We are honored to be sharing a quick chat that we had recently with one of our very own, Ameenah Kazeem. She is result driven, a goal-getter, and one of the most tenacious women we know.
Ameenah Kazeem is the Founder of OFADA HUB – an Agro-processing company specializing in the processing, packaging, and production of locally grown brown rice also known as Ofada rice in Nigeria. She is a seasoned Entrepreneur with vast knowledge and 6years of experience in the Agribusiness space. She is very Passionate about food safety, food security, healthy consumption, and WomenEmpowerment.
She is a United States of America Exchange Alumni, A flourish Alumni, and an Alumni of the Orange Corners Incubation Program, an initiative of the kingdom of the Netherlands. She has won several business grants including the Stephen Akintayo business challenge, The ‘Showlove’ to Africa business pitch, the Flourish Africa grant, The Wealthnxtion grant, the Orange Corners Grant.
Ameenah is a Member of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry and recently bagged the ICF-certified Masters in Business Administration (MBA certification)
Now grab your popcorn, relax and enjoy our chat with her.
What inspired you to become a businesswoman?
Being rich was my childhood dream! As rich as the Alhajas I saw at the Lagos Island market. They owned large gold stores and exuded wealth, pride, and affluence like they owned the world. These women sponsored their children to schools abroad. They were respected in the communities, and every time my mum took me to the Lagos Island market, I longed to see them. They all had a beautiful Mecca Gold tooth that glistened when they smiled. I wanted to be just like them.
So I came up with a plan, work and save some money so that one day, I too can become a Gold merchant in Lagos Island and fix a Mecca gold tooth as well. So I tried a lot of businesses – sales of beauty products, makeup artistry, hairdressing but my money never came close to what I needed to open my Gold store in Lagos Island Market.
Haha, I digressed. That was not really how I came about my current business. Listen, Ofada Hub was unplanned. The idea came while I needed to provide a solution to my family’s immediate need – clean, healthy, quality local rice without any stones or debris. After years of constantly having to spend so much time picking out dirt from sacks of raw local rice grains before cooking for the family, one day it occurred to me that many families must be going through this same challenge that I face and I can help them by selling clean quality Ofada rice. That was the birth of Ofada Hub.
Ofada Hub is Six years old this month, and I am grateful for all the milestones we have achieved, especially the Impact we make in local communities where we provide agric extension programs for local rice farmers.
Are you wondering whether I still want to be a gold merchant? Ha ha. No, I do not desire that anymore. I love what we do at Ofada Hub and how we are changing lives and making eating Ofada rice a great experience for Nigerians Home and Abroad.
What is your business name? Give a brief description of your business
OFADA HUB NIGERIA LIMITED, is an Agro-processing company that grows, processes, and packages the indigenous brown rice, also known as Ofada rice in Nigeria. Our mission is to provide affordable, safe, high-quality food to retailers and consumers in urban areas through partnerships with local rice farmers in rural communities.
How would you describe running a business in Nigeria?
Running a business in Nigeria is emotionally and mentally draining. One of the challenges I faced was with regulatory body approval – NAFDAC. For my industry, NAFDAC approval is pivotal to scaling the business. The process and cost implication is too much for a small business to handle. It took me three years to get NAFDAC approval, I had to win a grant to afford to complete the process.
Ideally, there should be considerations for micro and small businesses in a better economy. Hopefully, we will get there one day in Nigeria.
Your Business recently turned 6 years, how does it feel to have thrived this long?
The feeling is absolutely surreal and indescribable. Surviving a whole 6years despite the unfavorable economy is a re-assurance that Ofadahub is here to stay and break greater milestones
What are some of the milestones/achievements your business has made since its inception?
Some of our milestones so far are
- Our NAFDAC approval
- Becoming a member of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI)
- Registering and empowering 52 local rice farmers
- Establishing distributors in African shops abroad and exporting our local rice to up to 8 countries in Nigeria
How is your business impacting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)?
We are currently addressing SDG 2 – zero hunger through increased local production of rice and SDG goal 8 – Decent work and economic growth.
As I mentioned earlier, we currently have 52 local farmers registered with us whom we provide with agric extensions programs – Seedlings, best farming practice education, and market access.
How did you raise funding before Shecluded?
Our initial funding was from my savings and business grants.
What was your perspective on business loans before Shecluded?
Unlike the popular myth, acquiring a business loan is not taboo. I have been in business for a long time and have also passed through several incubation and accelerator programs. These programs allowed me to gain financial literacy, so I understand that contrary to popular belief, taking a loan to grow a business is not a thing to abhor. A loan when acquired and spent responsibly is a tool for business growth and expansion.
However, before taking a loan first define the use and ensure that the interest is not too high and that the business is in a state where its revenue and profit margins can accommodate the interest.
How has taking a Shecluded loan impacted your business?
Acquiring the Inventory Financing Loan from Shecluded enabled us to procure and stock raw materials in larger quantities ahead of the price hike. We have commenced processing. So it is safe to say that we are ready for the big retail season in December.
Knowing what you know now, is there anything you would have done differently when you first started?
Right pricing, bookkeeping, and accounting are very key to the sustainability of any business. If I had gotten all of that in place, I wouldn’t have lost so much money in my first few years, but I had to learn on the job and I’m grateful for the ability to learn and grow over the years.
How would you advise a woman looking to take a growth loan for her business?
Entrepreneurship will take a lot of your time and possibly personal savings. You will have to make many sacrifices but my advice is this – Go all out for it, do not limit yourself, and while at it, try as much as possible to strike a balance between work and personal life.
When you take a loan, be sure you are putting the funds into an aspect of your business that will generate revenue and ensure the interest rate is not too high for your business to accommodate.
What have you enjoyed the most about becoming a businesswoman?
The ability to provide solutions to the problems and needs of my customers
Where do you see your business in the five years?
In another five years, I see Ofadahub being a household name.