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Zaacoal: An Idea Funded with Law Fees, Achieving Cleaner Energy

zaacoal

Zaacoal is Green Energy for Impact with No Single Tree Suffering for it.

Zaacoal is an awarding winning innovative startup company proving to be Africa’s contribution to the reduction of global warming and a cleaner society. In the world’s quest to finding answers to how it manages climatic change, this founder has just solved the puzzle from an African perspective. As many households continue to depend largely on charcoal from cut down trees to provide for their energy needs, this company turns biodegradable wastes to smokeless, odorless and environmentally friendly fuel for cooking and other heat needs.

Have you thought of how the smoke inhaled when cooking using charcoal affects the human system causing respiratory illnesses? Amazingly whiles producing clean energy, Zaacoal is effectively getting rid of waste in our communities. Even at its early stage, Zaacoal is gaining significant recognition that should propel it to the next phase of growth.

Come into the refreshing world of the energy behind this fast growing company, a humble and futuristic young man in Ghana as he discusses his company and business.

Can you kindly tell Africa who you are? 

Sulley Amin Abubakar is the founder of Zaacoal, a green energy from waste business. I am a final year LLB student of the University Of London International Programs. A graduate from the University for Development Studies with a BA in Integrated Community Development Studies. And also an MBA Candidate from the Catholic University of Milan (Altis E4impact).

What is this disruptive product you have introduced into the market and why should consumers care about Zaacoal?

Zaacoal is green charcoal from waste. Ghana is blessed with a lot of resources and lots of waste, most of which include organic waste and plastics. Our disruptive product “Zaacoal” is a merger of two words, a Hausa word for hot “Zaafi” and Charcoal which literally means “hot coal.” So what we do is to collect organic waste in the city and convert them into smokeless, high energy and long burning charcoal.

Superb! What challenges necessitated the production of Zaacoal and how is it different from the traditional charcoal used for decades?

Growing up in the Brong Ahafo region, I used to go to farm with my grandmother, the headache wasn’t the activity on the farm but the carrying of firewood to be used for cooking was. I remember we had to carry heavy loads on our heads for long distances. And the next challenge was getting the fire up. This could take hours and several tactics just to get our fire lit.

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So I decided to develop an alternative source of fuel for our households that will be convenient, affordable and accessible with Zaacoal. It comes in various types, there’s Zaacoal regular, Zaacoal quick light and Zaacoal for shisha. We are also setting up a facility to produce activated charcoal for various industries.

As Zaacoal is a novelty product, how are you marketing it to gain more market acceptance from people who largely depend on wood charcoal and other forms of energy?

Our mantra is to use “Less For More.” We are marketing Zaacoal for its cost efficiency and effectiveness of the product. So let’s say with about ten pieces of Zaacoal briquette, you could have your banku served.

Can you highlight some structures you are putting in place to allow Zaacoal stand the test of time?

First, our aim is to impact lives, we believe if we are able to save our trees, we will be able to save our own lives. Remember when the last tree dies, the last man ….

Who are your target clients and how do they place orders?

We have a website ready for orders. We are looking to integrate mobile money platforms for customers to make orders. Our site will soon have Visa, Master Card and other card services on it to facilitate online sales. We do free deliveries within Accra-Ghana, we are also targeting hotels, restaurants and night clubs (Shisha charcoal) but individual households are our main focus.

zaacoal
Zaacoal pack

What is the vision of your company and what is your philosophy for doing business?

Our vision is “to be the leader in green energy solutions in Ghana and Africa.”

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You have got a distinct package for your product. Why is that necessary for you since we know how locals serve charcoal?

We are looking at ridding our city off waste, so we chose a biodegradable material to package Zaacoal. It comes packed from 5 kg to 10 kg for industries and households. We also want to make our product attractive enough to have them in the biggest of shopping malls and all classes of society.

You had a brilliant business concept, how did you raise initial startup capital to surge on with your idea?

That wasn’t easy at all. I first used my law school fees to fund and test the idea. I virtually spent everything I had on me to get a prototype sample out, it was this sample that got family to support. I seriously needed funding to get into the market.

Who is your mentor and how is mentorship helping you build a superb brand?

I read a lot about the late Steve Jobs in the late 90’s before the iPod and I love everything about him. I can boldly say he had a positive impact on my life and still does, may he rest in peace. I have shifted gear to Elon Musk of Tesla motors, Space X and PayPal.

He has been a mentor from afar. But my biggest mentor and inspiration has been my mum, she is a very strong woman and a great pillar behind me. I am looking forward to being the next Aliko Dangote and grace the cover of the Forbes Magazine, I know it’s not an easy task but I will surely get there.

Are there previous job or life experiences you are applying to your company to realize success?

My research background from the university for development and being an entertainment personality also helped me in networking, my community development experience thought me how to deal with people from all backgrounds.

What advice is there for fellow Africans who will like to be successful in this industry?

My only advice my fellow Africans, is to embrace peace. Let’s be the ambassadors of this great continent, let’s be the beacon of hope for the continent and eschew acts of violence and hatred.

The solutions to our problems are very close to us, let’s look within and we shall find them.

As a founder, will you concede you have made mistakes and what lessons have you learnt?

I have made a lot of mistakes and these have made me the person I am today. Mistakes are there to strengthen and straighten our paths.

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What are some of the challenges you have encountered as an African startup and how are you dealing with them?

The usual biggest challenge is funding, I may be fortunate to have strong family who have helped me with some initial funding, but the chunk of the needed capital is yet to be raised. lol

How will you pitch Zaacoal to a potential investor?

Zaacoal is long lasting, higher energy charcoal from renewable sources. Zaacoal products are affordable, accessible and impactful.

zaacoal
Zaacoal pack

Is being an entrepreneur rewarding yet for you?

Very rewarding. Waking up to solve a problem is very fulfilling for me. I am one person who never wanted to write an application for job. I have always wanted to be an employer than an employee and achieving that is my greatest reward.

What will be your final message to aspiring African entrepreneurs and your loyal customers?

Africa (Ghana) is all we have let us make it greater and stronger. Let us see the challenges as opportunities. We will solve all our problems.

Thank you, Amin.

Your own idea can also positively be impacting the lives of many in your society. Start from somewhere today and you could be the next Zaacoal out of Africa. See you at the top!

What lessons have you picked from this inspiring African startup founder? Share your thoughts.

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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


Did you find this interview inspiring? Kindly 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.

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. C let us Baalongbuoro

    at

    This interview is very inspiring. This is an idea I had since 2015 and ha en been thinking how to start. Thank you for sharing the information to us.

    • Kingsley Gbeho

      Kingsley Gbeho

      at

      Thank you very much. It’s not too late, Africa needs your disruptive idea to transform the continent.

  2. Prince

    at

    The dream became a goal, the goal became a reality. ….It’s on bro, beyond the skies……

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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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