Mrs Amina Zanna Ibrahim started the Amira Yoghurt business with N10, 000 and two staff few years ago. Today, the business has grown creating 50 direct jobs and many indirect jobs with vendors.
Question: Why did you choose to go into this business?
Answer: I chose to go into this business for a number of reasons. I was looking for what next to do to keep myself busy and also to empower myself and loved ones. I loved taking yoghurt and women in my neighbourhood were making and selling yoghurt and my husband suggested that I also could go into the business as it has great potentials.
We started very small from my kitchen with two operating staff, less than N10, 000 in start up capital and daily output of less than 10 litres of yoghurt. Today we are happy to say we are operating in our own factory at Idu Industrial Estate with state of the art manufacturing facilities and processes, 50 permanent staff, installed capacity of 10,000 litres per day in output and market all across the country.
Question: How did you get funds to start the business?
Answer: As stated earlier, we did not start big. The N10, 000 I started with was from my personal savings. Overtime, though, we have gotten help from family as well as banks to fund expansion.
Question: What are the challenges you face doing this business and how have you overcome them?
Answer: Cash flow, infrastructure (electricity), foreign competition, delay and default in payment from our buyers, work life balance, employees’ management issues, among many others. We have overcome some and are still working on others. For example I’m still learning how to manage cash flow. I read at least one book each month on management, leadership and on my industry to solve such issues. For electricity, we had to bring it from five kilometres away as the authorities have not brought light to my factory area; we also have standby generator to take care of times that AEDC takes light. Generally, though, we are trying to improve quality, packaging and processes to cope with foreign competition.
Question: What are the things you have on ground that made the business succeed?
Answer: Documented system and processes (how we do things and who does them); Re-investing in the business. We also keep to our mission, vision and core values. Also, persistence, tenacity and resilience have helped us.
Question: How do you improve yourself as a business owner?
Answer: I read a lot of books. I read, online. I attend courses on self-development and industry. I’m also a member of many trade and industry associations like Necas Network of Entrepreneurial Women (NNEW), WIMBIZ, AWEP, Chambers of Commerce and Industry Toastmasters’ International etc. These are groups of like-minded entrepreneurs. We motivate, assist and mentor each other for our common good.
Question: How many jobs have you created so far?
Answer: We have created 50 direct jobs and thousands of indirect jobs with our vendors, suppliers, contractors.
Question: Who are your clientele? Who are your target markets?
Answer: Our clientele include supermarkets, departmental stores, eateries, bakeries, Suya sports, hotels, schools, petrol stations, households and individuals.
Question: Could you tell us the secret of a successful business?
Answer: Sincerity and sense of purpose. Also, persistence, continued improvement and dedication.
Question: You have also delved into real estate business, how did you start?
Answer: I accidentally went into real estate and it made all the difference for me. We got a land to build our factory under the accelerated development programme during the El-Rufai administration but the land came with a lot of conditions: the land use was commercial, it had to be built on four floors and I had to commence construction within six months of allocation and it had to be completed within two years. These conditions posed a crises situation, all our sales revenue, my personal savings and assets went into the building but we could not complete it. We borrowed money from family and managed to get to the 4th floor but the finishing still had to be done and we had nothing to continue production or pay salaries. We had options and we chose to sell the property.
We sold the property for a lot of cash; beyond our wildest imagination. So, my yoghurt business got an expansion; from a rented place to ownership of factory, machines, delivery vans, display fridges and market presence from Abuja to Lagos, Kano, Port Harcourt, Maiduguri, Bauchi, Yobe, Kaduna and Jos. Apart from investing in the yoghurt business, we also invested in building six units 4 bedroom duplexes in Jabi, Abuja and has just repeated the process in some estates. Currently, I’m the secretary of the FCT chapter of Real Estate Developers Association of Nigeria. I must say that as rewarding as property development is, it can be very slow and capital intensive and if you don’t plan your cash flow very well, you may be rendered broke for years trying to sell. To mitigate the risk of going broke while building and selling, developers have devised the sell and build approach to estate development. That is to get buyers and use their money to build their parcel for them.
Question: What advice do you have for young entrepreneurs?
Answer: My advice to young entrepreneurs is to dream big but start small. Don’t give up when the going gets tough because it is going to get tough. Don’t be afraid of failure as failure is part of the process of winning; it is a stepping stone for progress, a pause for redirection and a blessing dressed as crisis. So when you fall, get up, dust yourself up and keep going. You will succeed; believe in yourself and in your ability to succeed.
Question: What key things have you learned doing business?
Answer: I have learned to be a lifelong student. I learn from books, ebooks, courses, seminars, Youtube, networking, forming strategic alliances and modelling successful business. Also, cash flow is the lifeblood that runs through the veins of a business. It is your duty as a business owner to keep cash flowing. Never run out of cash, never lose money.
Question: How can we support and improve innovation in Nigeria?
Answer: Innovation is the art of creating something new; it could be new ideas, products, service, and improvement on existing ones, new markets, and new ways of doing business. Example of innovation includes but is not limited to television, smartphones, air plane, Uber, social media, flying cars etc. We can support and improve innovation in Nigeria by investing in generating new ideas, encourage and provide conducive environment for innovation, accept and allow mistakes, idea sharing, and we should also reward and award innovators . As individuals, we should have time to be absolutely alone all by ourselves for creative thinking. Also, watch Bloomberg business! It’s full of innovations. Again, model Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and other successful innovators around the world.
Question: What five things do start-up entrepreneurs need to know?
Answer: Know your why? Why you want to do the business. Ask yourself, can this particular business serve a purpose? Do your market survey and write your business plan before you start. Also, plan for each day, week, month, six months, one year, five years and 10 years. Always make sure to keep the cash flowing
Question: What advice do you have for other women entrepreneurs?
Answer: Don’t let anyone kill your dream! Believe in yourself and your ability to achieve your goals. Strive to have a work life balance. Also, know that we are not in competition with the men, but to complement each other. Support and promote other women. Strive for respect, recognition and inclusion in every decision making that affects your life and those of your family. That means going out to do whatever you are best at and you love doing e.g business, politics, home making, parenting, the list goes on.
Question: What is your educational qualification?
Answer: I am a BSc Economics graduate from the University of Maiduguri. Also, in 2016 I was awarded a Doctorate of Business Administration (DBA) by the Commonwealth University Belize in conjunction with the London graduate school.