Juka Ceesay on partnering with Walmart: “I wanted to bring Africa to mainstream by contributing to its Economy”

Juka Ceesay was born and raised in The Gambia, Africa. She initially moved to the U.S to pursue accounting, modeling and acting. She was signed to one of the largest agencies for several years before she decided to fully focus on building a company that would help individuals, families, and villages throughout Africa.

Therefore, she launched Juka’s Organic and partnered with female farmers to produce and cultivate the finest quality of Coconut Oil and Babao powder. 

Juka’s Organic is most popularly known for their Red Palm Oil, which the company offers pure and unrefined in a jar, in pill form for easier consumption and in their latest and popular Red Palm Oil sauce.

Juka recently visited the women she partners with, in Africa and got to witness the long-term and growing impact her brand has been making in the Gambia, Mali amongst other villages throughout the continent.

The company consists of her, her mother and a small team running daily operations from both Africa and in the U.S. She recently launched a deal with Walmart and her products are now available via Walmart’s website and in super region locations in the U.S.

In this article, Juka speaks to SLA about how she’s taken her products from Africa to the world. 


About Juka’s Organic…

 

Juka’s Organic Co. is Something invigorating, innovative, inspiring and wants to make a huge difference in the lives of people across the globe. We offer natural, healthy foods and beauty products to the American consumers from the continent of Africa that are not customarily accessible in the U.S market.

All our products are 100% sustainable and ethically harvested. Our focal point is to also help the African farmers, particularly women, to supply their natural healthy products to the U.S market and around the world.

My Inspiration to create Juka’s Organic…

 

I owned and managed an African food market in Inglewood, Califonia, for several years. I realized there weren’t many African stores that opened their doors to the American consumers, everything was segregated and only African customers find themselves shopping in our stores.

But seldom, the U.S customers we had were often fascinated by our products. This is when I knew something had to be done to bridge this gap. Also, we offered many of our products in the store amongst which we sold red palm oil. Most of our products were imported from the villages, including the red palm oil, hence the quality was superior to many brands in the market.

People were really amazed by the authenticity of the oil and the consistency. This is around the same time Dr. Oz talked about the importance of adding red palm oil to your diet. But also, he has talked about many tips on his show that included products that were indigenous to Africa.

It all came full circle, I always wanted to bring Africa to mainstream to contribute to its Economy. This is when the magic started unfolding, I soon made the decision to cynosure my attention to importing natural food and beauty products from Africa, harvested by women farmers.

Knowing that this will not only benefit the African framers but it will also be of great service to health-conscious consumers that do not have access to some of these essential foods in the west. This is how Juka’s Organic Co. came to fruition.

The passion I have keeps me going - @Jukasorganic Click To Tweet

How the company is benefitting women in Africa…

 

Juka’s Organic Co. plays a tremendous role in the lives of women we work within the villages and in Africa at large. We help them secure their own source of income throughout the year and grow their businesses.

When we partner with these women, they know they can harvest products in large quantities and we are there to work with them through the process, as they often have issues with capital. Most of them used to produce just a small amount because if not, they would have a surplus in the market.

Although most of these products grow in the wild, it still costs them money to obtain the products. They pay up front for the labor that they can’t do themselves and other logistics to get the products from point A to B.

When we partner with them we fund them upfront to take care of the whole process including the cost of labor and their profit. They can also sustainably and comfortably harvest as much as possible without having the fare of surplus in the market which can lead to a loss.

Juka’s Organic red palm oil farmers team

Most of these women in the villages have no other ways to maintain a decent income to pay for their children’s education or to simply put food on the table, so it is quite fulfilling to see them grow together with us. As we expand our consumer base this also means expansion for them in farming, business, and for a better livelihood.

Want to take your business from Africa to the US market? Learn from @Jukasorganic Click To Tweet

Tips for aspiring female entrepreneurs coming to tackle the U.S market…

 

  • Find something you’re are passionate about, believe, and know that it takes a process. Don’t just do something for the drive of money. There will be times you might need something else to motivate you in the right direction and that the money might not be there right away. The only way to sustain that mission will be the passion you have for what you are doing.

 

  • Do your homework. This will help you balance the passion to know that there is indeed consumer base for what you are passionate about. You also don’t want to do things just because you are passionate about it. Make sure not to get in a market base that is already saturated, and harder to penetrate as a startup.

 

  • Don’t beat yourself up if things don’t work out as planned. Know that sometimes you might have the intention for a business or get into a sector but if it doesn’t go in your favor right away, be open-minded.
Look at signs for what else might be calling you and go for it - @Jukasorganic Click To Tweet

Always do your best and believe in the process of life and allow things to manifest naturally after your best is done.

My motivation to build and grow the company relentlessly each day…

 

The passion I have keeps me going. The vision that this is bigger than me. It is about the customers that turn to us daily for a healthier alternative.

The Jainaba Barrys of Guinea, The Fofanas of Mali, that child in the village that needs education, and a better future in a village called Sohkon in Senegal or Farafenie in the Gambia.

