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The Yoghurt Bar…Zenobia’s quintessential innovation

When it was time for her to choose a career in life, people suggested to Zenobia that her natural beauty could earn her everything she wanted in life. Some advised her to participate in beauty pageants, enter the movie industry or even be a broadcaster. But Zenobia was not swayed by these flatteries. She chose to produce yoghurts—a drink, which when absent in her meal, she will never eat as a child.

About her

Zenobia Bou-Chedid, the CEO of Zeno’s Yoghurt Bar, is the only child born to a Lebanese father and a Ghanaian mother. She attended the Jack and Jill School located at the Airport Residential Area in Accra, and also a product of Wesley Girls Senior High School in Cape Coast.

Her passion for learning could not make her stay for a whole year to await her results when she completed SHS. So, she took a year’s programme in American Field Service (AFS) in Switzerland. There, she learned German.

When she returned to Ghana, she was not too sure what she wanted to study in the university. And then again, she travelled outside, but this time, to France and studied courses in French cuisine and hospitality for eight months.

At this moment, she had fallen in love with the hospitality industry and decided to take a programme in hospitality at the university. She gained admission to the University of Nicosia in Cyprus to study Hospitality Management and graduated in 2012 as the best student in her department.

Even though her parents sponsored her education to the very best, she did two to three part-time jobs at some point to support herself rather than rely on her parents for every little thing. Then, after university, she moved back to Ghana to do her national service at Ewutu Senya West Municipal Assembly, Kasoa, in the Central Region, where she worked at the social welfare department.

Why she chose the hospitality industry

Zenobia didn’t plan to be in the hospitality industry from the beginning. Growing up, she wanted to study law. But she was passionate about travelling, enjoying good food and drinks, meeting people from different cultures, among others. That moved her to enter the hospitality industry as she felt that was the only industry that could help her realise her interests.

Her love for yoghurts

Owing to the fact that Zenobia’s love for yoghurts started at a very tender age, she ventured into the business.

“My mother told me that when I was a baby, I didn’t like any food apart from yoghurt. So, anything they wanted to give me they had to blend it in yoghurt. So, my father’s friend asked my parents why they don’t produce yoghurts in large quantities and sell them? That was when the yoghurt business began.”

The business was very successful but after five years, they had to move to another country and so it was closed down.

But the vision of the business didn’t die so far as Zenobia, through whom the business was founded, was still alive.

Zenobia, through her father, borrowed money from some family friends to start the business. However, she didn’t just want to tow the same business line started by her parents. She wanted to do something unique that has never been experienced in the country before.

She opened what she calls a yoghurt bar; a place where people can sit and relax while refreshing themselves with yoghurts. Currently, she has a bar at East Legon at the A&C Mall and will open another one next month.

She has also successfully introduced other yoghurt products onto the market. The products are: sweetened yoghurt, which comes in cups and bottles, Honey Bottom yoghurt, Plain Set unsweetened yoghurt, Labneh yoghurt, and Greek unsweetened yoghurt; first to be introduced into the country. All products have no preservatives in them.

How she markets them

As usual, todays small businesses cannot overlook the power of social media on their businesses. Zenobia has taken advantage of this and frequently advertises her products on her social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram.

The bar, which serves as the point of sale for her products, has also been a medium for advertising.

The yogurts can also be found in major shops like Palace supermarket, Marina Mall, Shoprite, Game, Maxmart, Koala, Shell shops, Melcom, Shop and Save, and the Baatsona Total shop.

Challenges

Zenobia’s kind of business is very capital intensive. Setting up one yoghurt bar in Accra is no small task, she says. But living in a country where access to capital from financial institutions has become almost impossible, getting capital to expand her business has been a major challenge.

Another thing she finds challenging is the business environment in the country.

“I remember I once broke down in tears at the Tema Ports when they told me the amount I was supposed to pay for a machine I imported.”

Also, a challenge she faces on a daily basis is the fact that a lot of people feel she is in the wrong business. A lot of people judge her by her looks and tell her she should have been in the fashion or movie industry, or probably, be on TV hosting some shows.

Education’s role in her business

Having a degree in hospitality management has benefited her immensely. She believes education has given her training on how to relate with customers in order to meet their expectations.

Zenobia also believes internship programmes she undertook during her time in school have been very helpful. She has served as a waitress and a house keeper at Golden Tulip hotel in Accra, where she was assigned to clean 16 rooms in a day. She also served as a waitress in La Palm hotel in Accra. She believes all these have contributed to her training and helped her to be a better manager.

Vision

Zenobia has the vision of setting up her yoghurt bars across major cities in the country, and even move to other neighbouring countries.

How government can support

From the challenges highlighted above, Zenobia wants government to help ease the business environment for small businesses, especially when it comes to the area of capital acquisition and reducing duties and taxes on machines they import for their businesses.

Again, she wants government agencies to make it simplified for small businesses to acquire certain certificates and permits to start operations.

“I remember the first week I started my business, police officers came along with Ghana Tourism Authority that I do not have approval to do this business because my kind of business is under tourism and hospitality. Something I didn’t even know. So, if there could be a way we can have access to all these information at one central point without having to go around looking for it, it will be fine.”

Advice to young entrepreneurs

“I will advise young entrepreneurs to pursue their passion and develop it to become a business. And once you begin, make sure you don’t kill the initial vision you started with.

And to the ladies out there, I will also advise them not to only think that fashion, beauty pageants, and the like, are the only sectors they can succeed in. They can enter into business and inspire others too.”