ShareMrs Deola Efunkoya, is the CEO of Food Surplus ‘n’ More, a business located in Lagos that deals with packaging and supply of local foods. Recently,
at Grooming Enterprise Leaders workshop organised for small growing businesses by the Federal Ministry of Finance, Efunkoya spoke with Paul Omorogbe on issues surrounding the food packaging business in Nigeria today, and other issues regarding entrepreneurship. Excerpts:
How did you venture into the food packaging business? I was to go on an internship in Holland; my husband is an agriculturist by training and he has few plots of land on which he planted cassava. When I got to Holland, I realised that the garri that was there wasn’t very good. So, I told him to start sending to me. He would send and I would sell. At the end of the programme, I came back to Nigeria, and I got a job as legal adviser to a conglomerate and I was there for few years. But I was rather dissatisfied, so one day I resigned. I searched for a month, praying. I wanted to look for the next thing to do; I started hearing “garri” in my spirit. I really did not want that. I just said to myself, “every spirit of backwardness, I reject you.” But at the end of the day, the more I rejected it, the heavier it became in my spirit and that was how I said let me do N250,000 worth. So I sent bulk SMS and then people started calling me for the garri. I decided to learn how to package, and I began to supply to the market.
What does the business involve?
My husband owns the cassava farm. We process on his farm, but that is a different company entirely. I then buy from his farm. When we come to our factory, we do what we call sieving; we have it in 2kg, 5kg, 10kg, and that was how the business began to grow. A lot of people began to ask for other products like beans, so we started packaging beans: picking and ensuring there are no weevils when packaging. That was how we started to develop. We go to trade shows, exhibitions, in and around Nigeria. And from there thankfully, God honoured us, we got customers who buy from us.
What are the challenges you find in the business?
The challenges were with initially being accepted into the market. Food packaging is relatively new in Nigeria. If you don’t have the market that wants to buy from you, at the end of the day, you are just going to produce for yourself and for your shop. Market penetration is part of it. And when we started, a lot of people would ask you, you don’t have NAFDAC number yet, and things like that. Elecricity was also a challenge. Also as a small business, just growing, banks would not borrow you money – everything was just from the family. You have to be you, God helping us.
How do you cope with competitors?
My competitors are those people who put me on the run. They help me to strive to become a better entrepreneur. I know they are there, that is why I strive to make quality products.
Do you have any quality control?
Yes I have, I have a food technologist, who comes in to ensure things are done properly. We ensure our workers wear their gloves. And to ensure things are done hygienically, in and around the factory, we make sure it is neat. I owe a duty of care to my customers and I am a very meticulous person, so I ensure that the me is what I sell: it’s my brand! What I cannot eat, I cannot give out, so I owe a duty to customers to give them quality. I am very cautious of my responsibility and duty towards custmers.
What changes would you like to see in the business environment in the country?
First, I will like to thank the Federal Government, because I am presenting doing a programme in Ibadan called Grooming Enterprise Leaders, an initiative of the Federal Government to train small growing businesses (SGBs). Now, training is one of the things is that we (growing businesses) need in Nigeria, because we do not know how to separate the business from ourselves. In the course of this training we were taught how to put a structure that will out-live us. Because small growing business are the future of the Nigerian economy for the next level, we are asking government to support us in the area of funding and infrastrure. I know that there are incubation centres everywhere.
But if there are more incubation centres SGBs will be able to grow properly. We need elecricity in our locations to reduce costs and thereby we will be able to deliver more in terms of production and provide employment opportunities.
Electricity shortage is a major killer of businesses in Nigeria. I am asking well meaning, intelligent engineers to look and try to find a way of bringing solar energy or other alternative way of providing electricity that will boost our economy.
Advice to young, upcoming entrepreneurs
Looking at the challenges, I am of the opinion that even though you do small business, everybody should go through corporate line, so that you can learn the act of management, because when you do you will have to submit to higher authority. It will then help you when you own yours.