Building Food Processing Opportunities in Nigeria

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“To mentees, I need to say that there are good mentors out there. You only need to continue to look to find them. To mentors, thank you for the support and assistance that you give us.”

Differences in continents, time zones, and languages could not stop Razaq Ogunbanwo from making a successful contact in the MicroMentor community.

Hajid Resources LLC, owner of the Famtime brand, is Razaq’s vision turned venture to bring affordable, lively and nutritious food to families in Nigeria. They do this by securing, milling, and packaging dried, non-GMO food goods from smallholder farmers.

Razaq knows the value his company can have in Nigeria’s agricultural and processing food sector. Hajid Resources LLC, he says, contributes to growing the income of smallholder farming families, generates employment, and expands consumers’ choices in food.

In addition to increasing opportunities for smallholder farmers and consumers alike, Razaq works to address challenges posed by post-harvest losses. If fresh legumes or grains can be turned into a product like Razaq’s bean flour, chances of something like storage spoilage or damage decreases.

While Razaq knew he had a great idea, he also recognized the beneficial role that professional guidance could play in growing his business. Prior to joining MicroMentor, he was looking for professional support that could review where he was in launching his business and perhaps offer direction for future steps. But, Razaq also thought, “good advice costs money.”

That’s where MicroMentor came in. Meeting his mentor Carlos Roberto Romero Villatoro through the MicroMentor community bridged the technical support gap Razaq wanted to cross. And it didn’t cost him any money.

“[Carlos] provided new insights, with copious references."

When the pair first began interacting, Razaq’s processing machines were just about to be delivered—a pivotal moment for his business. It was then that their email exchanges turned into productive roadmaps for a marketing plan, including a digital presence and outline for a potential international focus. They also worked together to improve the packaging design of his products. According to Razaq, “[Carlos] provided new insights, with copious references” to reconfigure a new design.

Though Carlos resides in El Salvador, oceans and time zones away from Razaq’s home in Nigeria, their mentor-entrepreneur relationship flourished through a shared commitment. Of this, Razaq shares that his mentor willingly volunteers his time to research raised topics and is prompt in his correspondence; “He makes me feel he is very interested in the project I am pursuing.”

The future is bright for Hajid Resources LLC and, by no means, is this mentorship over. The company is in its product introduction stage, but with a new sense of confidence and broader view, Razaq is already looking at how he can diversify his machinery and products. In addition to legumes and grains, he hopes to add cereals and spices.

Razaq also credits Carlos for putting him into contact with an international market entry specialist whom he hopes to continue working closely with. In the next few months, Razaq plans to take his venture into the growing market stage.

Upon reflecting on the value of mentorship, this is what Razaq has to say: “[It’s] invaluable. Mr Villatoro's contributions cannot be quantified, and yet it is free.” He is not alone. Last year, nearly 17,000 entrepreneurs received an estimated $50 million USD in pro bono hours donated to mentoring.

Razaq’s advice for entrepreneurs and mentors on MicroMentor? “To mentees, I need to say that there are good mentors out there. You only need to continue to look to find them. To mentors, thank you for the support and assistance that you give us.”

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