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.
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.
SheaMoisture is the enduring and beautiful legacy of Sofi Tucker. Widowed with five children at 19, Grandma Sofi supported her family by selling handcrafted shea butter soaps and other creations in the village market in Sierra Leone.
Sofi became known as a healer who shared the power of shea and African black soap with families throughout the countryside.
She handed down her recipes to grandson Richelieu Dennis, who founded SheaMoisture and incorporated her wisdom into the brand’s hair and skincare innovations.
SheaMoisture products and collections are formulated with natural, certified organic and fair trade ingredients, with the shea butter ethically-sourced from 15 co-ops in Northern Ghana as part of the company’s purpose-driven Community Commerce business model.
SheaMoisture has partnered with She Leads Africa to support and showcase Nigerian women who support their communities.
Meet Lynda Odoh
Lynda Odoh-Anikwe is the CEO and founder of Healthify Africa.
She is a Medical Doctor from the University of Nigeria and started Healthify Africa. Healthify Africa is an enterprise that strives to tackle the dietary risk factors for non-communicable diseases.
In the course of her daily interactions with patients, she realized that people were most driven by convenience and availability when making healthy lifestyle choices.
Lynda decided to start a fruit delivery service. She hopes this will create an enabling system for busy urban dwellers, to conveniently meet the World Health Organization’s daily fruit recommendation for a healthy life.
Her vision is to see an African continent where adopting a healthy lifestyle is easy, practical and sustainable.
When I began to practice as a medical doctor, I saw that there were so many instances of non-communicable diseases that could have been avoided by a simple dietary change.
I started Healthify Africa because I wanted to create a solution to the problem of non-communicable diseases. My goal with Healthify Africa is to address dietary risk factors.
I do this by providing a service that helps busy people adopt healthy eating habits. This is done through a simplified system and healthy lifestyle advocacy.
At Healthify Africa our focus is on increasing the consumption of fruits for busy urban dwellers through a delivery platform. By providing affordable fruit boxes, fruit cups, fruit and dip platter to school children, homes and offices, we’re building a healthier Africa one person at a time.
What was your motivation for finally starting your business?
For me, it was because I had been in similar situations and I understood the challenges people face in trying to adopt and sustain healthy dietary habits.
I grew up in a health-conscious family and I grew accustomed to having a very healthy diet. However, when I became a young adult and my schedule became tighter especially during my internship, it became extremely difficult to eat the right things.
It was a situation of knowing the right thing to do, but being unable to do it. I knew then that there must be other busy young people like me, men, women and even mothers who wanted their children eating fruits but were pressed for time as I was.
That for me was a huge community need that I passionately wanted to see addressed. So I made the decision to become the change I desired by creating an enabling platform. A platform that supports healthy food choices so as to help myself and others with the same challenge.
What makes your brand stand out?
Healthify Africa is not just another food company, that caters to only satisfying hunger. Instead, my brand is particularly focused on ensuring that everyone has access to the daily consumption of 400g of fruits, as recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The vision is to create a world where healthy eating is most practical and the dietary risks of non-communicable diseases reduced to the barest minimum.
That, as well as our commitment to healthy lifestyle advocacy, has been a huge attraction for our clients because they can see it.
What are three things you struggled with when your business kicked off and how did you overcome them?
When I first started my business, a lot of people did not understand what we were trying to do and that equated to zero orders. We had to create a lot of awareness about the health benefits of patronizing our convenience-based service.
Also, through our follow-up and feedback system, we tried to encourage our clients to make referrals and this has continued to help our brand.
Secondly, being a fruit delivery service, food hygiene, presentation and safety during transit were some of my topmost priorities. It was a challenge finding the ideal packaging that met all the criteria and would still fit into our production cost.
I did my online research and eventually was able to find a reliable supplier that we now work with.