But this cannot transpire if his/her family is struggling to maintain their business and put food on the table. As well as the Farmers that expect to see us a few times a year to buy their products.

This is for the whole continent of Africa, yes, we started small but the growth we are experiencing can have a ripple effect on the growth of the continent. We are in a very inviting yet competing for marketplace globally, but Africa is still behind in many ways.

Through sustainable trade with the many resources Africa offers, we can help elevate the livelihoods of many farmers in the villages.

We can provide the gift of a long and healthier lifestyle to the Western consumers with authentic natural healthy food and beauty products that are not indigenous to the West.

My journey like coming from Africa and into the U.S becoming a businesswoman…

 

It has been challenging yet eye-opening and filled with tremendous opportunities. I come from a large family, and both my mom and dad are business owners in Africa. In particular, my dad did very well.

My grandpa was also a very successful business owner. So, coming into the U.S, not knowing what endeavor I was originally going to pursue, falling into the business world is quite fitting and natural to me.

Also, my mom was a very strict woman and she always made sure I was on the right path as a child and a teenager. This helped me immensely throughout my journey. The structure and discipline to follow through are still very well fostered in me in business and my life in general.

New Partners – Juka’s Organic Red Palm Oil

My daily routine as a business owner…

 

It is quite demanding, vigorous and can get challenging at times. But I wouldn’t change a thing about the experience. It is fulfilling and rewarding to wake up every day to do what I love to do.

There are many different layers to this, and responsibilities change depending on the time of the year. We are blessed to have great people that work with us from all angles but I still must make sure all things are being handled to the utmost satisfaction to maintain quality in products and service.

Whether we are dealing with shipments coming in from Africa, sourcing for new items, or visiting Africa to meet with farmers or new suppliers. Or simply dealing with production and or distribution, it all falls on my desk as the company owner.

And I always must withstand all odds no matter how small or big.

When you have no balance, you can keep your business going but soon it can crumble-@Jukasorganic Click To Tweet

The most important pillars in being a successful entrepreneur…

 

For me I know there are many pillars but the first pillar is your own state of mind. Often people neglect this part but it is the most crucial pillar to maintain in order to be successful in all things you do.

Now different people practice various things to give them a clear state of mind or a conscious mind. But it really doesn’t matter how if you are able to do it all the time.

Dealing with obstacles in business, from the day to day activities, production, or dealing with customers (wholesale or retail accounts) you always must be grounded and level-headed for things to yield the best outcome or results.

When you have no balance, you can keep your business going but soon it can crumble. So always realize that you are the center, you are the foundation of it all and your business needs you to always have a clear mind and not to get intimidated with problems or people.

Partners Since 2013 – Juka’s Organic Co.

Stay centered and tackle issues as they arise and celebrate achievements from a grounded level. Once you can master this you can pretty much climb all other pillars much easier.

 

Some challenges I’ve faced or currently face as a female entrepreneur…

 

I face many just as a business owner but of course being a woman also has contributed to some issues I have faced and continue to face. Especially when you look a certain way.

People don’t initially take your ideas or demand serious and you always must be more affirmative in your requests more than if a guy were to make the same request. This is very troubling because the substance of what you are saying should carry more leverage than your gender.

I also find it challenging, being a woman and having to witness some of our women farmers to be looked at as incompetent of certain duties in Africa because of the culture. But we as a company must sometimes address these issues when we partner with new farmers.

It is obvious that society has come a long way in the way we women are looked at. But we certainly have a long way to go. But the more we openly talk about them, the more we can evolve.

How I managed to maneuver through those challenges…

I stay the course and know in the back of mind what my mission and vision are.

As I said before, Juka’s is bigger than myself. And when you feel and know something is bigger than you, it seems as if there is an external force that guides you through the process.

I certainly know that it’s not me making all this happen. There is something, a higher power, God, Allah, the Universe, The Divine or whatever you want to call it but it is certain, it’s more forceful than myself.

Juka’s Organic just has my name attached to it but it’s not mine, it’s for the continent of Africa, the betterment for the livelihoods of thousands of people and hopefully, millions soon both here in the West & the Motherland, Africa.


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Anthropology in Business: Using insights into human behavior and culture to improve your business

“To succeed in the business of the future, we have to become the very people we’re trying to reach.”

– Brian Solis

Anthropology is the study of people or the human condition in order to gain insight into patterns of behavior or culture. Anthropologists have been practicing the art of cultural immersion for many years. Rather than simply observing from an outsider’s perspective, cultural immersion involves inserting oneself into and fully engaging with the culture of the group being studied. The goal of cultural immersion is to try to find answers to questions like, “How do people or groups construct meaning?”, “How does it function within the context of their daily lives?”

As the world becomes increasingly globalised, there is a need to understand not just the people in our communities and those communities closest to us, but also people much farther away. You do not have to be an anthropologist to realise that to truly comprehend the reality of others’ lives, you must be able to view them through a lens that isn’t clouded by ethnocentricity. Put simply, to effectively communicate and engage with others we must be willing to put ourselves in their shoes and try to see the world from their perspective.

This same principle is becoming increasingly relevant in the business world.

