farming has affected his expansion plan. He narrated how he was technically disqualified from the Bank of Industry loan scheme during his farm set up: “I was told they didn’t give loans for structures (greenhouses). In my line of business, greenhouses are the needed equipment, which I tried to explain to them, but I was still ineligible for the loan. I have just heard about a CBN fund for SMEs and the Tony Elumelu Foundation grant, which I plan to apply for in the near future.”
Another challenge Feyi expectedly faced in starting a greenhouse farm was finding the right staff. “Getting the right workers with the technical know how wasn’t easy,” he confessed. “I had to go through a few people before getting the staff I have now. In my opinion, as a startup in the agricultural sector, it is important you hire knowledgeable workers to stay in the game as this usually translates to higher profits". 

The off-takers love fresh tomatoes and vegetables because they have a longer shelf life. In fact, the off-takers are the reason we exist.

Luckily, he received support from international agro-business companies such as Dizengoff Nigeria, which provide training and other technical support for greenhouse farmers and attendants.
The public's perception of Feyi’s farming method has been encouraging so far, and this excites him. “Everyone I have spoken to about my business has shown interest. A few even want to visit the farm to see things for themselves. Also, the off-takers love the taste and look of the fresh tomatoes and vegetables and the fact that they have a longer shelf life compared to open field produce. In fact, the off-takers are the reason we exist.”
Feyi, who holds a master’s degree in Renewable Energy Management from Newcastle University, United Kingdom, received tremendous support from family and friends when he started out, but now he needs more funding to increase productivity and explore the use of advanced technology.

An optimistic Feyi said: “I’m in this long term, so I want to see the business increasing its number of greenhouses, increasing the number and quantity of its produce. Increasing the number and varieties of crops we grow is part of the plan.” 

Looking to the future, he added, “Kenya is the lead exporter of Rose cut flowers to the EU, there’s no reason why Kijani Farms can’t explore that market in the future. There are also plans to develop a website showing our stock levels, making it easier for registered off-takers to place orders at the click of a button. Automating certain aspects of the greenhouses as is done in countries like Kenya is also in our plan.”

Feyi’s greenhouse farm, tended by two full-time and an additional part-time staff, could be modest for now, but its owner has big dreams including venturing into processing and packaging of its produce, exports and even floriculture.

Sisters Turn Childhood Baking Passion Into Big Business

Two sisters who grew up enjoying a TV show on food have turned the pastime into a goldmine

Kachi and Chizzy Amajor were born and raised in the United States of America and grew up in Texas. According to Kachi, their favourite TV show growing up was "Sweet Dreams", a baking show anchored by Gale Gand and aired on FoodNetwork. It was a show Kachi and Chizzy rarely missed and which became the foundation of their love for baking.

Kachi reminisced on how their interest in baking gradually transformed into a business idea: “I started taking baking more seriously at high school. By the time I was in college, my sister and I started our own business by selling wedding cakes, birthday cakes and so much more.”
Kachi, a graduate of the University of Texas, Arlington, and Chizzy, who graduated from Howard University and Georgetown University, both in the U.S., moved to Nigeria in 2013 for the very first time in their lives.

Business brief:
Started: April 2017
Social media contact
Instagram: @Stelladulcebakery

Kachi recalled: “Nigeria has so much to offer and we just had to come and experience it for ourselves. We left our comfort zone and jumped out on blind faith knowing that success was the only option once backed with determination and perseverance.”

However, their relocation was of mutual benefit, as they brought with them a Western confectionery idea blended with local convention.
“Being born and raised in the US has definitely had an influence on our baking styles,” Kachi told us. “We like to incorporate American southern flavours from Texas, Georgia, Mississippi, etc., and tastes that are nostalgic to our experiences. We are bringing our childhood favourites to the Nigerian market. We arealso developing recipes that truly showcase all the amazing flavours that Nigeria has to offer.”

Stella Dulce Bakery, named after the Amajor sisters’ mother, has been setup in Abuja as a place where the two sisters are taking confectionaries to the next level with exceptional passion for baking. However, Abuja and other major cities already have many bakeries. So what is Stella Dulce doing differently?

Kachi was excited by the question. She said: "We incorporate different international flavour profiles that represent the countries that we have travelled to. Stella Dulce only uses high-quality ingredients and we spend extra time on the intricate details to ensure that each product we make is as unique as the people who order them from us. We use international baking techniques from Swiss and French approaches to Texas tried and true best practices."
The Amajor sisters are using the lessons learned from their flourishing careers in public and global health to build their bakery brand with the goal of bringing international standards and quality to their customers’ doorsteps.