Finally, it was important that our fruit packs get delivered in a cold temperature range for a great client experience. This was a challenge when we had to deliver long-distance orders. This was an issue because there is currently no thermostat equipped delivery services operating in Abuja where we operate from.
To overcome this, we currently partner with a reliable express delivery service and improvise with ice packs in the chillers for long-distance deliveries. Hopefully, in the near future, we can have our very own thermostat equipped delivery bikes.
How do you stay above the noise in your industry?
We made sure to implement a system of receiving and acting on feedback, from early on in the business so that we know what exactly our clients want and tweak our approach to offer them that.
This has been really helpful in building a business that our clients love and customer retention as well.
Did you have any personal experience that taught you a business lesson?
Before I started my business, I had a few unpleasant experiences with logistics. On one occasion, I was to make a trip and I had made an earlier arrangement with a cab driver. However, on the morning of the trip, he was a no show, which made me have to find another one. To cut the long story short, I ended missing the bus I was to get on.
When I began my business, I took that experience with me and created a better delivery structure. I ensure that all delivery arrangements are made on time to avoid communication-related challenges. As a second step, I also make backup plans to ensure that I don’t disappoint my clients.
Can you tell us of any impact have you made in your community since you started your business?
As a medical doctor, I am really passionate about helping people live healthier lives and I made sure to infuse this into my business.
Through my brand, I have been able to raise awareness about the prevention of non-communicable diseases. Also, we have encouraged people to sustain a healthy lifestyle by organizing health and fitness challenges.
Most recently, we actively participated in the 2019 global week for action against Non-Communicable diseases. We engaged in a social media awareness campaign (#enoughNCDs #healthifyafrica) and an educational video series with a team of Doctors.
Can you share your 2019 goals with us and what you’ve done so far to achieve them?
Since we had already introduced our business, our 2019 goal was to broaden our client base. Our method was to strictly implement feedback from clients. Also, we started building partnerships that will ensure quality product delivery and unforgettable customer experience.
After doing this for some time this year, we have recorded an increase in the number of clients that have requested for our service. This is something we are going to keep doing since it’s bringing positive results.
We believe it has laid a great foundation for more successes with so many growth possibilities ahead and we are optimistic about that.
What are three interesting things about you?
The first is that I love DIY’s. I have actually painted my room from start to finish on two different occasions just for the fun of it. The last is that I love the power bikes but I’m too scared to get one yet.
What’s your favorite self-care routine?
I like to get soaked in a warm bath after a stressful day. I simply light my candles and toss in some petals. After that, I take a mental trip to wherever the CALM Meditation App takes me to, preferably the waterside.
How do you feel about this opportunity to promote your brand on SLA, sponsored by SheaMoisture?
I feel absolutely ecstatic! When I first saw the email from SLA and SheaMoisture, I was so excited. I had to read it over and over again to make sure it was really for me. Thank you so much She Leads Africa and SheaMoisture for this opportunity.
What is one word that should come to people’s minds when they think about your product/ services?
You can find SheaMoisture products at Youtopia Beauty stores nationwide and on Jumia.
There was a girl that would wake up at 4.45am every morning to set off for work at 5.00 am. She would stop by the gym for an hour before arriving at work; eat breakfast between 8.30 am and 9.00 am after wading through morning rush traffic.
During work, she would often drift off into her own world on her phone, trying to make personal plans because there really was no spare time for other spheres of life. How did Beyoncé do it anyway? Short concentration spans began to set in and before the blink of an eye, it was already closing time. This usually meant time to journey through traffic again. These traffic bouts amounted to 6 hours daily and feelings of underachievement would often arise.
That girl was me! Taking charge of my productivity and life is a daily (and not yearly) resolution which has enabled me highlight a few life hacks. Have you been wallowing in disbelief of how you never manage to be very productive? Maybe you have recently taken on a new role at work or have greater developments in your business. Being productive is not about working longer and harder, it’s about working smarter and achieving more. Here are seven ways to effectively maximize your productivity every day:
Get quality sleep
Even as an adult, you should be having nothing less than 7-8 hours of sleep every day. Anything short of this is simply killing your productivity potential. Apart from gaining a huge 13% on mortality rates compared to those that get more sleep, a recent study also confirms that the US loses up to $411 Billion on productivity from people that sleep less than 6 hours every day.