What customers want vs. what they think they want

Microsoft, Google, Intel, Procter & Gamble and Philips. Can you guess what all of these companies have in common? They all have a team of anthropologists on their payroll! Have you ever found yourself watching a commercial and having no clue what product was being advertised? But once the product was revealed, you realise that the commercial had somehow piqued your interest and succeeded in selling it to you. Have you stopped to wonder why more businesses are choosing to adopt this kind of indirect marketing and advertising approach? Well, businesses are catching on to the fact that that there is a divide between what customers want from a product and what companies think they want from the same product. As it turns out anthropology has a lot to say about human behaviour and cultural patterns.

To remain competitive, both domestic and international businesses constantly rethink their strategies to better fit their environment. Being able to identify and explain patterns of consumer behaviour is essential to the success of any business. So to is knowing where within the wider cultural context these consumers are located. As anthropologists and market researchers Patricia Sunderland and Anita Denny stated in their 2007 report, “From our vantage point, markets are not constituted of segments of people with specific and profiled “needs”. Rather they are constituted by systems of interwoven meanings and practices that may or may not have resonance for a product, brand or experience”.

What does this mean for your business?

The key take away messages for all Motherland Moguls from this should be,

  1. Let anthropology guide and shape your marketing strategy.
  2. Facts and figures are important, but you must look beyond and strive to understand the relationship between your market(s) and the culture(s) in which  it is situated.
  3. Use cultural immersion to your advantage by participating in the testing of your product, brand or experience. This is a surefire way to create a sustainable relationship with your clients and to ensure that you truly understand each other’s wants and needs.

Did you find this article interesting? Please share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.

Why Motherland Moguls need to master the marketplace

One speaker at the recently concluded TEDxAccra 2016 spoke passionately about the ills of the entrepreneurial journey. This is an aspect of entrepreneurship that we often don’t like to talk about, or don’t want to admit. He spoke about the uncertainty that is associated with being an entrepreneur, as well as the depression that comes with that for many entrepreneurs. This speaker addressed the need for openness and honesty in the entrepreneurial narrative. Entrepreneurs need to have a supportive community of other entrepreneurs around them to engage and share lessons with.

Passion is not enough

As he spoke, I was reminded of one thing I often hear from and about entrepreneurs. That is the need for a deep compelling passion for what you are doing. I don’t disagree with that, I will just add that passion alone will not sustain you on the entrepreneurial journey. You need strong knowledge and understanding of the marketplace in your field of work. You also need a deep appreciation of what that marketplace needs, for you to operate successfully and efficiently in the medium to long term.

To elaborate further, it’s rather like a parent saying of their newborn; “I am going to bring this child up with so much love, that s/he is going to be a gift to this world.” The child may be a gift to this world the child. But whilst a foundation of love is a vital ingredient for raising a child, it alone will not prevent the child from being bullied at school, for instance. It will not stop the child from failing at Math. That love foundation will not protect a child from the negative externalities of this world that we live in. Love may sustain, it helps in going through and coming out of many uncertain times, but it will not prevent uncertainty.

Likewise the entrepreneur.

The entrepreneur’s marketplace

For the entrepreneur, mastering the marketplace is a continuous necessity for going the long haul in business. The marketplace is that space you operate in, that space that comprises your product, your clients, your suppliers, your team, your financing, and your intellectual property. That space is intangible for some, but for the more successful and the more resilient entrepreneur it is very tangible. This is because successful entrepreneurs make it their business to know, understand, assess, learn from and develop that marketplace. It is their passion for their service and/or product that leads them to a relentless, almost incomprehensible obsession to understand their unique marketplace.

The marketplace is different for everyone. For each business, no matter how similar, there will be nuances that make you, your brand, your service and your product distinctive. However, if you have not studied or thought deeply about the marketplace, you will not know your nuance. Passion alone will not sustain you.

The key is to learn

Peter Senge in his decisive work, The Fifth Discipline, alluded that; “The only sustainable competitive advantage is an organization’s ability to learn faster than the competition.” And there you have the operative word, learn. Learning must become a way of life for the entrepreneur. It is not enough to create Instagram, Facebook and Twitter pages, engineer likes and exhibit your products and selfies with celebrities on social media.

The viable marketplace is less trivial. The world needs a compelling reason to buy your product. It takes learning, engagement with like-minded people, conscious conversations, mentoring and a truly informed engaged network to reach the peak of entrepreneurship. What all of that does is change you, it strengthens and grooms you to be the leader you need to be for your business, your clients, and your team. Selfies with personalities and social media likes will not get you there.

Senge also said, “Business and human endeavors are systems…we tend to focus on snapshots of isolated parts of the system. And wonder why our deepest problems never get solved.” By focusing on our passion alone, we focus on snapshots and in doing so may fail to really respond to the opportunity and the value of our business idea to the outside world.

We need to master the marketplace. My own response to this dilemma is a master class called “Mastering the Marketplace”. This class outlines a framework for fine-tuning a business concept. It also helps with developing a responsive business strategy and roadmap that will meet the needs of your preferred clientele and your business as a whole.