…making the best out of coconuts
Senam Foods is a Ghana-based producer of coconut virgin oil and coconut flakes. From very humble beginnings, the company has been able to enter into the international market, with products in Europe, North America and Asia.
This is a story of a young woman whose goal for starting her own business didn’t allow her to remain in the corporate world— though she had opportunities to work for the best corporates in the sectors she found herself. Today, her decision has made her an international business woman.
Gloria Degbor, a wife and a mother of two, was born and bred in Accra, Ghana. She is a product of the 1999-year group of the Ola Senior High School in the Volta Region where she studied Business. After high school, she did an ABE course in Business Administration.
She had employment with one of the telecommunications giants in the country—MTN—where she worked for several years. While working with the company, she pursued a degree in Human Resource at the Regent University College in Accra and graduated in 2014.
From there, she was posted to do her national service at Nestle Ghana Ltd. That was when she parted ways with her previous employers. Then, after she was done with her national service, Gloria was offered the opportunity to be retained on a contract basis, but she turned it down and rather decided to start her own business.
She began with renting and selling wedding gowns. It moved well for some time but later no longer became profitable and so she had to close it down. At this point, she was open for other business opportunities and kept searching.
How Senam Foods begun
There is a proverb in Akan, a tribe in Ghana, which literally translates: “if you don’t advertise your ailment, you won’t get its medicine.” What it means is that if one does not share his or her problems with others, it will be difficult to find a solution to it. Well, Gloria made no such mistake. She kept talking about wanting to start a new business with others until one day, she had her breakthrough.
It was a conversation with one of her relatives who lived in the United States that changed her destiny. She told Gloria how coconut oils had a huge market out there, and advised her to produce some and she will find market for her.
In fact, that conversation was her answered prayer. She didn’t waste time at all in taking the idea up. She made arrangements to go to a village in the Volta Region called Agbozume to learn how to make the oil. After learning the process, the stage was, thus, set for her to begin production.
With financial support from her husband, she set up her own business with the name Senam Foods. Then, she began using family and friends as her primary customers. After producing for some time, her customers gave her feedback that transformed her business forever.
The method of production she learned from the Volta Region, known as heat extract, gave the final product a strong uncomfortable smell.
This feedback propelled Gloria to go to Jomoro, a town in the Western Region to study another method of production known as ‘Cold Pressed’. This method actually brought out the oil in its purest form known as virgin coconut oil.
Today her quality products has entered the U.S and Philippines market. She is also on the verge of releasing a new product, other than oil, made from coconut.
Senam Foods has a very big vision. Gloria says she wants to move into producing many other products with coconuts and hopes her products becomes a household name and preferred choice of every home.
Besides this vision, she has the aim of impacting the community within which she operates by providing employment to the youth.
The quality of her products have secured her spaces in various supermarkets across the country, and that has been her major source of marketing.
Again, to create more awareness for her products, she advertises on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram, where she has been able to meet new clients.
No one will expect such a budding business not to have challenges. A major one that confronts her is financial constraints. The killer lending rates in Ghana, which is around 30 percent, will not allow her to turn to financial institutions for capital to inject into her business and provide the necessary machinery and infrastructure for expansion.
The role of government
Gloria is with the opinion that government should create an economy that will be conducive for businesses, especially startups, to thrive in. And that includes helping bring interest rates down so businesses can access capital using the financial system.
Advice to youth
Gloria believes every young person should dream and work towards making that dream a reality. One thing, she adds, will help young men and women into business is when they pursue such dreams passionately. She advises that if one is not passionate about what he or she does, the dream may die off at the least challenge encountered.