Hawwa Yusuf: The Shecluded Woman Whose Company Has Become A Benchmark For Jaggery Production Across Nigeria.
30 years after I used to visit my grandfather’s farm to watch the production of our local jaggery sweetener, nothing changed in the unhygienic processing methods. Then I figured I had to step in!
My love for Jaggery production since childhood led me into founding a company that has reinvented the production of jaggery with modern technology, free of impurities.
We’ve been able to become the standard at NAFDAC for future jaggery producing companies while increasing our presence in major stores across Nigeria and displaying our products at the Dubai Expo 2020
We are pleased to introduce our first Shero of the year 2023, and she’s none other than Hawwa Yusuf who is the co-founder of Hawy’s Sugarcane Processing Co. Ltd. She is also the Finance Manager of Albarka Natural Mineral Water and Plastics Co. Ltd Kaduna.
Even with a bachelor’s degree in Accounting and an MSc in Finance, her passion for changing the status-quo has led her to founding a company that has now become the benchmark for Jaggery production in Nigeria by NAFDAC
Hawwa is an advocate of promoting the Arewa food culture through collaboration with community farmers to ensure sustainable value addition in the agricultural sector.
She is a member and Director of the Management Board of Arewa Entrepreneurship Frontier Network, and she is currently the women leader of All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Kaduna state chapter and the Chairperson of the Sugarcane Farmers Association Kaduna.
Hawwa possesses a decade of experience in the manufacturing sector, and she’s also a trade finance consultant with the Euro Exim Bank, England.
The first read of 2023 is that of a visionary who has transformed a traditionally unrefined local sugar product to meet international standards and making it a household name. Enjoy!
Describe yourself in 3 words
I’m passionate, ambitious, and audacious.
What inspired you to become a business woman?
Growing up, I loved visiting the village during holidays to watch the production of our local sweetener jaggery at my grandfather’s farm. Even after 30 years passed, jaggery’s unhygienic processing method was still the same.
Then I figured I had to do something about it. In 2016, I decided to start Hawy’s Foods Ltd, a company that reinvented jaggery free of impurities with modern technology. It is the first brand of premium Jaggery in Nigeria.
What is your business name? Give a brief description of your business
HAWY’S FOODS LTD, we are a natural sweetener processing company that promotes healthy eating with a mission to ensure sustainable sugarcane farming and processing that creates lasting value for the people, communities, economies and ecosystems through collaboration with community farmers.
Our products Hawy’s Cane Syrup and Hawy’s Brown Sugar Cubes are all natural sweeteners made for our health conscious consumers.
How would you describe running a business in Nigeria?
Running a business in Nigeria is a survival of the fittest! But as the Nigerians that we are, we always get back strong and ready for whatever challenges the business environment throws at us. This generation is filled with naturally born hustlers! 😄
What challenges did you have to overcome at the beginning of your journey?
It has always been my dream to get my products on the shelves of supermarkets, and one cannot do that without having the necessary certifications like NAFDAC and SON.
Being a pioneer company producing premium jaggery for the shelves in Nigeria, it was not an easy job to get certified because there was no existing standard to guide my certification process. We had to do it with NAFDAC from scratch. It took us over a year to get approval. But it was worth it!
What are some of the milestones/achievements your business has made since inception?
We employ over 20 farm staff during harvest seasons, and we currently have 6 permanent staff. We have so far increased our sales to more than 300% from inception with our presence in over 20 stores across Nigeria which includes major supermarkets such as Sidi and Sons Supermarket, Dialogue Pharmacy, Next Cash and Carry and H-Medix.
We are currently working to have our products on the shelves of Shoprite with AWP. Our facility is FDA approved and all our products have HACCP and Halal certifications. These international certifications gave us the opportunity to display our products at the Dubai Expo 2020 under the umbrella of NEPC for the made in Nigeria products.
How is your business impacting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)?
We are currently addressing the SDG – Zero Hunger, the SDG3 – Health and Wellbeing, and the SDG5 – Gender Equality
How did you raise funding before Shecluded?
Before Shecluded, I was financing this business solely by myself. I was also working a 9-5 job, and adding funds to the business from my monthly salaries.
What was your perspective on business loans before Shecluded?
Loans are very important in business, especially when used for the purpose of growth. Even before Shecluded, I have always seen loans as a helping hand for expansion and increased capacity, but not to start up a business.
How has taking our loan impacted your business?
The first time we got a loan from Shecluded, it was for the purpose of increasing our harvest. This helped us to meet our demand without running out of stock before next season.
Knowing what you know now, is there anything you would have done differently when you were first starting out?
Nothing! I wouldn’t do anything differently. Everything I experienced made me what I am today, had I done it different, I wouldn’t have had those challenges. It was a beautiful experience in a tough way.
What advice would you give to a woman who is trying to become an entrepreneur?
I’d advise her to know her “why” and stick to it. A lot of times, life gets frustrating and you would want to give up. But knowing your “why” keeps you moving. There will be a time when the reason why you started your business will be your only motivation, because at that point, no mentor or motivational speaker can boost your morale!
How would you advise a woman looking to take a growth loan for her business?
Have a good plan and structure before taking that loan! Always work with existing records to project future cash flows. In an economy like Nigeria, one cannot predict based on hearsay, you need to have a backup repayment plan.
What have you enjoyed most about becoming a business woman?
As a business woman, I’ve enjoyed creating impact, inspiring young women, and shaking tables 😄. I have been able to register and train seven (7) farmers for cluster sugarcane farming.
I once chaired The Sugarcane Farmers Association in Kaduna State. I have the passion to change the process of producing our local sweetener “mazarkwaila” to the likes of Indian jaggery. And starting with these 7 farmers, we will achieve it by God’s grace.
Where do you see your business in the 5 years?
I see us becoming a household product, just like St. Louis sugar!
How can people contact you?
You can contact us by visiting www.linktr.ee/hawysfoods