Entrepreneurs are born in many ways. Some say they got their business ideas in a dream. Others say they got it from observing a problem; and others say through their upbringing they developed entrepreneurial instincts. This week in B&FT’s Inspiring Startups, we talk to a young man whose interest in farming began at age nine when he watched a popular TV programme of the time. Today, though a banker, that interest never went away and has eventually pushed him to start a pig and aquaculture farm. Read on as Lawrence shares his story.
Lawrence Bampoe is a product of the West Africa Senior High School, where he studied science. After that, he continued his education at the university of Ghana where he read a diploma programme in Adult Education. Then he further went to Regent University in Accra to obtain a degree in management and computing. He is almost done with his second degree programme in Finance and Investment at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology’s campus in Accra. Lawrence did not find it easy in life, as he had to finance his own education right from his time at the University of Ghana. Currently, he works with one of the reputable commercial banks in the country.
His interest in farming is quite an intriguing one, as he picked it from a TV programme known as Hobby Times that showed on GTV. He said once the programme showed how to rear snails, and he felt he could do that in his grandfather’s flower-pot. This was just at age nine. Even though he started the small snail farm as a hobby, it later became a small business for him as the neighbours even came over to buy them for food.
Another interest Lawrence developed later in life was joining rural outreach programmes. In one of those programmes he came across someone who owned an aquaculture farm and a piggery. So he spent some time with him in the farm and helped out with certain works. Meanwhile, all along he had been thinking of investing in a farming-related business but had not yet decided on which one. So, after he visited the fish and pig farm he felt it was the right business to move into.
Starting Nsroma Farms
He began to read widely about the two farms to get a fair idea of what he had to do when he started. Then he acquired a land at Nsawam in the Eastern Region and started the aquaculture with about 500 fingerlings, and added 10 piglets in 2016. Through some NGO entrepreneurship programmes, he was able to expand the farm’s capacity. His business strategy is to grow the animals and fish, process them and sell to the market. So far, he has sold more than 100 pigs and 1,500 fresh and processed catfish. But currently, due to some water challenges, the aquaculture farm has been put on hold.
His efforts have not been in vain, as he was adjudged the best aquaculture farmer in the Nsawam Adoagyiri Municipality. He has also participated in the Tony Elumelu Foundation entrepreneurship training programme in Nigeria.
Lawrence says his vision is for Nsroma Farms to be one of the leading exporters of high quality, healthy, wholesome and well-packaged protein foods in Africa by 2035.
One of the biggest challenges to farming in this country is access to land. There are so many litigations on land, and as such getting a genuine land took him about three years – and even with that, he had to buy it at a high price.
Another challenge is, of course, inadequate financial resources. Setting up a fish pond and a piggery is very expensive. And considering the fact that he had to finance it from his own pocket, it wasn’t easy for him at all.
How coronavirus has affected his business
Because the coronavirus pandemic led to closure of restaurants, pubs, among other food and drinking outlets, he has lost a substantial portion of his market. But the positive he has taken from the experience is that it has given him a sense of urgency to develop a strong online presence so he won’t have to rely heavily on the restaurants and pubs for sales.
The Ghana Climate and Innovations Centre (GCIC), Lawrence says, has opened his eyes as to how to run a profitable business, still keeping in mind the environment. Then again, the organisation has helped his company to manage waste – whereby waste generated from the piggery can be used to prepare feed for the fish farm. In addition to these, he has also received technical support from the organisation.
How education has helped
For Lawrence, education has redefined his approach to many things, including his business. With the help of his educational background, he has developed his business strategy in such a way that it includes the community, especially women, in the value chain so they can support their families.
And his background in finance has also been useful for the business, as he is able to keep his books in a professional manner and project sales and expenditure to help in decision-making.
How government can support
In the opinion of Lawrence, any entrepreneurship support from government must identify those who really need such assistance and be free of any politicisation. Besides that, he says, government must take the lead in patronising made-in-Ghana products, so that entrepreneurs will be encouraged that they have a ready market and the support of government.
Advice to young entrepreneurs
“I would tell young people who want to enter into any entrepreneurship venture to do their research about the business well, and understand what it is involved before they go into it. They should understand that entrepreneurship doesn’t mean you will make money overnight; it takes time, so they should have patience when they start a business.”
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