The desire to work on a business that would showcase her creativity led 2015 SLA-Entrepreneur Showcase winner Kasope Ladipo-Ajai to starting her food processing company Omo Alata.

The Nigeria-based food service brand, launched in 2012, is focused on the production and sale of hygienically processed and packaged Nigerian soups, spices and peppers. It aims to promote healthy eating and to make cooking easier for busy people.
Travel, particularly to advanced countries, exposed Kasope to the possibilities of quick and convenient meal preparation. While on her trips, she went to various African stores and realized that many of the ingredients for cooking Nigerian meals were not produced or packaged in Nigeria. This is largely due to packaging issues in the country which rules out the exporting of some its food products.

Kasope: “We have all these products but why can’t we package it properly? If we package it properly then we can export it.” It was with this realization that the idea for a food service brand was birthed. Kasope decided to start by packaging pepper. “It is a produce that is basic to us in Nigeria.”

Once she had the concept for Omo Alata in mind, she solidified her decision to venture into entrepreneurship by registering the business. Kasope then carried out research on the product she was trying to launch. She looked into sourcing fresh produce, and best practices for cleaning, processing and packaging it.

She also solicited advice about brand development from knowledgeable people in her network. A lot of work was put into the graphic and package design aspect of it. Kasope knew that she had to come up with something that would both look right and catch people’s attention. The package itself, too, had to be functional.
Kasope and her partner leveraged their personal income to get the business off the ground. “We had limited funds to play with. We asked ourselves, ‘What do we need to do?’ and ‘What’s the best way to do it?’” There were essentials for their company that they couldn’t avoid spending money on.

These included securing a factory space as well as the necessary equipment for production. They had to get creative when it came to spending money on professional services that they really needed.

“We leverage on our family and friends expertise for such,” Kasope said. “We told them our vision and asked them to work with us, and we pay them in kind or later.”
Kasope has had to tackle several challenges that come with running a business in the food industry. For starters the raw materials that are used for making Omo Alata products are seasonal. “The produce gets expensive when it is out of season,” she said. “The suppliers will try to exploit you.”

“You have to be on your toes checking to make sure suppliers are not taking advantage of the fact that you have a relationship with them,” she added. Farm produce does not have a fixed price. Kasope constantly checks the market to make sure that she is being charged the correct seasonal price.

(Read the rest of her inspiring story here: )

Mike Njau, a college-educated food nutritionist left his banking job to farm strawberries in small-scale. It is nearly one and a half years now since he started the faming venture with an initial capital of Sh5,000 and 200 strawberries seedlings.

Today, the value of his farming venture has grown to Sh480,000 according to Limurudistrict hrticulture officer Mary Kinuthia. By March 2014, Njau expects to be growing 5,000 stems of strawberry from the current 1,400. He is optimistic that by this time, his income from the farm will be double the salary he earned from his last employment at the local bank.

“My plan is to earn double the salary of Sh 20,000 I last earned when I was employed. I will then start expanding the business,” said the 25-year-old young farmer from Sigona Ward, Kiambu County.

More young people are now realising the value of farming especially for produce that have ready market or can be value added to fetch higher income. It is a generational change of farming in a country where the average age of a small scale farmer is above 55 years according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

“My choice of growing strawberries was deliberate because they have a high demand, they are nutritious, preferred by people who like healthy living and they fetch higher prices. We are not able to meet demand for strawberries especially for bigger outlets,” said Njau. He says recently a local retail store requested if he could deliver one tone of strawberries every week.

He will need to expand his venture to meet such an order because he does not expect to get back to white collar employment. Njau and several other smallscale farmers are currently selling their strawberries directly to customers as they cannot meet the high demand of supply from the consumer stores.

They depend on a marketing network developed by Farm Concern International (FCI), the organisation working to improve the commercial value of smallscale farming across the eastern Africa region supported by Rockefeller Foundation.

He is part of youth farmers’ network known as Youth in Agricultural Trade and Enterprises (YATE), which is supported by the FCI’s smallscale farming commercialisation initiative. They are ten members known a Generation Achievers in the bracket 18 to 25.