We are bringing our childhood favourites from the United States to the Nigerian market. We are also developing recipes that truly showcase all the amazing flavours that Nigeria has to offer

Kachi vividly remembered the first sale, which persuaded them that they were on the right track and deepened their interest: “It has to be a Ben10 car cake that we made for a little boy’s birthday. He absolutely loved it! He probably wanted to play with it more than he wanted to eat it. As is common to many start-ups, our first sales came from family and friends. Then it grew from there with recommendations. We are finding that the way we started in the United States is the same trend that we’re seeing in Nigeria.”

With growing health concerns worldwide, healthy-eating enthusiasts often criticise the confectionary industry for the growing obesity, especially among children.

We asked Kachi if Stella Dulce Bakery makes healthy desserts. She said: “Honestly, you’d be surprised how fruit and veggies can be incorporated into desserts. Mother Nature has given us so many natural sweeteners and healthy fats that can be used rather than butter and sugar. We are developing a vegan line of recipes that are just as rich and flavourful as our guilty pleasures. No sugar, no eggs, no dairy, all natural flavours that are derived from healthy sources like nuts and natural oils.

Learning how to produce on a large scale was an initial challenge when Stella Dulce started. Also, obtaining quality ingredients in Nigeria has been a constant challenge, according to Kachi.

“We ensure that our ingredients are the best and we are ready to go above and beyond even if it means importing the best ingredients to guarantee superior products for our customers,” she said.

In spite of the crowded confectionary space, Kachi said Stella Dulce a high-end bakery with a bright future. She said, “Our priority is delivering excellence in everything we create. All of our customers are high profile, no matter how big or small. We treat every customer like a super star. Whether you are ordering a single cupcake or hosting a star-studded event, you are going to be treated like the king or queen that you are!”

Graduate Engineer Charts Course In Jewelry Business

A young civil engineering graduate finds her footing in the intricate and alluring world of precious stones

Despite her degree in Civil Engineering, Eyakenoabasi Bob (Eyak for short) always wanted something more than a regular job. 

She learnt a trade by default: her mum was a high-end jewelry dealer. But rather than settle for mere buying and selling of jewelries, Eyak decided to put her engineering knowledge to work by being the goldsmith herself. She reasoned that was one sure way to fill “the precision gap” in the jewelry market in Nigeria. 

Eyak described how she opted to become a goldsmith instead of a builder of roads, skyscrapers and bridges: “I have always been around jewelry; it's something that fascinates me and makes me happy. While growing up and watching my mother sell high-end jewelries I developed a flair for jewelry, as I saw the smile she put on people's faces and decided to make my first collection. I got great feedback from people that saw the pieces on me and many requested to have something similar made for them.”

Business Brief
Business started 2016
Instagram: eyak_bob
Facebook: Adorn by Eno

Those in the jewelry industry know something for a fact: more than anything else, jewelry -- whether to a goldsmith, a dealer or the end user -- is an art. 

And at the heart of every art are loyal followers. So when Eyak decided to turn her passion for making jewelries into a business, she knew it had to carry a distinct signature to command loyal clienteles.

Beaming excitingly, she stated, “My products speak for themselves; they market themselves. Adorn by Eno products turn heads and get people asking questions whenever it's spotted. Most of my clients come from referrals, and maintaining high-quality products is very vital in this business.”

Of course, Adorn by Eno is Eyakenoabasi’s jewelry concern which she strongly believes will revolutionise the art of making worn ornaments. She hopes it will bring class and sophistication to the modern-day African woman through a blend of western themes and African style, with emphasis on beading and metal works. 

However, what Eyak wants to be remembered for the most is her push for made-in-Nigeria jewelries to be respected in the very exclusive jewelry market.

She said: “The two most important things to me are my customers and the need to promote made-in-Nigeria products. Adorn by Eno adds a personalised touch to our products to suit the customers’ needs. We want to promote Nigerian businesses and provide jobs for the locals who mine the gold and precious stones we use in making our pieces.”

According to the Akwa Ibom State-born 2014 graduate from the University of Swansea, Wales, neither the UAE/India merchants nor the thriving fairly-used, second-hand jewelry market could dampen her resolve to champion bespoke Nigerian jewelries.   

She stated: “Our made-in-Nigeria jewelries enable us to cater to the needs of customers quickly and to their desired specification. We make jewelries based on the personality and needs of customers. For example, I had a set called the Killaly set. It was a bestseller and came in silver with Zirconia crystals. Many people wanted it in gold, so we made that available. That is what gives us the edge; most people that import things to sell do not have that luxury to change and make things to customers’ specifications.”