Get to work or attend to your business with a relaxed mind so you can make the most out of your thinking time.
Eat brain food
Adjusting your diet will do great things for your productivity levels. It is advised to never skip breakfast; but eating heavy and starchy food in the morning can be counterproductive as it you may feel tired a few hours into the day.
Endeavour to choose a healthy meal plan that reflects your activity levels to give you a burst of energy and not lethargy. This means a lot more vegetables, lean meats and water with your meals while you have fruits and nuts as snacks. Fighting the urge to sleep rather than work with a clear mind is not the formula to smashing your goals!
Exercise has proven several times over to be therapeutic, creating a positive effect on your productivity levels. Memory concentration and mental alertness are just a couple benefits associated with regular physical activity.
Engaging in a regular exercise regimen promises better sleep and the regular release of endorphins -the feel-good chemicals that bring about your inexplicable happiness. Whether you choose to hit the gym, do yoga, join a dance class or play a sport, make sure your activities are diversified to avoid boredom.
Make a weekly goal
To increase your productivity, create and document a goal to accomplish by the end of the week. Whether you are setting targets at work, or planning expansion strategies for your new business, it is wise to set specific and realistic goals that you can reasonably achieve within the space of one week.
Remember that goals should be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-Based.
Create a task timeline
It is extremely useful to make a list of your daily tasks and allocate time slots to each task so that you can manage your time efficiently and have productive ‘working’ time.
Ensure to have short breaks to eat and rest your mind in between tasks to prevent fatigue. Tick off each task as you complete them and feel accomplished!
No phone zone
If you are battling a major addiction of toying with your phone, it’s probably best to switch it off completely or work in another room if you work from home. Chatting, Candy Crush and social media can all wait while you make money.
Focusing only on work for allocated periods of time will increase your productivity levels. However, if your job involves the use of social media, you have to concentrate only on your current task at hand and not cyber stock people on Twitter and Instagram.
At the end of the day, recap all your tasks including the incomplete ones and others that need more research or tweaking. Recapping at the end of the day allows you time to cool off and give yourself constructive criticism, seeing how you can be more productive the next day.
To really compare your state of affairs to your impending progress, try these seven tips for a week and watch out for any differences in your productivity. Remember that if you dislike your situation, you can always change it. I can assure you that there will be no turning back!
Congratulations on starting your business, feels like a new baby, right? It’s really amazing to finally have the time and resources to start living your dream but with it comes the added stress of taking care of this new baby (assuming that’s the only baby you have. If not, double congrats to you!).
In addition, there’s all the other roles you perform in everyday life as a woman, daughter, sister, friend, wife, mom…
Here are 4 wellness tips that can make running a baby business (or any business at all) less stressful on you.
1. Get help
At the start of your entrepreneurial journey, you might be tempted to do it all (like I was). You will most likely be the CEO, the liaison officer, the content manager, the cleaner (yes, cleaner if you run a shop alone), the accountant and so many other things.
I know you are strong and independent and all that but babe, you aren’t 007 (even he has help from the HQ when needed). Please approach friends and family to help with some tasks you are not so good at so you can concentrate on what you know best.
You can also try a service swap. If you are a budding fashion stylist for instance, helping a celebrity (or popular) friend with styling tips in exchange for a social media mention or dedicated post can help you with PR.
It can also free up some hours you would have used sitting glued to your laptop sweating over online publicity.
2. Don’t forget to eat
Drowning yourself in work all day and forgetting about meals is just, plain evil! As an entrepreneur, you need energy to function and the only (legit) way to get it is through healthy, nutritious food.
