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Wanjo Foods: A Failed Idea Which Fights Back to Become a Juicy Business

Wanjo Foods

Wanjo Foods delivers quality, Afropolitan food products to major events and your private gatherings.


On many occasions, when business ideas fail, the founders move on, developing other concepts, but the same cannot be said of this female entrepreneur. She revisits the idea due to her passion and transforms it into a viable business that wins the $25,000 investment prize from the Case Foundation held in Ghana, among other awards received.

Yaganoma Baatuolkuu hails from the Upper West Region of Ghana, and has been influenced by various cultures across the African continent which is something she has very much interest in preserving.

Yaganoma has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Sculpture and a Masters of Literature in Managing Creative Industries. She is passionate about the differences in humanity that also unite us as a people. This has led her into various client facing roles, making up 18 years of experience in customer service and customer relations within the fast food industry, fashion retail and religious establishment. She has also worked in a couple of non-governmental organizations (NGO) as a project coordinator/officer; a role that allowed her, to interact with people from various socio-economic backgrounds.

Miss Baatuolkuu agreed to this short interview, so that she could also share her experiences with upcoming entrepreneurs.

Wanjo Foods

What is Wanjo Foods about and how long has it been on the market?

Wanjo is a food processing enterprise that uses mainly indigenous wild crops that are not in the main stream markets. We create juices, syrups, jams, preserves and sauces out of indigenous spices, fruits and herbage. It is a social enterprise and we are looking to involve as many rural female farmers as possible in our value chain by sourcing our raw materials from rural female traders and farmers, while creating opportunities for them to gain other skills.

We concentrate on using indigenous wild fruits and herbage to create food products for the modern palate. Most of our food products have traditional medicinal properties and are great cleansers of toxins in the human system.

Wanjo Foods has been in production since 2013 after it collapsed in its initial stages in 2006 when it was registered.

So what motivated you to start this business and what gap is it bridging?

There were quite a few reasons: I needed a job, I wanted to give back to my community mainly because I was raised by an old widow – my grandmother, and also because I could not access my favourite wild fruits when I went back to the village for holidays. However I wanted to empower women in the rural communities most. This is where I had my beginnings.

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I hope eventually others would follow, so that we in Ghana and Africa as a whole would take the food we have seriously and turn them into commercial commodities that communities and the continent as a whole can benefit from.

What is the competence of your team and how is your company superior to others?

We are still working on getting a very strong and competent team. Our current team needs constant supervision, something I hope we can wean them out of very soon.

Superior? Our company is not superior; we just have a target market that we sell to. The beverage industry in this country and on the continent as a whole is playing catch up to the rest of the world, so there is a huge market where we can all be successful if one has a good strategy to implement.

Currently people contact us for deliveries or pick up the drinks themselves; however we will soon have a delivery service for corporate organizations. Our major markets now are events: fairs, festivals and bazaars, as well as private parties, weddings and conferences.

I personally had a taste of one your drinks and couldn’t resist emptying it when I realized the name Wanjo. Why “Wanjo”?

Wanjo is Wolof for bissap from Senegambia. I needed something short, memorable and catchy, and it needed to represent Africa.

Will you say the food and beverages market is saturated, which could threaten your target market?

The beverage market is not saturated, we import almost everything in this country, the number of beverage manufacturers in this country is nowhere close to saturation point. In the UK, almost every bar I visited had their own brewery, selling signature beers, they have beer festivals, juice bars made their own juices with signature juices that could not be replicated. We are not close to saturation yet.

Having been adjudged the best Startup Company recently with prize money, how will this achievement change the fortunes of Wanjo Foods?

Well, the investment is a convertible note with 2% interest over a period of 3 years from the Case Foundation but is being disbursed by Steve Case’s foundation Revolution. That said; we will be focused on growing the indigenous agricultural sector which is our raw material base as well as making marketing of our products a priority.

Who do you look up to as you aspire to become a successful woman entrepreneur in Africa and possibly the world and why?

I could say my grandmother and mother even though they are not entrepreneurs, they are very resilient and persevere in every aspects of their lives. My grandmother was widowed when my mother was pregnant with me. Though being a farm hand and my mother mixing her education with petty trade, they were able to raise up a young family.

