In this interview with Uchenna Angel Kalu-Uduma, founder of gourmet food and beverage company The Farmgirl Co., we discussed healthy eating, the challenges small businesses in Nigeria face and how companies like plastics.ng are proving to be great partners for startups.
Tell us about The Farmgirl Co. How did you start?
The Farmgirl Company Ltd, popularly known as The Farmgirl Co. is a gourmet food and beverage company that focuses on creating meals that are environmentally sustainable as well as convenient and healthy for the individual. We started off very slowly, literally one step at a time. We decided to start with fast-moving goods (juice) so we could gradually raise the money to diversify. Therefore, our first step was registering the company with the appropriate authorities followed by getting the juice bottles and that’s how I stumbled on plastics.ng.
Why wholesome foods and drinks?
We do wholesome foods and drinks because we figured out that holistic living involves a 3-pronged approach; Body, Mind and the Environment. It is our belief that wholesome foods are where these three aspects meet. For instance, to effect social change, you have to have a healthy mind(set), eat well and consume foods that can impact less on your eco-footprint. We @thefarmgirlco call this your ‘foodprint’. Hence, the reason we advocate Locally Grown produce, minimal meat consumption and zero tolerance for artificial additives.
What were the challenges you faced while starting up?
Funding is generally the major problem that faces SMEs in Nigeria and it’s no different for us, however, instead of worry about not having the funds, we try to make the most of the little we have and take it a day at a time. Extremely high costs of eco-friendly packaging materials is also another problem we were faced with before we started, however, in line with our mantra of making the most of what we have, we decided to go for readily available and affordable plastic packaging materials. We hope to gradually reduce our use of unsustainable as the business grows. Lack of Economies of scale in comparison to more established, healthy food chains makes it difficult to compete on price which is most likely going to affect the amount of time it will take for us to break even.
Would you say people are starting to pay more attention to the kind of food they consume?
Yes, Definitely. People are paying more attention in the sense that they know they should eat their veggies because it’s good for their bodies, however, what we are trying to sensitize people on is the impact of their diets and lifestyle options on the ecosystem. For instance, importing healthy farm produce when they can be grown locally thereby supporting Nigerian farmers with a positive snowball effect on the country’s GDP and ecosystem. This is one of the things we hope to set right on our journey as a startup company.
How has this impacted the growth of The Farmgirl Co?
The awareness surrounding healthy eating has made people more curious about trying our products or even requesting our menu. On a few occasions, we have received requests for products that we weren’t originally offered but because of our flexibility as a startup, we have taken such products on board and diversified our product offering as well as gained more customers.
You seem to have a unique way of packaging your products. Why did you go that far?
Thanks, it means I achieved what I wanted the Farmgirl brand to be associated with, Uniqueness. In my opinion, unique-looking products, brand names and even menus usually pique the interests of prospective customers. It’s up to the company to then satisfy or lock-in the customer by also ensuring that the products are up to par in terms of quality and taste. This is what we have based our branding on. I actually designed the labels down to the shape and size, all we basically did was print. Like I said before, we’ve tried to be as resourceful and low-cost as possible without compromising on quality. We want people to think of the brand and not group it with other companies on the market, we want to stand out, and that’s why we went that far with the branding.
How do you plan to reach out to more Nigerians who like eating healthy?
Due to the fact that we’re running on a lean budget and we’re trying hard not to use much of print media with the exception of our hard-copy menu, strategies we plan to use raise awareness of the brand in the near future include brand partnerships, event hosting, more aggressive social media marketing campaigns and hopefully, the launching our first store.
What do you think the future holds for The Farmgirl Co?
I think the future is bright for The Farmgirl Co. as we’re seeing an increase in awareness of the people regarding their holistic health. With consistency, perseverance and hard-work, we believe that our brand will be a force in the years to come.