Nigeria is rich in precious stones. We have one of the best blue sapphires in the world found in Taraba State. We also have a vast variety of precious stones such as tourmaline, emerald, amethyst and so on -- and even gold

Either it’s the engineer in her or the fact that she became a jewelry enthusiast quite early in life, one cannot but observe Eyak’s emphasis on quality. “Jewelry purchase is not everyone's priority. It's not a necessity but a luxury. It all boils down to building your clientele,” she told us. “It is important to have a luxury specialist that gives you accurate feedback and checks the quality of all new collections before they are released to the public.”

Adorn by Eno mainly sources its gems locally. A strong advocate of local content, it isn’t surprising that Eyak knows where to get what in Nigeria.  

“Nigeria is rich in precious stones. We have one of the best blue sapphires in the world found in Taraba State. We also have a vast variety of precious stones such as tourmaline, emerald, amethyst and so on -- and even gold, which is found in a good amount in Nasarawa, Zamfara, etc. The bulk of the gold we use is mined from Nasarawa, which is closest to us.”

Eyak started out as an apprentice with a local goldsmith. That was how she made her first pieces and started her journey as a goldsmith. The proceeds from the sale of her first pieces went into setting up her own workshop and buying equipment. 

She later went to Alchimia Contemporary Jewelry School, Florence, Italy, to hone her skills, all with the full support of her parents and other family members. She however added that, “I have some friends and a cousin who do not agree with my line of business.”

Eyak wants to conquer the African jewelry market one city at a time. Next stop is Lagos, and then she sees “us taking the African market and international market by storm.”

Ambitious Lawyer Friends Give Kilishi New Taste

Two friends from different parts of the country ditch their law degrees for food business, and they’re raising the bar in the processing of kilishi, a local snack.

Uche Ezeozue and Minso Wathanafa have been friends since their days at King’s College, Lagos. Upon graduation in 2000, they proceeded to the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, and the University of Maiduguri respectively to study law.
Both went to the United Kingdom for their postgraduate degrees -- Uche graduating with a master’s degree in Commercial and Corporate Law from Queen Mary University of London, while Minso bagged a master’s in Maritime Law from the University of Swansea, Wales.
Expectedly, both dreamt of white-collar jobs -and they got them. Uche wanted to be an investment banker but ended up at an oil firm in Lagos and Minso was practising law and real estate management in Abuja.
Then, something happened: Uche came up with a weird business idea.

Business Brief:
Started 2014 
Social media: 
Facebook: Golnar Foods
Twitter: @Golnarfoods

Minso explained how it all began: “I know you may find this surprising especially because I am from the North, but it was actually Uche’s idea. I was busy with my real estate practice before Uche briefed me on the business opportunity. I saw potential in the kilishi business and became interested.”
For starters, kilishi is a dehydrated and spiced meat snack made in the northern part of the country and popular among travelers. 

How did Uche come up with the idea of kilishi business? He said: “Kilishi is a well-loved snack and every time I went to visit my family in Abuja, the number one request I got from my friends in Lagos was kilishi. It didn't make sense to me that you couldn't find kilishi in the supermarkets and had to wait for someone coming back from the North to fulfil your desire. I went to all the major stores in Lagos and I noticed there was no well-packaged, NAFDAC-approved kilishi available. The few brands available in some of the smaller stores were poorly packaged and could not be trusted. I knew I could do better in terms of quality and packaging, so I decided to explore the opportunity.”

"The few brands (of kilishi) available in some of the smaller stores were poorly packaged and could not be trusted. I knew I could do better in terms of quality and packaging, so I decided to explore the opportunity"

Kilishi, is often produced manually under very poor hygienic conditions: wrapped in old newspapers and almost certainly supplied by travelers returning from the northern part of the country.
But Golnar Foods, the company set up by Uche and Minso, is changing all that.
Uche was emphatic about the value they’re adding: “We are NAFDAC-approved and our kilishi is hygienically produced in our purpose-built facility. It is well-packaged in food grade pouches, properly labelled with all the required information and is available in Shoprite, Spar and most other major stores in Lagos and Abuja. We intend to roll out nationwide very soon.”
Purpose-built factory for kilishi? Yes. It’s a modest facility with lots of room for expansion, but it actually started in Uche’s kitchen. “A friend introduced me to a supplier and I ordered some nice-looking plastic containers from the US to package the kilishi. I bought about N30, 000 worth of kilishi to have a feel of the market and packaged them in the plastic containers with a sticker of my company name and contact details. My first batch sold out in a matter of days and I made a decent profit. I increased the quantity on my next order and sold out in a matter of days as well.”
Before Uche sold the idea to Minso, he was spending his lunch break delivering kilishi to friends and acquaintances. When he became convinced that the business would work, he quit his job and moved to Abuja to involve his trusted friend.
With their savings and the support of family members, the two friends were able to set up shop. They got a loan only two months ago, but might never have launched out if they had waited for the loan to start.
However, the business hasn’t been without the usual challenges faced by many start-ups, especially at the height of the exchange rate fluctuation.
Uche explained how Golnar Foods had been coping with the challenges: “We had to increase our prices slightly and introduce smaller packs to make our products more affordable. Our initial pouches and some other equipment were imported from the US. We had to switch suppliers from the US to China.”
Uche and Minso have big plans for16-staff-strong Golnar Foods in the future, including diversification, fully automated production and nationwide presence. They also want to export from Nigeria to other countries across Africa and set up a production facility in Europe due to meat restrictions there.

