Grace Uzorka started Gracias Foods, a food processing, packaging and repackaging business to save kitchen time and encourage healthy eating. The company produces beans and unripe plantain flour as well as organic spices, serving people in the FCT and beyond.
Tell us your journey into entrepreneurship.
As a teenager, I saw mum work for an organisation that didn’t give her all the right due to an employee so I made up my mind to be my own boss and give my employees a different treat. But out of fear I didn’t start early.
I started late in 2018 when I almost lost my one year plus son due to lack of enough time for the kids, I had a balance to pay for a training I enrolled into. I had a quest for naturally made food products that will shorten kitchen time and a desire to empower people, especially women and young girls who want to go back to school but cannot afford that due to financial constraints or their gender.
What were the initial challenges you had when you were starting out and how did you overcome them?
My initial challenges were how to get buyers, how to tell people to stop using the normal stock cubes and mixed spices and flour they are already used to and where to sort my raw and packaging materials. But as the saying goes, if there is a will, there is always a way. I decided to register for spice production class with someone in the business already and I had my questions ready. I gave out my product for free in place of referrers. I started small and growing. In my doing it dirty, I kept learning in the process and with the people patronising me, my fears started fading away.
How did you get funds to start and how much did you start this business with?
The funds used to start my business were my personal savings; and the amount was N10,300.
Where and how do you get your raw materials?
Most of my raw materials are got from our local markets here in Nigeria while a few are from other African countries like Cameroon.
Who are your clientele and is access to market a challenge for you?
My target customers are healthy food lovers. People who want to eat healthy foods that are naturally processed without MSG and other chemicals. And busy mums who want their families to eat healthy and also reduce the time they spend in the kitchen
Access to the market was initially difficult but now it’s becoming rewarding.
Would you say Nigerians are buying more indigenous foods now?
Yes, I will say with full confidence that Nigerians buy more of our indigenous foods now than any other, even Nigerians in Diaspora spend a lot to get our indigenous foods in foreign countries.
How healthy are your products?
Our products are 100% natural so they are very healthy. They are organic and they are mixtures free. They do not contain any artificial flavours, preservatives or anticaking.
What are the basic things you have learnt as an entrepreneur?
As an entrepreneur I have learnt that there are days you fall; you don’t need to quit but to adjust your crown and move on. Secondly, you will not be validated by everyone, just focus on your goals to achieve your dream.
Finally, I have learnt that a risk not taken in business is you leaving a whole lot on the table. You cannot do everything by yourself, partner, collaborate, network and invest in yourself: That is where the real entrepreneurship lies.
Where do you see your brand in the next five years?
In five years’ time, I see my business becoming one of the top food producers in Nigeria and other African countries, serving more customers and having my own factory.
How have you been able to juggle family and business?
God has been helping me. I have been able to do that by creating family timeout and making sure that they have me when I am not busy. It is very tasking but I decided to keep showing up.
How many jobs have you created so far?
So far, five. We have trained three to be self-dependent and we have two staff.
How are you helping young women and youths to pursue their passion in entrepreneurship?
I set aside certain percentage of my profit to empower young entrepreneurs through skills acquisition and giving a number of them capital to start business.
I have coached and mentored three persons in my one year of operation.