Mary Asanga juggles being a full-time student of biochemistry at the University of Uyo and running a business with grace and grit. “I started my business to make ends meet but along the line, I wanted to make my business distinct. I wanted to serve a purpose,” she says.
Once Mary was set on what she wanted to do, she decided to be intentional- “When I started, I wasn’t business savvy. I didn’t know the basics but I wanted to learn. There was this drive to be better and that drive gave me the desire to apply for many opportunities.”
In this piece, Mary shares her business story and valuable insights from her experience as a business owner and full-time student.
Why did you choose to sell peanuts?
I got a Nature Valley snack bar as a gift from a friend and it was really nice. So I went to the supermarket to find something similar that is locally produced and there was hardly any. It was just imported peanut snacks or regular peanuts.
That inspired me to do something. So, I began researching peanut snacks and how they can be used to support the diet plans of diabetic people. I noticed that this particular group of consumers are often ignored by the food and beverage industry.
What does Kutama mean?
Kutama means, “when you see, you will love.
How do you juggle being a full-time student and a business owner?
When I started, I ensured to move productions to weekends, I would source for raw materials during the weekdays after lectures. This way production was less tedious.
On weekends, my team and I would block off a time to produce and then on Mondays, we distribute to schools, staff quarters, student hostels, stalls and some locations in Lagos. We managed this model up until 2019. Once my course load reduced and I had more time, we increased production by 50% and our customer base also grew.
What are some lessons you have learned from running a business?
- Fight your fear- One of the problems I had when I started my business was fear. There was this fear that, “Oh, it is just peanut snacks. What is so special about peanuts that other people cannot do?” At some point though, I realised that I had to fight the fear. There are still times when I doubt myself and when I fall into that trap, I look at where I am compared to when I started and it gives me hope.
- Be consistent about your growth- Never stop looking for opportunities that will further your growth. Regardless of what your business is, so far, if you are providing a solution that people need, you should not hold back from seeking avenues to be better. There are so many lessons to learn from experienced business owners who have gone before you. They can give you insights so that you don’t step on the same land mines that they did. It also gives you an opportunity to network. When you are hungry for personal growth, you get to learn more, broaden your horizon and realise that your business has the ability to create more impact than you ever imagined.
- Do your research- Study your customer. It is very important to research your potential customer. Don’t assume that you know what they want. Research on how you can serve them better with your product and your business practices.