Meet Antoinette Uwumarogie, the founder of Badagry Jam & Foods Limited and the brain behind the sweet, delicious innovation that has put them at the forefront of the jam industry in Nigeria- delectable organic tropical jams made from the best of our local fruits. Her products are natural and organic, the perfect blend of healthy and sweet for those who want to cut back on sugar and still enjoy their food. They also come in a variety of flavours, from the zesty orange jam and coconut-filled pina colada jam reminiscent of a cool beach cocktail to their signature pawpaw jam made from ripe papaya and spiced with warm cinnamon.
In an interview with Shecluded, Antoinette tells us about her journey so far, from the eureka moment that led to this innovation to the challenges she faced while turning it into a sustainable business venture.
Everyone starts from somewhere. What were you before you decided to go into jam-making full-time?
My career life has been in constant flux. I graduated as an Engineering student, my first few jobs were as a programmer and web designer in IT companies. I went on to work in a financial securities firm and finally, I left to start my first business. I opened a bakery where I worked as a cake decorator and bread baker for 5 years before I decided to switch gears once again and become a jam maker.
Web design and jam-making are poles apart. Was making the transition difficult?
While moving from the I.T. sector to the food industry might seem like a leap, my interest in food had always been a secondary hobby. I have always been a bit of a foodie and one of my interests has always been figuring out how different popular foods are made from scratch.
How did you get the idea of making jams out of tropical fruits?
It all started with a bowl of pawpaws I was snacking on. I remember thinking if I mashed them up and placed them in a jar, it would look like a jar of apricot jam. That naturally got me wondering what pawpaw jam would taste like and why we didn’t have our local fruits available as jams.
Very interesting. What made you decide to turn it into a business venture?
I gifted jams I made to family and friends and they loved them so much they always asked for more. I realized I had three things that could make this viable business. The first was a product that was different from what was available in the market. The second was that the fruits we need to make jams would be easy to find and we could form partnerships with farmers whose crop would usually go to waste due to a lack of off takers. Thirdly, there were consumers who would be willing to buy our jams.
What challenges did you face when starting out?
Nigeria is a tough environment to start a business in especially if you’re a small business. It was a challenge finding the right packaging for our jams which is very important in ensuring the shelf life of our products while creating brand recognition. Another challenge was getting the funds we needed. Shecluded provided access to funds we required after the impact of Covid-19. The pandemic created another challenge for our business by disrupting our supply chain in 2020 and nearly halting our business but we were able to overcome it by finding new suppliers to partner with. We expect that there will be more challenges in the future, but we know we will overcome them as well.
What do you love most about running your own jam business?
I love that we are breaking the perception that delicious good quality jams can only be imported and that jams can only be made from out of western fruits. It is always a great feeling when I introduce a customer to our local fruit jam and see their first cautious taste turn into real enjoyment of our jams.
What’s the plan for expansion?
Partnerships are very important to us. We plan to grow partnerships with supermarkets to ensure our products are widely available. We plan to partner with investors to expand into other markets and we plan to grow partnerships with suppliers to improve operational efficiency. We are also working on five new flavours and intend to eventually export our products out of Nigeria.
What do you consider to be the greatest achievement of your business so far?
Badagry jam is at the forefront of the jam industry in Nigeria. I am very proud that we have created good quality, locally produced jams that are better than imported jams.
To find out more about Badagry Jam