Each member is involved in a commercial model smallscale farming ranging from strawberry farming, rearing poultry, summer flowers growing and rabbits and livestock keeping.

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Founder: The Lazy Makoti

Seshoene’s The Lazy Makoti is a cooking start-up that teaches women to shine in the kitchen. The idea came in 2014 when she had to teach a friend to make traditional meals. “There are shockingly so many people who don’t know how to make South African foods. It is also hard to find a traditional food recipe book; so I knew that I had to concentrate on traditional food although I teach other cuisines too,” she says. Through word of mouth, her lessons turned into a business. Seshoene also sells branded chopping boards, recipe journals, aprons and tea sets.


Monica Musonda is founder and Chief Executive Officer of Java Foods, a food processing company based in Zambia. Monica’s vision is to revolutionize the eating habits of the youth market by offering them affordable and nutritious food options made from local products. Monica is a dual-qualified English solicitor and Zambian advocate with over 15 years of experience in legal practice and corporate management, including being corporate counsel at the International Finance Corporation and for Aliko Dangote of Dangote Industries Limited.

Having worked in Nigeria and seeing the potential impact that convenient and nutritious foods could have on Zambia’s burgeoning young and fairly urban population, Monica returned to Zambia in 2012 to establish Java Foods. Monica manages the day to day operations of the business and is also responsible for the strategy and capital raising.

By way of background, Monica is a dual qualified English solicitor and Zambian advocate with over 16 years post qualification experience. She begun her legal career working for the Attorney General of Zambia. She then went on to work in private practice for Clifford Chance (London) and Edward Nathan (Johannesburg – where she rose to the rank of partner). She then worked for International Finance Corporation (Washington DC) and for Dangote Group (Lagos) as Director Legal and Corporate Affairs and was later promoted to General Counsel.Monica was the project lead responsible for the Group’s $400m investment into Zambia to build the country’s largest integrated cement plant, due to be completed early 2015. Her experience working with one of Africa’s most successful entrepreneurs gave her the impetus to start her own business and in 2012, she moved back to Zambia and set up Java Foods.

Monica currently serves as non-executive director on the Boards of Zambia Sugar Plc, African Life Assurance (subsidiary of Sanlam), Dangote Industries Zambia Limited and sits on the Microsoft4Afrika Advisory Council. She is the immediate past chairperson of Kwacha Pension Trust Fund, Zambia’s largest single employer pension fund. She has also sat on the board of Bank of Zambia (2011-2014). She is a 2013 Young Global Leader (World Economic Forum) and Archbishop Desmond Tutu Leadership Fellow. Forbes Magazine and Africa Investor named her as one of the leading Young Power Women in Business in Africa in 2013 and 2014 respectively. She sincerely believes that in order to develop our continent, we all must participate and build capacity and so in her spare time, she speaks to the Zambian youth about entrepreneurship and business development.


Despite a number of African countries being significant coffee-producers – such as Ethiopia, Rwanda, Côte d’Ivoire, Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania – the vast majority of production is exported to developed nations, with very little consumed on the African continent.

However, a coffee-drinking culture is now emerging in some countries – expats, well-travelled professionals, returning diapora and young creatives are looking for the same coffee culture they have experienced in developed markets. And Nigerian brothers Ngozi and Chijioke Dozie recognised this a few years ago.

They are the founders of Café Neo, a coffee shop chain enjoying a first-mover advantage in Lagos. The brand – similar to those found in Cape Town’s Woodstock or Silicon Valley – is targeting creatives and entrepreneurs with its free wifi, workspaces, meeting environment, jazz music and – of course – world-class African coffee.

Since its launch in 2012, Café Neo has grown to include seven standalone stores and six office locations in Lagos, as well as a franchise operation in Rwanda. The brothers are now looking at expanding to Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire.

Fired to self hired

Both brothers abandoned corporate careers in the West to pursue opportunities back home. Ngozi, who worked at major financial services firm JPMorgan Chase & Co. as an investment banker, admits to being let go in 2008 for poor performance – after two years of working for the company. “I was just not fit for investment banking,” he notes.