We're Using Creative Arts to Redefine Business And Country - Entrepreneur

A passionate, young artist is exploring the creative arts not only as a viable business option, but also for what it can do to change the country

As long as Nduwhite Ndubuisi Ahanonu can remember, he has only wanted one thing: to make a career from creative arts. Not for him the indecision and game of chance which many young people go through. 

Reminiscing on his early years, Nduwhite narrated how the Arts had always been a part of him. “If I can remember, I have always been artistic. Back in my primary school days, I remember drawing things like the map of Nigeria and the digestive system on the walls of our classroom. The funny part is that other teachers also wanted me to draw on the walls of their classrooms too and I saw it as a burden at first. When I grew older, I discovered that it was the most important part of my life. It is like everything I am and the reason that I am.”

It was therefore not surprising when Nduwhite chose to study Fine and Applied Arts at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.  Upon graduation in 2000 and having completed his National Youth Service Corps year in 2001, he decided to settle down and do arts in Abuja, a rather awkward decision considering the derisive perception of Abuja as an uninspiring city of politics and government contracts.

Business brief:
Started 2012
Instagram: nduwhite

However, Nduwhite had a clearly different impression about the nation’s capital.

He said, “Actually, I visualised a city where women could spend $500 on a scarf as advised by Napoleon Hills in his book, Think and grow rich, and I realised that the closest city to that description was Abuja. I have never looked at the city from a government contract or political perspective. What I see is a city with a lot of opportunities if you understand how it works and you are honest about what you do.”

In 2012, Nduwhite registered the International Institute for Creative Development (IICD) with the aim to train, promote and present creative persons and works for worldwide visibility and to ensure that Nigeria’s arts and culture community effectively meets the global demand for art and creativity.

According to him, the challenges he faced were enormous. “Finding art and cultural workers and funding were a huge challenge,” he revealed, “Although we tried to train workers, they were random persons who were seeking employment and not passionate about the industry. Funding was a challenge because it depended on me selling my works.”

The IICD’s chief executive officer’s faith in Abuja soon paid off when in October 2013, he moved to his current location at 4 Oguda Close, off Lake Chad Crescent, Maitama.  

Nduwhite had just sold an art for around N500,000 and spent about N450,000 of it on purchasing a framing machine. Since then, his centre has attracted art trainees, individual artists, exhibitors, individual and corporate clients and the general public. With performing art, book reading, music, movies and fashion to go with it, the IICD could be said to be Abuja’s one-stop shop for creativity.

Asked if he considered his centre elitist, he said, “Creative arts are not only visual arts, it comprises other forms of art as well, including music, drama, dance and even functional arts like fashion. We are creating new citizenry for creative arts, that way we get to inspire new interests and take advantage of the fluidity of today's social citizens. Creative arts don’t necessarily have to be elitist.”   

With embassies, big hotels, foreign cultural institutes and wealthy individual art collectors topping his clients list, the IICD could be said to have conquered Abuja.

Nduwhite believes now is the time to take his business to other parts of the country.  “We have plans, first to own our permanent art space and build a strong corporate team. Then we intend to begin to replicate what we are doing in Abuja in other parts of Nigeria.”

“I have never looked at the city (Abuja) from a government contract or political perspective. What I see is a city with a lot of opportunities if you understand how it works and you are honest about what you do”

There are many things which inspire Nduwhite, but nothing gives him more joy than the fact that his “dream is someone else’s need” and the platform he has created for up-and-coming artists to flourish. He foresees the emergence of creative arts disruptors on a scale never experienced before in Nigeria.

His words: “I have always admired the roles of people like Bisi Sliva, Victor Ehikhamenor, Bruce Onobrapkeya, Tantua Diseye, Bishop T.D Jakes and Olu Tayo, but I see new players coming; I see great artists emerging and a higher interest in the industry.”

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