Akoh Rose Ojochide is a 35-year-old Kogi State indigene who, recently, launched her local spice brand – Chide’s Spice, powdered Okpehe (Prosopis Africana). The Sociology and Business Administration graduate shares her entrepreneurial journey and a lot more. Herewith are excerpts:
Daily Trust: Your brand is the first of its kind. What inspired you to start making a traditional spice into a more ready-to-use form?
Akoh Rose Ojochide: A lot of people use the spice but it has some impediments that stop people from using it frequently. For example, it has a very strong smell and when it’s dried, it’s conventionally made into balls or rectangles, and then it ends up not dissolving properly in the food or soups. But, by drying it thoroughly and making it into powdered form, it becomes very easy to dissolve in your food, and also very convenient to carry around. The smell is contained.
The spice has been in existence for a very long time. The Idomas, Igalas and even Igbos use it in their cooking. A lot of people couldn’t travel with it before now because of how badly the smell is. But with my products, travelling with it has become easy because of the packaging. We have even sent some abroad and they had no hassles at the airport while checking in because it was well made and properly packed. So, the whole idea is to make the spice easier for people to handle and use.
I’ve been using it in powdered form in my house, and I even sent some abroad to my sister. I had it for a long time in my house and it didn’t spoil. Initially, I had fears about the shelf life and change in taste. But it was there for more than a year and it was fine each time I used it. So I thought to share it with the world.
DT: You have a desk job. So, why did you still feel the need to start your own business?
Ojochide: Yes, I’m a Civil Servant. But as we all know, the Civil Service pay isn’t sufficient. So, we have to look for alternative routes to make money and also provide job opportunities for others. There are so many people out there who are unemployed and there’s a lot we can do to help. For example now, the demand has been very overwhelming and by the looks of things, I’m going to be employing a whole lot of people. I already have so many people who are interested in being distributors across all the states in the country, not to talk of outside the country. For now, we won’t be using machines but rather manual labour, to keep the taste as authentic as possible. From my calculations so far, we might be getting close as 50 people to work with so we can meet up with demand.
DT: How well has it been accepted so far?
Ojochide: It has been overwhelming. I’m yet to meet anybody who has any complaint about the product. All the reviews I’ve gotten have been fantastic. Anybody who sees it starts saying, “Why didn’t I think of this? It’s so good.” Everyone has something positive to say about it. Even those who don’t know about it are asking what okpehe is, and I get to explain to them, and how organic it is. It has been accepted really well, and it’s translating in the demands we’ve been getting.
DT: Where do you see your business headed, and what are your plans for expansion?
Ojochide: I see it doing very well because it’s a genius idea, if I do say so myself. I went to an office and the lady was making it sound like I invented the spice itself, and not the processing I did. The credit she gave me for it was incredible. I honestly see it employing so many people and I’m really excited about that because a whole lot of people don’t believe in entrepreneurship. There are challenges, yes, but nothing comes easy. I have encouraged a lot of people already. So, I want to expand almost immediately because with the demand we have so far, there’s no way one person can handle it. Getting distributors across all the states is my first and immediate step. Somebody has already gone to the US with some, and people in the UK are already demanding for it as well. And we are definitely going to be exporting almost immediately.
DT: What are the challenges you have been facing?
Ojochide: Like I said earlier, challenges will always be there. I was talking with those who help with the processing about the increase in demand. One of the major challenges I’m hoping we’ll surmount is for them to take this idea seriously so that we can meet up with the demand. So basically, we need dedicated workers who will see the opportunities I am seeing. There are also the financial constraints, but I’m already talking to a few investors, but I really don’t want to jump the gun yet. I actually took a loan to do this, and I’m hopeful that with the returns we’re getting already, we’ll be able to pay back and go bigger. So these are the main challenges but I’m optimistic that we’ll definitely overcome them.
DT: Do you see yourself quitting your job in the future?
Ojochide: Well, I actually enjoy my job. I work with a youth based organization and I feel like that’s where my calling is. I enjoy working with the youth. So, regardless of how much I make from my business, I’ll still remain at my job.
DT: What advice would you give others who are skeptical about becoming entrepreneurs?
Ojochide: Just set a target for yourself, think of an idea and go for it. When I came up with mine, I was already giving proposals and looking for grants. I told myself that within the next few months, I was going to make this happen. I knew that if I was going to take the loan, I would be on my toes. It was a risk I took because I believed in how brilliant my idea was. Also, ask questions, people are willing to help. The first person I spoke to about it was also into spices. I called her, arranged a meeting, told her what I wanted to do and she gave me serious advice. She explained so many things to me and it saved me from making so many mistakes. So, don’t be scared of asking questions.