Pack your meals or have a deal with a food vendor to drop off your meals if you work outside of your home. If you need to set the alarm for meal time, please do.
I tell my coaching clients at My Figure 8 wellness that If you don’t eat properly, or skip meals, there’s a tendency for you to chomp on unhealthy, sugary snacks all day. Then over eat (most times too late into the night), when you finally remember food or worse still, become undernourished.
3. Get moving
You know exercises are good for you but do you exercise? Exercising is not only good for your body (and that’s a story for another day), it’s also good for your heart, emotions and mental health. People who exercise often are said to be generally smarter, and happier than those who don’t.
Remember what Elle Woods said in Legally Blonde? “Exercise gives you endorphins, endorphins make you happy and happy people don’t kill their husbands, they just don’t!”
Start with simple workouts like a brisk walk or jog, aerobics and strength training, skipping, racing up and down the stairs and intense dancing. Doing this for 30 minutes, at least 3 times a week will work wonders in the strength and energy department.
Don’t forget to warm up before and stretch after your workouts.
It’s okay to take a break, seriously! Take one day off work weekly or every other week. An annual vacation to engage in activities that make you feel relaxed and happy is a good investment in your sanity as an entrepreneur.
Go to the movies, a spa, go bowling or skydiving (my dream vacation activity), whatever catches your fancy.
Drowning yourself in work, taking care of everything and everyone else but yourself will take its toll. Take it from me, I’ve been there done that.
I was recently so immersed in learning all I could from my opportunity as a Tony Elumelu entrepreneur, running my business, home (I have two children who ask 1 million questions per minute) and working on starting another business, being a leader and all, that I totally forgot I exist and girl, did I pay for it?
I had to stay home for more than a week taking some prescription pain and sleeping meds.
This is the age of wellness and African women won’t be left behind when it comes to health and well-being. Fed up with the lack of healthy living content geared towards African women, Nnenna Kalu Makanjuola knew she had to do something about it.
So she started Radiant Health, Nigeria’s first women’s health magazine. Available on Apple and Google Play, Radiant Health is a complete guide to healthy living for today’s African woman. Currently, it is the only global African-owned health magazine focused on bringing all aspects of health and wellness under one title.
The magazine also focuses in-depth on socio-cultural issues that are relevant to the well-being of every African woman or girl. We spoke to Nnenna Kalu Makanjuola to find out how African women move towards living healthy. She was graceful enough to share her favourite smoothie recipe too.
Why did you feel like now was the right time for you to start Radiant Health and why you are the right person to do it?
Radiant Health, quite frankly, is the magazine and health platform that I was searching for to meet my own healthy living needs as an African woman.
I was constantly surprised each time I googled African or Nigerian health magazine. I found there wasn’t much in that space. This is a search I had done periodically from the time I was a student and well into my career. But somehow, it never quite occurred to me to start one…until three years ago.
I was out for a long run one early morning and thinking about health care in Nigeria, as I often do. And the idea just very clearly came to me to start a health magazine. I didn’t feel the least bit qualified to publish a magazine. But by the end of that run, I had my mind made up to go for it. I thought, “why not me?” It’s fair to say I was tired of waiting for someone else to do it.
Why do you think many professional African women struggle with living a healthy lifestyle?
I’m reminded of a quote attributed to Chimamanda Adichie, that says “We have taken over our father’s job while retaining our mother’s responsibilities.” In talking to so many of my peers and Radiant Health readers, lack of time brought on by our increased responsibilities is a big issue.
Even when the partner/spouse is supportive (and many of them are), African women still bear a heavy share of home, child rearing or other imposed traditional responsibilities. Many try to create a balance with careers and/or side businesses. Often time, it’s the health that gives, if we’re to keep up with these expectations.
Equally challenging is the dearth of credible, African-tailored health content we can rely on. No matter where in the world we live, our African sensibilities, consciously or unconsciously, influence nearly everything we do including our health-seeking behaviors.