However, he knew he wanted to return home to start his own venture and Chijioke, who had just completed an MBA at Harvard, felt the same. After researching the market, the duo decided to set up a fund to invest in distressed African companies.

“At that time there was a lot of money running into private equity in Africa, but the opportunity that was being ignored was good companies with bad balance sheets,” explains Ngozi.

“In the West… these companies can just negotiate a bankruptcy package with equity shareholders. But in Nigeria and, for the most part, everywhere else in Africa, there was no bankruptcy or insolvency structure. So you would have good companies that once they had gotten into a bit of trouble, inevitably fall down and die.”

The Dozie brothers managed to raise around US$8m for their fund and it wasn’t long before they found their first distressed company to invest in – a coffee roasting company in Rwanda.

“The rationale was that Rwandan coffee was fantastic quality, and many international buyers were very clear on that,” explains Ngozi.

After turning the company around, they then started looking into exporting to new markets, including their home country Nigeria. However, the brothers soon discovered there were not many places to sell to, and saw potential in starting their own coffee-shop chain.

The first Café Neo launched in 2012 in a small mall in Victoria Island. The location wasn’t very attractive (as the outlet was hidden on the second floor of the building) but the brothers kept it going, despite maybe only getting in around 10 customers a day in the beginning.

About nine months later they managed to secure a counter in an office block tenanted by international companies. According to Ngozi, there were some dedicated customers, but the brand still hadn’t managed to take off.

Then, in 2014, the founders decided to take a risk and open an outlet in a prime, yet expensive, standalone location. And three months after its launch, it began to gain a reputation.

“It was a great success… It wasn’t making money [at first] because the rent was prohibitive, but I think it gave us a lot of encouragement that this could work,” says Ngozi. “And then, in just over 24 months, we got another great location in Victoria Island, which did a lot to create the brand.”

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Hi… my name is Nma. I am quirky, and what you would call a nerd. As a growing girl, I disliked ‘going into the kitchen’ because I was so ‘lazy’. In fact, my laziness when it came to cooking could be said to have superseded epic proportions! At a point all I could cook was ‘jollof supergetti’ for my brothers.

While my father was alive (may GOD rest his soul), he used to have me make him fresh, oil-less okra soup and boy did I hate it! As the years went by, I started falling in love with art. And the necessity to cook for others, and myself, pushed me to look for ways to rustle up simple but delicious meals. From then, I became more interested in cooking and started developing recipes. I now see cooking as an art, and I consider it my own contribution to the arts in general. Cooking has inspired my project – “Dine Africa”, which is set to show Africa’s culinary culture and exotic cuisines alongside its wide variety of ethnic nationalities, cultures and enormous land mass.

Please join me as I celebrate the arts through African (Nigerian) cooking; and through my mother’s recipes (some of which I tweaked to fit my choices). I shall also share some easy kitchen tips for the ‘lazy’ cooks like me.

Join me as we celebrate food, love and life. Dine Africa with me.

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He believes he has the biggest black-owned chicken farm in Africa, and presently has 430 000 birds in eight poultry houses on his 54 ha property.

This is Peter Tshikhudo (36), owner of Shumani Broilers near Koster in North-West Province. Peter’s highly successful operation supplies 3.6 million birds per year to one of South Africa’s largest chicken producers, which in turn processes and distributes them to a leading national fast-food chain. The farm has an annual turnover of just over R8 million.

Peter ascribes some of his success to the BSSA Core Programme training he received back in 2003, which he says was “invaluable” in establishing himself as an entrepreneur.

“I grew up in Venda, where my father was a successful crop farmer, so I always knew I wanted to farm,” he says.

BSSA recently visited Peter on his farm as part of the training aftercare the organisation remains committed to.

After completing a BA degree in Communications and part of an Honours degree in Labour Relations at the then Rand Afrikaans University, Peter worked in the Communications Department of the South African Bureau of Standards for a while.

“I then saw a newspaper advertisement for the BSSA courses, and the training equipped me with an understanding of practical marketing, financial management, and practical pricing and costing. When I wanted to buy the farm with its existing poultry operation as a going concern, BSSA helped me put together the business plan that got me started.”

