My Business Story

Encounter Transforms Graduate From Small Beginning Into An Accomplished Businesswoman

A young woman's encounter with her visiting aunt opened her eyes to a new opportunity that gave birth to a thriving business.

When Nkenchor Blessing Ogorchuckwu graduated in 1996, she had already braced up for a bleak labour market. After her National Youth Service Corps she got married and relocated to Lagos with her husband. 

While she was still looking for her dream job, her favourite aunt visited the family – the visit opened a new chapter in her life.

Nkechi remembered vividly how it all began: “My aunt told us about a new Business brief:
Started 1997

flourishing business of sachet water production, popularly known as pure water. You know, we used to buy water tied in unbranded nylons in those days. My aunt suggested that I should go and learn how to package water. She said if I learnt it, I could also teach her so that she could produce it for her big restaurant in Umunede, Delta State. To show me she was serious, she left some money for me to buy the machine and nylon to start.”

A graduate of Geology from the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Nkenchor and her husband, Kenneth decided to give the business a try.  The following day, they set out to meet the woman her aunt directed them to see who had been in the business of sachet water.

“I remember how we sealed four bags and my husband packed them into his car and said we should go and sell them. We drove from FESTAC to Apapa Sunrise (in Lagos) and supplied to a woman selling food there…only to collect the proceeds two days later”

Nkenchor recalled: “The woman directed us to Ojo Barracks’ Mammy Market (in Lagos) to source for the nylon.  We got there and saw how the nylon was cut in a roller; it usually comes in a tube. We bought a kilo at N400 and bought the sealing machine she told us to buy for N2,650. They also printed on the nylon for us for N400. Everything we spent was less than N3,500.” 

After several failed attempts at sealing water with the manual machine, Nkenchor and her husband decided to return to their business adviser for more guidance. The woman asked her son to go with the Ogorchukwus to demonstrate to them how pure water was sealed. It was like magic. 

She recalled her first sachet water ‘production’: “I remember how my cousin and I sealed the first four bags in one of our rooms and my husband packed them into his car and went to sell them. We would drive from Apapa Sunrise (in Lagos) and supply to a woman selling food there. She complained that there were some sachets leaking, and we told her to sell the ones that weren’t leaking and keep the leaking satchets. We didn’t collect money from her. Two days later we returned to her and she gave us money for the sachets she sold.”

From sealing and supplying four bags of sachet water, Nkenchor moved up to 10 bags, then 20, 50 and 100. She converted one of the rooms in their two-bedroom apartment to her factory and was assisted by her husband, his cousin and her brother. A few months later, she made her first expansion plan.

“At some point a few months later I thought we should expand the business,” she mentioned, “So we went to Ojo Mammy Market, rented a shop, bought another machine and employed two more hands. The business grew very rapidly.”

It was at Ojo Barracks that Nkenchor met her first major challenge. Sachet water was beginning to gain popularity and the then Director General of the National Agency for Foods and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Prof Dora Akunyili, started to enforce the registration of sachet water businesses.

She narrated: “They closed down every sachet water business at Ojoo Barracks, so we moved the business to FESTAC but NAFDAC soon came there too. My husband consulted with some other producers to register with NAFDAC as one entity. So, about five of us came together under the name Silco Water. We were producing under the same name before we later registered our own separately.”

“The hand-sealing machine was phasing out. People started buying the automatic sealing machine known then as self-seal machine; it is a multipurpose machine called FFS – Fix, Fill and Seal. We were able to buy one initially and kept buying as we made more profits. When we got about five of the machines in 2009 and saw that the business still had potential to grow even further, we approached our account officer in a defunct commercial bank, who helped facilitate a loan repayable in three years.”

The business Nkenchor started in one of her rooms at home in 1997 is known today as Snowflakes Table Water, a well established and highly successful drinking water production factory located on a large expanse of land inside Festac town in Lagos with 30 permanent staff and 30 other casual workers, about 10 drivers and close to 40 marketers. They have also expanded their production line, adding table water and water dispenser to their brand.

Among the day-to-day challenges the business faces in running are funding for expansion, irregular power supply, human resource management and dealing with marketers. 

However, she remains focused and determined. Her next plan is to add fruit drink production to a business she made a success of from knowing absolutely nothing about.