But when it seems everything out there is telling you your culture is incompatible with healthy living (think food for instance), we need a platform that not only counteracts this message but guides us to live a healthy lifestyle that embraces our African essence. And that’s what Radiant Health brings to the table.
What makes Radiant Health different from the other health and wellness platforms that exist on the market?
I like to think of Radiant Health as a complete guide to healthy living for today’s African woman. We recognize that health is not just the absence of disease and encompasses the whole self.
So in addition to health, wellness, fitness, and nutrition we also focus on the mind, spirituality, style, beauty, culture and life. We began as Nigeria’s first women’s health magazine and we’re now the only global African-owned health magazine focused on bringing all these aspects of health and wellness under one title. Our content is well researched, fact-checked and written by experts in their respective fields.
We are also very driven by the social issues that impact African women. Every single Radiant Health magazine issue focuses on an in-depth socio-cultural issue that is relevant to the wellbeing African woman or girl.
I’m also committed to dedicating a portion of our revenue to support well-organized local, homegrown organizations that are working on alleviating some of the most egregious social injustices faced by the African woman.
Finally, we believe strongly in aligning only with advertising partners whose products are not in direct conflict with health promotion. For a startup, it hasn’t always been easy to turn down tempting offers but this is something I feel very strongly about.
For your business to get to the next level, would you prefer funding or a high value mentor? Which one would you choose and why?
High value mentor. There’s nothing quite like mentorship from someone who has walked the path you are trying to walk on. I don’t want to give the impression that capital is not critical to growth. It is. But even those with deep pockets still need high value mentorship to succeed. I believe with the right mentorship, the funding will always follow.
I’ve been fortunate to have encountered some great mentors along the way. I should also add that a high value mentor could be a business coach or strategist that you pay for. You don’t have to wait for someone to freely take you under their wing to benefit from high value mentorship.
What can we expect to see from Radiant Health over the next 6 months?
Currently, our quarterly issues are published digitally and sold via in-app subscription purchase on Apple and Google Play app stores (news stands). Plans are now underway to add limited print issues in the coming months.
We’ve also begun the first launch of a series of our Radiant Body Reboot fitness and nutrition program that have only been available to a select group until now. By the end of the year, we would have rolled out the complete 90-day Reboot program, which includes a done-for-you 21-day clean eating plan (yes, even on an African diet).
What is the most important thing you’ve learned on your journey towards a healthy lifestyle that you want to share with other young African women entrepreneurs?
We need to start seeing self-care as essential to our business or career success.
As entrepreneurs, we are consumed by our business and making it work. It is such a tough job being an entrepreneur that in all of the hustle we often lose all notions of self-care. We eat, move and sleep very poorly. Before long, we burnout. I know because I too have succumbed to this burnout and I see it in just about every female entrepreneur I’ve encountered.
But success doesn’t have to be at the cost of your health. You can take out 20 – 30 minutes throughout your day to incorporate some wellness into your life. You don’t have to wait till you have large chunks of time to take a fitness class or cook for the week.
Indeed, tiny drops of water make a mighty ocean. Every morning take 5 minutes to sit still and breathe; then move for 15 minutes. It will make an incredible difference in your productivity and overall well-being.
I love this quote from Gandhi that says, “I have so much to accomplish today that I must meditate for two hours instead of one.” Investing in your health and well-being first is a precursor to success.
Favorite smoothie recipe?
2 handfuls of spinach + 1 apple + ½ cup of blueberries + ½ lemon juice + 1 inch ginger or turmeric + 1 cup water + 1 tbsp. chia or hemp seeds.
Yoga or Pilates?
Best workout playlist?
I always have Asa, Femi Kuti and Adele on rotation. I workout to mellow music.
Morning, midday or evening workout?
Morning. I’m an early riser.
Favorite fitness app?
If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, let us know more about you and your story here.