Augustina Adedeji is the Chief Executive Officer, Quick Culinary Global Limited, a company that specialises in cleaning up some otherwise “dirty” basic food items and packaging them in an hygienic manner ready for cooking. In this interview, Adedeji speaks on what informed her business initiative and other challenges she is experiencing.
 
When and why did you start this business?
I began this business in January 2014 as a result of one bad experience I encountered. There was a time my husband bought crayfish which I left unused for months.
I didn’t touch it because it was dirty and mixed with so much sand. That put me off it. One day, my sister visited, saw my crayfish and suggested we can sift the crayfish from the sand and use it for cooking. It was while we were picking the crayfish off the sand that I thought most women are like me, busy with children and so much work to attend to culinary problems like crayfish cleaning-up.
The idea to ease cooking for such busy women came and stuck. I turned that idea into business, though we ensure money is not the ultimate objective as we make our products affordable.
We source our products, pick the sand out of them, and wash and dry them ready for easy cooking for our customers. Thankfully, people now appreciate what we do.
How much was your take-off capital?
The family raised about N50,000 and I started buying the crayfish in small bowls (mudus). I would buy two mudus; one mudu gives me eight cups from which three will be of dirt. Five months later I bought half a bag, then one full bag and now I can buy up to four bags.
What challenges does your business face?
My major and most disturbing challenge has been registering with NAFDAC. I began my registration with them because they asked that every packaged food has to be regularized and since I am packaging, they say I must have their registration number.  Because I offer two types of crayfish  –  the whole ones and the blended one  –  officials from the agency told me I must register for two products and, hence, separate numbers are required with each registration costing N52,750, with other documentations.
I had done all the necessary things required of me since May, but till now the NAFDAC number is not out. I hope NAFDAC officials will do something and hasten the process. I also hope they will make registration fees cheaper.
I want to package as well as produce, but if I have 10 items and I have to pay N52,700 for each of all the 10 items, that would be too much.
Their delay in effecting the registration of my products has been a bottleneck for me, because for the past two months, my products have been with them and till now I have not heard anything from them. I need the number because it will give my business and products more credibility.
It is sad that many genuine producers who really need NAFDAC’s registration numbers are not having it easy. Some business owners become frustrated, refuse to continue their business and that ends their entrepreneurial efforts.
There is also the problem of access to funds. A major bottleneck business owners, especially women, are having is funding for expansion. In my case, I will like to procure machines that will readily package my products to make my work easier.
What efforts have you made about accessing funds from the CBN’s N220b MSME Fund?
I heard about it and went to SMEDAN and they told me that to access it, I have to provide records of about two to three years of my sales, which means they are targeting businesses that are a bit large to give the loans to. But then, my business is barely two years old.
I also tried the Bank of Industry. When you get there, they will tell you the form is either finished, not available or the fund is for so, so, and so kind of businesses.
I also heard about the Cottage Agro Processing Fund (CAPF) a few days ago on television when they were doing their presentations. I want to go to their website and check it out. But I am sure it would also be challenging although they say they don’t collect collateral. But sometimes, getting the guarantor they will approve can be a problem.
Yes, we know some bad eggs among us have been dubious in the past; they access loans and fled with the money. But some genuine ones among us have ideas and don’t know how to put them in pen and paper to convince somebody to bring in their funds.
How can government support women in business?
In Nigeria, government lending agencies don’t really get to the right people who need the funds. When there are funds and loans for farmers or business owners, majority of those who get these funds are not even farmers. But because they have packaged their proposals and written bankable business plans, they apply and get funds. Meanwhile, the individuals the money is intended for are not getting it.
What is your advice for women in business?
Sometimes, because of the challenges we want to give up. But I will like to assure every businesswoman that every business starts out challenging, but it usually ends up being a success story.