Decisions. We all make them. But it is always the end that justifies the means. Today’s Inspiring Startups page features a young lady who made a choice that some will find unthinkable. This lady decided to make drinks to sell and resigned from a bank. Read on as she shares her story with the B&FT.
Lilipearl Noami Yeenu, married, and a mother of one, is the CEO of Lili-Pat Yeenu Ventures. She is a product of the Central University College in Accra where she graduated with a degree in Human Resource Management in 2012. Currently, she is studying online for her second degree in Public Health.
After completing the university, she did her national service at GCB Bank and later worked in the same institution on a contract basis.
While working at the bank, Lilipearl felt she needed a new challenge and so didn’t bother seeking renewal of her contract when it ended. But what to do was now the main issue.
Well, it is often said that where there is a will, there is a way. Lilipearl constantly thought about how she could make drinks with skimmed milk, strawberries, chocolate among others.
After getting a delicious mix, she produced a few to test the market. She supplied them to some of the offices near her and the feedback was good.
Setting the ball rolling
After getting a positive feedback, Lilipearl decided to enter the business full-time. But she didn’t want to introduce just anything onto the market; she took it to the Food and Nutrition Department at the University of Ghana for testing to know whether it was good for public consumption.
When the results of the test turned out positive, she decided to move into full production in 2016 and named her product Soul Milk.
As someone who was serious about what she had started, she was always looking for opportunities to sell her products and attract new customers. So, she heard about a fair in Accra and decided to attend.
As the saying goes: “Chance favours the prepared mind”. Fortunately for her, executives of the National Board for Small Scale Industries (NBSSI) were there and they approached her stand to see her products. They liked her products and asked her to register with the organisation so they could expose her business to other available opportunities.
The NBSSI trained her in marketing, branding and entrepreneurship in general. Today, she supplies her products to banks, school campuses, government ministries, and markets among other places.
Starting from humble beginnings with the product packaged in small ice-cream cups, she has progressed to producing in industrialised bottles and is now selling more than 1,200 bottles a week, and still counting.
How her products stand out
Lilipearl says her products stand tall among others, given their ability to boost energy. Again, the fact that they come in different flavours with no additives, can still be kept refrigerated for six months and still maintain their sumptuous taste also makes a difference.
Additionally, its nature and composition make it wholesome for lactose-intolerant people. In summary, everybody can enjoy her products.
Her main mode of advertising is through the use of social media. She has accounts on Facebook and Instagram where customers contact her to place orders.
She also does not miss out on the opportunities to attend fairs and other events, which has also exposed her to many customers.
Lilipearl wants her brand to be known all over Ghana, and even export to other countries within the next five years.
For Lilipearl, the main challenge with doing business in Ghana is the difficulty in accessing capital. Even when the capital is accessible, the killer interest rates won’t allow startup entrepreneurs to go for it. And with a vision of expanding beyond the boundaries of Ghana, she only needs funds to materialise her dream.
Secondly, the same lack of adequate finance to inject into her business has created a situation wherein she must depend on taxis to sell and deliver her products to customers, as she can’t yet afford to purchase a delivery-van to supply.
Then, too, sometimes the perception created by people is discouraging. According to her, some people disrespect her because of the job she does, thinking she should have better spent her time working in a plush office because she is a graduate.
How important is economic empowerment for women?
“The economic empowerment of women is very necessary. I believe if one woman is empowered, it affects a whole lot of people. So, I would encourage every woman out there to enhance whatever unique abilities she possesses and start a business. If you need help, go to the various organisations that help entrepreneurs and you will become successful.”
How education has helped her
One reason why many women fail in business, according to Lilipearl, is their lack of education. She believes education has been the main contributor to her success as she doesn’t do things in an ordinary way.
She also believes education has boosted her confidence to come out boldly and go places where she would have been reluctant to go if she were uneducated.
How government can support
Lilipearl admits government is helping entrepreneurs one way or another, but there is still much more that needs to be done to help them. She says the procedures and requirements for accessing some of the interventions for entrepreneurs must be made easy in order to make them really accessible.
Again, she believes there should be some special funds created specifically for women entrepreneurs to encourage more women to contribute to the economy.
Advice to the unemployed
Lilipearl is urging those who have completed school and are desperately looking for employment to think outside the box and not to be ashamed of starting any business which people consider “jobs for the uneducated”.
“Is it shoe-making, craft, hairdressing, designing or what have you? Bring it on board and you will get the necessary help.”
Contact Lilipearl on: 0244206839