Blessing Obi, 26, is the founder of BMFoods. The Mass Communication graduate of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, tells MAUREEN IHUA-MADUENYI what inspired her business
What inspired you to establish BMFoods?
For me, entrepreneurship is not just about freedom, rewards, opportunity windows, packaging and trumpet blowing; it is about bringing something to the table. It means to push against the status quo. I grew up with the mindset that I am here for a purpose – to make an impact in the lives of people around me and help create a sustainably-developed community.
I was showing up, volunteering and carrying out community projects. But from the challenges I saw my dad face looking for funds to run his non-governmental projects, I knew I had to do something for myself to create the type of change I had in mind and my 9 to 5pm job could not provide that.
How easy has it been considering that you deal majorly in chips and there are lots of brands in the market?
One of the most dreaded things in Lagos is traffic and where there is traffic, there are chips. I noticed how people buy plantain chips in Lagos and at some points, I always find myself doing quick maths of how much money a plantain chips maker would be making daily due to the demand for the product. I realised early the difference between the chips I eat at home and the ones I buy outside.
I always felt homesick whenever I bought plantain chips and found it hard to chew. All I needed was for people to taste my product and for me to remain consistent and innovative. I’ve always heard that the world is big enough; so, I just had to be different even when I’m selling something as common as plantain chips.
After going through training at Fate Foundation (in 2017) called the Next Economy sponsored by the Dutch Embassy, I knew that I had to create a different way of generating income from which I can fund community projects and achieve my dream of providing education to the underprivileged.
So, I started a business with a slicer I saw in my sister’s kitchen. I shared the dream with my friend who is like a sister to me. She saw my passion and we became partners.
We got our business registered a month after, got the trade mark and started pursuing our NAFDAC number.
We hope to utilise the rich cultivation of plantain in Nigeria to produce a whole lot of things, not limited to chips.
How did you get funds to start the business?
I have never believed in keeping ideas to myself. When I started, I was always going around telling anyone who cared to listen how lucrative the business could be. I shared my ideas with so much passion until a friend bought into the idea. I am not a ‘solo-preneur’. We partnered and the funding has been from our personal savings. I have learnt that you have got to start some things before people will buy into it.
How easy was it to get NAFDAC approval for your product?
I started making chips in small disposable packs and one supermarket agreed to sell my chips while others complained that I didn’t have NAFDAC number.
I used to deliver only 10 packs to them and one fateful day, a man called that he was from NAFDAC. He said he tasted my chips and wanted to help me get NAFDAC registration.
It was depressing to learn that I had to register the business, get a trademark, get an office and keep running costs. I have been able to pass some stages and the process is still on. In a couple of weeks, I will be able to start huge production as the NAFDAC number will be a proof of certification.