Every businessman or woman has their own motivation for starting a business. For Charity, she was perplexed by and concerned about the poor quality of packaging for many products in the country, which moved her to enter into a packaging business that she feels befits our modern era.
Today, what she started as a passion has grown into a big business. She shares her story with the B&FT’s Inspiring Start-ups.
Charity Annan Adupong was raised at Sweduro Agona in the Central Region of Ghana with her two other sisters. She lost her father at age seven and so all the burden of bringing up all three of them rested on their mother.
Though it was challenging for her mother financially, she made sure Charity and her sisters were adequately educated. Charity is a product of the Sweduro Senior High School where she studied General Arts. Following that, she moved on to the Cape Coast Polytechnic where she graduated with HND Accounting.
From there she had employment with a private company in Tema, Greater Accra Region, where she worked till December 2015.
How she conceived and started her business
While working with the company, she was studying to qualify to be a chartered accountant. But the challenging nature of it all made her change her mind.
“During my last two papers of ACCA part two, I got 49percent and the pass mark was 50percent. So, I told myself I won’t bother and write again as it was just a waste of money. The money could be better spent doing some business.”
So, she started engaging in petty trade — selling second hand clothes, bags, and anything that came to mind. Later, her business interest took a different twist. It all began when, one day, she entered the then Tema branch of Shoprite.
“I walked into Shoprite in Tema and bought beans. But I realised the packaging was terrible, and I told myself I could do better than this. So, I went straight to the manager’s office and told him he should give me an opportunity to give him a better option. He told me to bring a sample and after he would decide what to do. After two days, I made an attractive packaging and went to show it to him and he bought into my idea, and that’s how it all started.”
She quickly went to register her business as Meannan Foods and got the needed certification from the Ghana Standards Authority and the Food and Drugs Authority, to allow her get her products on the shelves.
She started with packaging beans and other cereals, then, her mother suggested that she adds eggs to it. Charity felt it was a good idea and so she contacted a friend whose father owned a provision shop and asked if she could supply them with packaged eggs. She was given the green light, but Charity was finding it difficult to get the right packaging that will ensure safe keeping of the eggs and would also be different from what was already available. After a month-long search for a suitable packaging, she found one.
When she introduced her new packet on to the market, it immediately became a hit. Later, the Accra Mall was opened, and Shoprite moved in. This provided a great opportunity for Charity as demand for her products overwhelmingly shot up. From that time, referrals became her main source of attracting new clients.
When she started the egg business, she was able to supply just about 20 crates in a week. But today, she supplies on average 15,000 crates of egg in a month. What is more, she has about a hundred outlets across the country that she supplies her eggs to.
Besides the eggs, she packages cereals and spices such as tom brown, garlic powder, ginger powder, chilli powder, among others.
And currently, she employs 25 people.
How Charity’s packaging stands out
The egg packaging stands out for one thing; It is the first to be introduced onto the Ghanaian market that has an expiry date on it, and it is transparent. The eggs are also fresh in that, Meannan Foods has a policy of only accepting eggs from farmers that are at most two days old. The purpose is for consumers to always get the eggs fresh and healthy.
In the next three to five years, Meannan Foods wants to employ about 250 people and sell over one million eggs in a month. Charity also wants to process eggs into other useful products— chicken feed from the shells, the yoke for producing ice creams; mayonnaise, etc; and egg powder, which can serve as a stabiliser for some foods.
A major challenge she faces daily has to do with people management. Charity blames this largely on the country’s educational system as it trains people with only theoretical knowledge and not practical one.
She also faces regulatory challenges. She says that most of the regulatory bodies are not properly harmonised. And this, she says, frustrates businesses a lot as they would have to move from one institution to another to get certain necessary permits, not to talk of the associated costs.
The weak macroeconomic situation, which has made the exchange rate so volatile, is another big challenge for her. Because she exports some of her products, any change in the value of the local currency seriously affects her pricing and revenue as well.
How education has helped
Charity’s accounting background has been of tremendous help to her.
“Right from the beginning, I knew book keeping and so I keep accurate records of my sales and inventory.”
How is economic empowerment of women important?
For her, the economic empowerment of women has a multiplier effect than that of men. “When a woman has something, everyone has it. Women are more diligent in their work, but men overlook a lot of things. Women are detailed so they are able to impact more on the community than men when they are economically empowered.”
How government should support
For Charity, the best support government can extend to entrepreneurs is to ensure that the business environment is friendly. She wants it to be easy to obtain permits; the cost should not be high; and the public service must deliver timely.
Advise to the youth
“My advice is that they start a business from something they love doing. They shouldn’t forget to read wide as reading opens your mind and gives you more knowledge and ideas. They should appreciate small beginnings and be ready to absorb the shock that comes with starting a business.”
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