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Their persistence and integrity in all of lives situations taught me a great deal about life. They are also both very generous to a fault and too polite. I am not that generous, in case you are wondering but I believe that I am kind and mostly polite. I try to be humble most of the time too, hahahahaha, (Let me know if I am). I believe Esther Ocloo is another woman, I can say set the pace for agro-processing in Ghana.

What life or previous job experiences do you apply to your company to make it succeed?

People management and customer service, I respect my customers greatly, without them I would not have a business. I am not very good at keeping in touch with them, but I make sure that every encounter with the company is a pleasant one. I address all complaints immediately. For that I will not muck about with it. My products have reached where they are now due to customers constant feedback and constructive criticism and we keep innovating to meet their needs.

Also I do not put anything into the market that I personally do not love.

For anyone hoping to succeed in the foods and beverages market, what will be your advice?

  • Identify the specific industry, if beverages, what kind? If food what kind and how do you package it?
  • Get a niche and a target market.
  • Make sure you know how to prepare that particular item well or get someone who can do it excellently and partner with them. Create the recipes with them. Do not hire them, because they can walk away and you might lose your business.
  • Survey, research and collate information about your potential market.
  • Be willing to give samples away, they do not always pay off immediately but soon you will start to reap results because it becomes a marketing tool.
  • Packaging is key. We import well packaged charcoal into this country, that should tell you that even charcoal has a premium price if well packaged.

Success comes with some mistakes made. Share lessons you learnt from your possible mistakes.

  • Never start a business and expect family to help you run it. Put together a team of like-minded people.
  • No amount of money is too small to start. Start small and grow it and when you have traction, then go out a look for the funds.
  • A business plan is not really necessary but jot down the things you want to achieve on paper, in a book, on your electronic device.
  • Pay yourself a salary even if it is one cedi (GHC 1.00) and do not under any circumstances take business money for personal use and ensure you keep accounts. I did not keep very good accounts at the beginning.
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What is your philosophy for doing business?

Create something amazing that you love from your heart with as much passion and enthusiasm as possible and people will create a market for you. I did.

How soon can other African markets begin to enjoy Wanjo Foods products?

We are looking at the close of 2016, We will start with our neighbours in Nigeria, possibly, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Liberia especially since it is such a green market.

Where do you see your company (Wanjo Foods) in a few years to come?

In five years we are looking to have our vegetables in every chain store in Accra and Kumasi, our beverages in the renowned bars in Accra, a couple in Kumasi and have our products in the five and four star premium hotels in the city. Also we will look forward to signing a contract for our first franchise in another African country.

How has being your own boss been for you?

Three words, exhausting, frustrating and liberating. I keep odd hours. Being a creative, the business side of Wanjo Foods is very frustrating but the production side is a breeze and a walk in the park.

Seize this moment to inspire the budding entrepreneurs out there across Africa and a message to your loyal customers.

We at Wanjo Foods pride ourselves in creating quality, afropolitan food products that people love. We achieve this because we believe in what we do. So believe in your dream. Dream huge, but start small and reinvest everything into the business until you have reached where you want to be. Invest in knowledge; read, read, read and learn to take criticism. It is the fire beneath businesses and when you fail the first time don’t give up, pick yourself up and start again. Determination, enthusiasm and passion will make you thrive.

Thank you, Yaganoma.

Wanjo Foods


You can locate Wanjo Foods within community 18 in the Baatsona/Lashibi Environs in Accra – Ghana. You can connect to get your flavored drinks on facebookWanjo Foods / on twitter – @wanjofoodsgh
Website: www.wanjoafrica.com
Order Wanjo Foods on +233203388449

Are these business lessons part of what you have learnt from Yaganoma?

  • Opportunities are abound for the beverages industry but the right strategy is required.
  • Respect your customers.
  • Allow for customer feedback and criticisms.

If you want to share your experience as a startup founder on TSH to Africa, send a brief detail of your business to mystartup@thespiritedhub.com

Was this interview inspiring? Leave us your comment.

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An entrepreneurship enthusiast, who believes Africans and Africa can have accelerated development if a lot more of us embrace our God-giving talents and effect positive changes in our society.

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  1. Danielle Ladzekp

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    Very insightful, informative and encouraging interview

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FOUNDERS

Rahmon Ojukotola: StartCredits Hopes to Save Nigerians Billions of Naira

High interest rates on loans are a barrier to growth and economic prosperity, which is why StartCredits has developed an innovative way for Nigerians to borrow quick online loans without collateral on its loan market comparison platform.

