Did you know that getting frustrated over a situation can bring something positive? Well, I didn’t really think about it until I heard the story of Juliet – the brain behind Ga-Soak. Read on as she shares with the B&FT’s Inspiring Start-ups how she got a brilliant idea that has become an innovation in Ghana.
Juliet Gawu was born and bred in Accra. She is an old girl of New Juabeng Senior High School, Koforidua, where she studied General Arts and completed in 2008. Thereafter, she took a diploma course at the African University College of Communications (AUCC). Then she did her first degree at the Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ) and graduated in Communications in 2016. She is currently studying for her second degree in Public Relations at GIJ, and is also the employee of an advertising company.
Her background does not say anything about food. So how did this young lady become a food processor, especially using a grain many Ghanaians usually do not patronise as their income level increases?
The birth of Ga-Soak
Juliet is a big fan of gari. Just in case you don’t know, gari is a local grain made from cassava and usually misunderstood as food for low-income earners or students.
In fact, gari is a one of the favourite foods of people from the Volta Region of Ghana. It can be used to make a lot of meals and snacks. Coincidentally, though, Juliet is from the Volta Region – which may explain why she is so fond of the grain.
But what actually triggered her to think about it as a business and rebrand it? Juliet explains: “One weekend at home I was feeling hungry, so I decided to go to the roadside to find some gari, milk and sugar to buy. Quite surprisingly, I didn’t get all the ingredients in the shops around my neighbourhood.
“So, there I began to think about it and asked myself: ‘why can’t someone just combine all these ingredients into one and sell it in the shops, so you just buy, add water and eat?’ At that point it was just a thought, so I brushed it off and found an alternative.”
But that thought would not stop haunting Juliet as it kept lingering in her mind and heart. So, this time, she decided to take it seriously. She started talking to her mother and a few other friends about how best all the ingredients could be combined, but couldn’t really get any business idea from them.
She didn’t give up on it, though. An idea came to mind as to how she could use flavours to make it unique. Then, she read extensively on those flavours and decided to experiment and see the results. Then she gave samples to some few friends to test and give her feedback. The feedbacks she got gave her an idea of how to improve it. Finally, she combined it with other ingredients and again went through the same process of testing and evaluation. The feedback was great this time.
At this point Juliet was convinced she could convert this to a business idea. In February 2017, she became a fully-fledged entrepreneur and named her company Eljuel Foods.
Ga-Soak on the move
Today, Juliet’s flagship product, Ga Soak, is making strides in the food processing industry. It must be remembered that name Ga-Soak undoubtedly comes from the name ‘gari soakings’—a popular name given to gari mixed with water, milk, sugar, and groundnuts.
Ga-Soak has now become a household name for, especially, senior high school students, as it gives them a one-stop shop for gari soakings.
And not only students – the new brand Juliet has given to gari has changed the perception about it as food for low-income earners. Now, most people – especially those in the corporate world – see it as an easy and fast. So she now has clients in various corporate bodies within Accra, and even outside Accra.
On a weekly basis, she is able to sell more than 200 containers of Ga-Soak.
Mode of advertisement
A budding business like hers cannot afford to use the mainstream media—TV, radio and print—to advertise her products. Thanks to social media, the message is able to reach existing and potential customers.
She has created accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter where she communicates with her clients. Just type the word Ga-Soak on any of these platforms and you are sorted. In fact, most of her clients contact her through social media.
In her own words: “Social media has been doing so much magic for me”.
Another strategy she wants to introduce along the line is partnering some event organisers so she can display her products at their events.
She is also working to get the products in shops and supermarkets across the country.
How Ga-Soak stands out
Her main strength is the taste of the product. Ordinarily, gari soakings are always done with milk or milk powder; but this one is unique for its flavour. Ga-Soak comes in five flavours— vanilla, chocolate, banana, pineapple, and strawberry. Besides the flavours, they are already mixed with sugar, coconut flakes and peanuts—making it a perfect mix to start your meal. All you need is water and a few spoons of Ga-Soak and you have your meal.
Then, too, the packaging cannot be left out. The packs have very attractive labels and a seal, giving the product long life. It can actually last more than a year on the shelves.
Above all, the price is very affordable. Just make GH¢5 ready and you have your 0.5kg of Ga-Soak.
Juliet has a big vision for her business. Even though her flagship product is the Ga-Soak, in the not too distant future she wants to expand to making other foods. She has one on the table that, hopefully, will be launched in mid-year.
As usual, it all depends on finance. As the business is expanding with more clients coming on board, there is also a need to introduce technology that can enhance her work. Currently, she needs to purchase a mixer that would help make the work go faster – but financial constraints have limited her.
Again, she has to find a spacious place for her operations as she is currently operating from her home kitchen.
The stress associated with this kind of situation is not easy. Seeing the Ga-Soak in its attractive containers doesn’t mean the final product comes out easily. It goes through a lot of processes to ensure that the final product is at its best. After all that hassle, she has to deliver personally to her clients.
The role education has played
Juliet is a communications person, and that training has helped her a lot. She knows how to communicate with all kinds and manner of people; she knows how to sell her products; she understands branding; and, of course, she knows how to advertise. And all these she attributes to her educational background.
Advice for youths
“What I have to tell the youth is that everybody has something good in them. For me, it was my love for gari that gave me a business idea. Yours may be something else. So I would advise the youth, especially those who have come out of school and have no jobs, to look within themselves and see what they like then try to put it into a business idea. Start small and it will grow for you.”
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