Victoria Mamza is also known as The Urban Market Woman. She is from Borno State and the founder of WangarauFoods, a food food sourcing, packaging and delivery company. She shares how she started her business with Woman.NG
FROM HAVING AN IDEA TO STARTING YOUR BUSINESS, SHARE YOUR JOURNEY WITH US
The journey has been rewarding and challenging. I have had moments when I felt like giving up. I have evolved and I have met wonderful people on this journey. When I started Wangaraufoods in 2014, I didn’t start a business because I wanted to go into business, no; I wanted to offer value to people, I wanted to do my bit to reduce the level of unemployment and also to build a sustainable and thriving business.
Before then, I had never worked in a formal environment and I wanted to build a structured business. The whole process was challenging for me, but because of my drive and passion plus the conferences, seminars and workshops I attended. It made the process a lot easier for me. At times when I would be very frustrated to the point of quitting, my bestie and mentor would keep encouraging and pushing me, they pushed me way beyond limits I had earlier set for myself.
WHY DO YOU LOVE WHAT YOU DO? THERE ARE SO MANY OTHER BUSINESSES YOU COULD HAVE EXPLORED, WHY THIS?
I love WangarauFoods. In fact, my business is the first thing on my mind when I get up in the morning and the last thing on my mind before I go to bed at night. But having said that, I love my business because of the value addition. I am a big fan of Nigerian foods but I know it can be stressful for most people to cook, the fact that wangaraufoods reduces the lead time in the preparation of Nigerian foods and we do not just add value to these food items, we source the absolute best. The idea of my business came to me after fasting and praying for a business that would outlive my generation. So I would say that it was divinely chosen for me by Jehovah.
AT WHAT POINT DID YOU KNOW BEYOND ALL DOUBT THAT THIS IS GOING TO WORK?
I have always known that this will work. People must eat and people will always buy food. It’s a business you can never go wrong in. Depending on how you go about it and what you are bringing to the table to offer people. Although, when I initially started. I knew what I wanted to do but some people around me couldn’t see the big picture. They not accepting it immediately was what made me really determined to make sure it worked. I put in my time, my resources, my finance and the rest to God to make sure I proved them wrong and I’m glad I did.
HOW DID YOU RAISE THE CAPITAL TO START YOUR BUSINESS, ESPECIALLY WITH THE HIGH COST OF RUNNING BUSINESSES IN NIGERIA?
I started Wangaraufoods from my pocket money. Running a business is no child’s play, talk more of running a business in Nigeria where there is no enabling environment for businesses to thrive. We produce our own electricity, water and all other amenities. Although I have applied for a thousand and one grants from organizations that supports entrepreneurs. Unfortunately, I have not gotten any yet. That does not mean that I’m giving up. On the contrary, it’s even making me all the more determined to make Wangaraufoods work.
HOW SOON DID YOU START MAKING PROFITS?
Making profit is relative, we have a mark up on all our food products after expenses so we make profit but of course, the profit goes right back into the business.
BRILLIANT IDEAS DON’T ALWAYS MEAN GREAT SALES, HOW HAS IT BEEN MARKETING YOUR SERVICES?
I studied marketing in the university, this has prepared me to understand consumer’s needs and wants. I personally handle the marketing of our food products to B2b and to individuals in Nigeria and across the world. Marketing is not easy but the truth is, no one else will sell your products the way you do or better than you, especially if the business is a micro entrepreneurial business.
AS A SMALL BUSINESS OWNER YOU CAN’T DO EVERYTHING, WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR EXPERIENCE HIRING STAFF AND BUILDING YOUR TEAM?
Well, the truth is, it is not easy managing people. It requires, tolerance, patience and wisdom. One of the things I look out for when hiring is “passion.” Most people want to work because they want to earn a living and not because they enjoy what they do to earn that living. As a result of this, they tend to take it out on the said job or on customers. They become grumpy, lazy and nonchalant. As long as they are getting paid at the end of the month, they do not care about the business.
I understand that one of the most important element of a successful business is it’s staff. I make them understand the mission and vision of the business. I train them and I coach them. My staff is family, I treat them the same way I treat my brothers. I pay them their salaries promptly. I celebrate winnings with them, I give them their leave as at when due plus Christmas bonuses. I do all these to boost productivity and morale. I’m not saying that I have not gotten to a stage where I’ve been tempted to fire one or two of them, but that is where wisdom, patience and tolerance comes in.
YOUR GREATEST SKILL/STRENGTHS THAT HAVE BEEN PARTICULARLY BEEN OF HELP IN STARTING AND RUNNING YOUR BUSINESS?
I speak Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba, not fluently though, but enough to help me interact with the women and men at the market. I didnt realize how much it meant until I started going to the market as “The Urban Market Woman”
DID YOU HAVE TO GET A FORMAL TRAINING OR QUALIFICATION TO BE ABLE TO DO THIS?
Yes I did, I trained under “Oga mi” he taught me how to package food items. He is one of my mentors.
YOU HAVE BEEN RUNNING YOUR BUSINESS FOR SOME TIME NOW, WHAT DO YOU KNOW NOW THAT YOU WISHED YOU HAD KNOWN BEFORE YOU STARTED?
I have never worked in a structured environment, and because I want to build a structured business, it’s sometimes a challenge. Maybe if I had worked for sometime, gained experience, I might not find some things I get to find out from friends at first. It’s only when I rub minds with them that they proffer solutions to me then I get to understand that it’s because I didn’t work at all. I am challenged to easily know. So i learn a lot from friends that work.
ANY LIFE EXPERIENCE THAT HAS PARTICULARLY PREPARED YOU DIRECTLY OR INDIRECTLY FOR WHAT YOU DO NOW?
I lost my father at a tender age and grew up with my uncles and Aunties. While living with them, I used to do a lot of kitchen chores like picking/sorting beans, grounding tomatoes and pepper with grounding stone instead of with blender. Washing of bitter leaf with my hands instead of buying already washed ones from the market. In fact, the first thing I sold was Zobo ( hibiscus tea) at the age of 10. At that time, I thought I was being maltreated but I didn’t know that God was preparing me for Wangaraufoods.
CHANGE CAN BRING OUT A PART OF US WE NEVER KNEW EXISTED. WHAT NEW THINGS HAVE YOU DISCOVERED ABOUT YOURSELF IN THE COURSE OF STARTING AND RUNNING YOUR BUSINESS?
Before I started Wangaraufoods, I was an impatient person, I was also a very shy person ( I still am though). Wangaraufoods has made me tolerant and extremely patient.
THE GREATEST BUSINESS ADVICE YOU HAVE EVER RECEIVED AND BY WHO?
My mentor said to me, “girl you have dreams, don’t ever give up on those dreams. Always remember that you can do whatever you set your mind to do. When challenges and obstacles comes, because they always will, believe in yourself, always say to yourself, “Yes I can, yes I will!” So, every time challenges and obstacles arises, I always tell myself that I can and I always overcome.
WHAT DO YOU THINK ARE THE MOST ESSENTIAL SKILLS FOR WOMEN ENTREPRENEURS ESPECIALLY IN NIGERIA?
Most women are running businesses but they do not have proper records of expenses and sales, they do not know how much profit or losses they are making. I had that challenge, well, I still do. But with accounting softwares like Zoho and Wave , I am able to get by.
If you do not know how to manage your staff. You will keep hiring and firing people.