Were you a fan of the Nigerian snack Kulikuli (groundnut chips) in your childhood days? Did you miss it when it went out of the market for a while? Aim Higher Africa brings you good news – Kulikuli is back, better and tastier than ever before. Many thanks to Ogechi Okelu, CEO, Arndale foods and confectioneries ltd. A professional pharmacist-turned-entrepreneur is not a change you get to see every day. With a whopping 10 years experience in sales and marketing of pharmaceutical and consumer products, one would expect the next step for Ogechi would be to open her own pharmacy and become the CEO of perhaps a chain of pharmacies in the near future. Interestingly, she put a pin in that dream bubble and went after her love for food creativity, a desire which led her to recreate and rebrand Nigerian indigenous snacks in healthy and hygienic ways. Diamond Bank definitely saw the unique potential in this business when she made the top finalists at the 2017 Diamond Bank BET awards, one of those moments she was rendered “speechless”.
In her interview with Aim Higher Africa, she shared her journey so far.
- What inspired this business of rebranding and redefining the KuliKuli snack?
As a child, I never really liked food. I preferred to snack. I got away with snacking when I was younger. As an adult, however, I haven’t been so lucky. I seem to prefer high-calorie snacks. Well, who doesn’t? They are really yummy. I decided to find a way around it and so I came up with a recipe for one of my favourite snacks. I grew up partly in Kaduna and kulikuli had always been a hit for me. The process by which it was made most times, however, always gave me second thoughts about eating it. I have met quite a number of people who also stayed away because of this same reason. I decided to solve this problem by introducing my brand of kulikuli.
- How nutritious is this snack and what are the health benefits?
Kulikuli is made from peanut which is rich in antioxidants, plant protein, vitamins, minerals, fibre and unsaturated fatty acids. They are low in carbohydrates and have a low glycemic index. Some studies have suggested its effects in maintaining a healthy weight. Peanuts contain heart-healthy nutrients. One good thing about kulikuli is that a large percentage of the peanut oil is extracted from the peanut during production thereby reducing the calorie content of the snack. It is made without chemicals and preservatives.
- How was the initial acceptance of your business?
Some people welcomed it gladly as they were happy to re-live their childhood memories while some others were a bit skeptical because of the prior knowledge of the method of production.
- Would you say your background as a pharmacist definitely influenced your entrepreneurial choice?
I always had an interest in business. As a child, I would visit my grandma’s stores to understand how she ran her business. While in pharmacy school, I ran a business making cakes and cookies. I tried out hospital pharmacy and administrative pharmacy but the most challenging and interesting for me was pharmaceutical sales and marketing. My experience in sales prepared me for my entrepreneurship journey.
- What challenges have you faced in this business?
Running a business in Nigeria is challenging. From the economic and political instability in Nigeria to getting the right employees, product registration with NAFDAC, purchasing raw materials and equipment, policy changes, the list goes on. Each day comes with its own challenge but my passion and zeal to succeed keep me going.
- How did it feel to be a top finalist of the 2017 Diamond Bank BET Awards?
I was speechless. I still remember when I attended the first interview. In was in a hurry to beat Lagos traffic and get to the venue early, that I forgot to take a sample of my product with me. I remember being told I should be ashamed of myself. I had lost all hope of even making it to the next stage and so to finally make it to the top 5 was exciting and rewarding. I’ll forever be grateful to Diamond bank and EDC for the experience.
- What is your vision for Kozee?
To be the preferred Brand of Nigerian indigenous snacks both in Nigeria and in the global African market by 2025.
- What is your advice to budding entrepreneurs?
You can never know too much so keep reading and asking questions. Take courses on personal development and capacity building. If you can’t afford it, look out for sponsors or free courses or learn from those who are knowledgeable. Gather as much experience possible. Above all, stay connected to the right network of people who can keep you motivated when the challenges come.