It is the aim of this fin-tech startup to help Nigerians access finance and save money by comparing loan providers. Rahmon, the Director of StartCredits is strategically growing this company to be the preferred loan market for a number of online borrowers.

Rahmon Ojukotola currently sits on the advisory board to the Florida schools group and previously worked at the Bank of England and UBS. Our startup founder, is also a Chartered Accountant and a member of the Chartered Institute for Securities & Investment, the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales and the Royal Economic Society.

With these credentials, he surely has what it takes to lead the competitive loan market. Let’s find out what Rahmon has brought into the market and his life as an entrepreneur.

 

How is StartCredits disrupting the traditional borrowing in Africa as you suggest?

StartCredits is disrupting traditional borrowing, as our product provides transparency and increases competition in the market to reduce interest rates for qualified borrowers. It also provides a new channel for Nigerians to borrow money.

From your enviable background why did you decide to leave all that to start a startup in Nigeria?

I worked in investment banking and central banking for a number of years and gained a finance MSc from the London School of Economics and chartered qualifications in accounting, investments, securities and finance. I decided to build a startup in Nigeria because there were opportunities and issues that needed tackling, and I thought I had the right skill set to do so. So I gave up a well paying job and decided to come back to try and build something that would hopefully contribute to the growth and development of Nigeria.

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How unique are features of StartCredits?

We are the first and only business in Nigeria offering our services to all Nigerians who need loans. We have developed innovative proprietary risk models that accurately measure the borrowers probability of default. This improves our partner lenders’ ability to assess risk, and enables them to disperse more loans to qualified borrowers.

What has been the major achievement StartCredits has chalked since you commenced operation?

We have helped thousands of Nigerians to save millions of naira in interest rate so far and hope to save billions of naira in the coming years.

As much as people really need loans, Rahmon, what is your advice to stay out of debts?

My advice to Nigerians is to ensure you do not take out loans to fund lavish expenditures, loans should be used to finance good business plans. Also remember to budget for interest and other fees in any loans you do take, to stay out of debt. For more technical advice on debt management visit our website on http://startcredits.com

One of the notable features of your company is the stress on Data Science, how relevant is it?

Data science is at the heart of what we do at StartCredits. We utilise big data analytics to build innovative credits risk models, which help facilitate affordable lending to underserved qualified borrowers.

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What great challenge are you facing in running your startup?

It’s pretty much to do with the adoption of the technology. Technology in general is all about finding the best ways to do things. In certain industries it’s easier to have the incumbents accept that, whereas in finance, people have become entrenched in how they do things. It’s highly profitable, so there’s more resistance to changing a winning formula. Finance is highly resistant to change, but people are slowly starting to adapt as you’re seeing with Blockchain technology, which I think has the potential to revolutionize the finance industry. The banks are slowly coming around, but are still highly resistant to change given the nature of the business. In Nigeria, it’s mostly trying to get the people to use the technology. People are highly suspicious of new technologies, so it’s a bit of a challenge

How do you foresee this industry going into the future?

The lending market in Nigeria will be one driven primarily by digital lending in the future, as it is more efficient. I also feel we will continue the cultural tradition of thrift lending (Ajo, Esusu), as it fosters community cohesion.

Tell us which African entrepreneurs inspire you and why.

I think all African entrepreneurs that have built successful business in the face of significant challenges deserve commendation. Saying that I find Ola Orekunrin’s work saving lives with flying doctors to be truly inspiring to all Nigerians and especially young girls. She is a role model who shows them if they study and work hard they can have a significant impact on the lives of many in Nigeria.

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What financial advice can you share with fellow startup founders and aspiring entrepreneurs across Africa?

My advice to entrepreneurs across Africa is to make sure that everything you’re doing is simultaneously helping you achieve your goals and make profits as well. Don’t leverage too much and try not to grow too fast. Also, make sure that what you’re doing is what people want. The whole point of doing business is addressing the needs of society. So make sure you do your extensive research, go out and meet people to listen to what they’re saying, and make sure you have the right skill set to execute your plan. Once all of that is in place, you’re good to go.

Thank you, Rahmon!

To find out more about loan rates and the company, kindly visit startcredits.com.


If you want to share your experience as a startup founder on TSH to Africa, send a brief detail of your business to mystartup@thespiritedhub.com


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