The enterprising young farmer initially embarked on his new venture on his own, but has subsequently taken in two partners. He started with 20 employees, but this number has now grown to 40 permanent staff members. He also provides job opportunities for a further 200 outsourced workers who assist him at various stages of the chicken raising cycle.

Peter obtains day-old chicks from the chicken producer and raises them for 35 days, whereafter they are returned to the producer. He has eight 35-day cycles per year.

He is now planning to add a further two poultry houses, which will allow him to increase the number of birds by 90 000 per cycle, and will provide an additional seven permanent employment positions.

Following in his father’s footsteps, he has also branched into crop farming and has some of his land under spinach, with a further 5 ha in the pipeline. He sells his spinach to local supermarkets as well as outlets in Pretoria.

His advice to new or prospective business owners: “It is crucial to learn how to run a business before starting out, especially the financial aspects, whether you have money or not. I would not have been nearly as successful had it not been for the BSSA training I received.”


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Portia de Smidt and her husband Jason knew that opening a restaurant of African food in Cape Town would not be an easy task, especially for a young interracial couple, but they decided to take the plunge.
It was 1992, and they felt that people were uneasy about going to eat at a place run by a mixed couple.

At the time, it was also considered much more chic in Cape Town to taste Italian or French cuisine.

But 20 years on, their Africa Cafe has evolved into one of the most popular restaurants in South Africa’s most cosmopolitan city.

Mrs De Smidt, who is also the chef, says that their entrepreneurial adventure has had more highs than lows.

“We started in a recession and also people didn’t know African food before, so it was difficult to start something that people were not exposed to in the beginning – those were the lows,” she told the BBC African Dream series.

“A few things were difficult because we are a mixed couple – that was a bit of a low – people were a bit apprehensive and initially we wanted to be a restaurant that served students but we found that we had more and more tourists because tourists said: ‘We’ve had Italian, we’ve had French, we want something different, we’re in Africa, we must have some African food’, and that’s how they came to us,” she added.

According to her, the highs included doing something different, making people taste food they had not had before, and travelling.

“We had to travel more to get new recipes. We travelled through different countries in Africa meeting different people, exciting ingredients and exciting cultures we encountered, and brought that back and tried to kind of encapsulate that in the different food and dishes that I subsequently served,” she explained.

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Randa Filfili, director of the first Senegalese structure to have exported to the American market, is a young lady who is no longer present in the world of agro-industry.

With Zena Exotic Fruits, she carried high the flag of the Senegalese agribusiness through a certain professionalism and a look towards the social. Every year, the company processes nearly 900 tons of processed fruit and vegetables into jams, syrups, juice and pepper purée, which it markets in Africa, America, Europe and last year in the Golf.

In order to maintain its leading position in the market, it is fighting a sustained battle with respect to the quality of its products and food safety standards, which gives it an unrivaled reputation in Senegal and the rest of the world.

Like any good social-business, the company has chosen two specific niches that are the promotion of women and the employment of young people through which it wants to express its commitment on the social level. This is why the Senegalese SME works with deaf and dumb women and young people.

This company, which was just a family production unit, has grown over the years and is today cited as the reference in terms of transformation and valorization of local products.

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How many young women farmers do you know? None? Say hi to Ruramiso Mashumba. Ruramiso runs a horticulture farm in Marondera, Zimbabwe where she grows crops for export to the European Union and other African countries. Her passion for farming started as a child and though Ruramiso has worked abroad she returned to Zimbabwe to work on her farm.


What’s it like to be a young woman and a farmer?


Traditionally farmers have been known to look a certain way, mainly male and above 60 years. So, being known as a young woman farmer is exciting because it changes the status quo and lets people know that, ” Yes you can do it in spite of your current situation”.

My father bought a farm when I was in form 2. He used to keep cattle. I went to Watershed college, a school which was next to our farm. Learning at Watershed school exposed me to the possibilities of agriculture. At my school agriculture was quite attractive because you would see the farmers children driving tractors and all so there was some prestige to it. Still, it wasn’t easy. I remember I used to cry a lot because of the struggle, especially the bullying from the boys but I was determined. After school, I got an amazing opportunity to work at a British company for two years then returned back to Zimbabwe to farm.

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