Beyond entrepreneurship, Ejiro is one leading lady who is focused on reducing national food waste. She has successfully empowered women and youths through the platform of her business and continues to contribute her quota to youth employment.
Be inspired by Ejiro Jakpa and her groundbreaking business NicnaxGranola.
Hello!, It’s great to have you on LLA, Can you briefly describe yourself and your business?
I am Ejiro Jakpa, Founder/CEO – NicnaxGranola, a locally produced healthy foods and snack brand – which is the first NAFDAC-approved locally processed granola in Nigeria. I’m a graduate of Computing Studies with a Masters in Innovative Manufacturing & Management & IS from Cranfield University, and I have over 20 years’ experience as a senior professional within Blue Chip organisations in the area of Business IT, Financial and Electronic Retail both in the UK and Nigeria. I am also an Alumni of the African Women Entrepreneurship Cooperative (Cohort 1) and the Cherie Blair Foundation/Exxon Mobil Foundation) program – Road to Women’s Business Growth Program.
NicnaxGranola was born in my kitchen with just N10,000/$50 and in 4 years, the business has organically grown from a home based business supplying 3 corner shops to a business with its own factory & a retail network spanning 5 states across 40 stores in Nigeria. We are also focused on reducing national food waste by adding value to key raw materials whilst empowering people to live more purposefully through association with the brand. We successfully empower women through our supplier partnership for raw materials as well as contributing to youth employment.
Can you share what inspired you to go into this particular business?
I was just trying to have a better relationship with my body by eating and living healthy. In a quest to eat the right foods for breakfast, I started making Granola (as the ones in the market were either too expensive or high in sugar). I used to give out extra portions to friends & family and one day, I was encouraged to try selling it. I did. And the rest they say, is history!
When you launched your business, did you have prior knowledge on how you could run one? How did you make it work?
Yes & No! I had some basic knowledge from my experience working in electronics retail and from a previous failed start-up (yes, I had forayed into entrepreneurship but there were so many errors along the way, that we eventually closed the business 9 months into it). So with the knowledge I garnered from the business and also work experience gained from running and overseeing all functions of the retail business with multiple outlets, I was armed with knowledge to run Nicnax Granola. However, starting, running and SUSTAINING a Startup business by myself proved to be a different animal!! I had to read several books, attend seminars, enroll for a number of trainings and courses to help me along the way.
Why entrepreneurship and what’s the biggest misconception about entrepreneurship that you’ve heard?
I wanted to make a difference, I wanted to impact lives of people. I wanted to leave a legacy, and of course I wanted to make money but through building my own company. But Alas! I found out that entrepreneurship was not what I imagined it to be!
For example, there’s a misconception that being an entrepreneur means you have your own time, have freedom to execute visions quickly and that entrepreneurship is better than employment. No way! Even when I’m physically not at work, I’m working! At night, I’m reading or doing research or thinking of innovative ways to do things differently. Also, executing visions as a startup is not as easy because YOU are the sole championer and motivator for enforcement of the vision.
What new innovation have you introduced to your business recently and how has that worked out?
We have just recently launched our handy pocket sized granola. These are 70g packs that can easily fit into a bag (or pocket), it comes in a resalable pack and in 4 different flavours. It is basically perfect for “on the go snacking”. Since we launched, it’s been going very well and it’s at a price point that a lot of people can afford.
As an entrepreneur, you must have encountered different kinds of people, what have you learned most and what will you say has been the highlight of your journey so far?
I have learnt that not everyone will see the dream like I do.
I have learnt that not everyone will give me a chance or encourage me. But more importantly, I have come across people who have gone out of their way to push my brand, people who have offered constructive criticism to get me to produce better results.
In all these, I have learnt to be level-headed and take the lesson learnt from each relationship to produce better results.
The highlight of this journey is the people who have bought into my dream and invested financially, the people who have lent support by introducing me to key supermarkets and the people who are always available to proffer advice and solutions to challenges that crop up. Indeed, I’m thankful for their input throughout the journey.
What will you say is responsible for your success?
My Vision & My Faith. From the beginning, I’d always known where the brand was going to be. I just didn’t have the knowledge of how I was going to get there, but each day, I worked towards it, (I still do). I am resilient and dogged about the success of the brand. And I most certainly see the grace of God in all my efforts.
In your opinion, would you say that there are any unique challenges that female entrepreneurs face? What are some of the challenges you’ve faced, and what’s kept you going?
I wouldn’t say there are unique challenges to female. However, there are some challenges peculiar to females that our male counterparts don’t face. Such as sexual advances! For example, recently my colleague and I went to pitch to a supermarket to stock our products. Advances were made by the manager during business proceedings which led to the transaction stalling.
What’s your five-year plan for your business
My 5 year plan include but isn’t limited to the following:
– Increase Awareness of the brand and our products
– Add more products to the existing product line
– Scale up production to meet with demand as a result of awareness
– Aggressive expansion plans so we are available in key supermarkets across the country starting from Lagos, then Abuja and Port Harcourt.
Can you share some strategic helpful tips for upcoming female entrepreneurs to be successful in this path?
– Don’t focus of money when building your business, structure and results will attract the funds you require
– Apply structure from the very beginning, record your income and outgoing, capture all expenses
– Pay Yourself a salary to avoid dipping into company accounts
– Understand your market and ONLY scale your business based on demand
– Cashflow is King in any business (especially in manufacturing) businesses start and fail as a result of not realizing this. Business is about basic economics, you need to ensure you are covering Variable Costs (phone bills, social media advert costs, waste bill, electricity, gas etc) not just your Base Costs (cost of buying raw materials/goods, salaries). Sometimes you may need to sell at a loss to keep the Cash flow. Look at this scenario: You sell shoes for $10, Nonso comes & collects 30 pairs to resell & offers you $15 each BUT she will pay after 60days, Moji comes and collects 20 pairs at $12 each BUT pays on the spot. Which do you think is better? Option B, because in the time it will take Nonso to pay you back, you can turnaround that money 2 more times and make the profit you would from her!
– Network Effectively! Put yourself out there, talk about your business to everyone. Go for events, conferences, seminars, etc. Put Your Business Out there!
– Finally, take some time out for YOU! Travel, See the world, Live, Love, Laugh.