Gad Simone Mahoussi Assocle was born in Cotonou, Republic of Benin and she hold a bachelor’s degree in Food Technology from National University of Agriculture of Porto-Novo (Benin). She is currently enrolled for a Masters of Science in Food Security and Community Nutrition at Gulu University in Uganda, funded by RUFORUM as part of the TAGDev program (Transforming African agricultural universities to significantly contribute to the growth and development of Africa) and supported by the Mastercard Foundation. This is her story and entrepreneurship journey.
I have been driven by an entrepreneurial spirit and after the Bachelor’s degree in 2017, I already had a business idea. As a way of reducing food insecurity and ensuring food safety in my community, I created a company specializing in the production and marketing of smoked fish made in biodegradable packaging. With this business idea, I had to participate in many competitions where I had always occupied the first or the best place of the entrepreneurial idea.
However, this thirst for entrepreneurship increased when I participated in the TAGDev orientation training which took place at Egerton University in Kenya. This training showed me that I was on the right track and motivated me more to pursue entrepreneurship in order to help the community in its needs. From this training, more specifically, training sessions on financial planning based on priority and opportunity cost; investment; and developing business plans were essential to properly plan the activities of my future business and know the strategies used to obtain more partnerships to grow my business in association with the members of my group. Currently, I have at my disposal a land back at home on which I have plans to build my business company, thanks to the rewards obtained at the end of one of the many competitions that I have been part of and to the stipend of my scholarship.
Alongside my studies, I produce sweet potato
and bananas chips. These chips are marketed to the community around our home, my internship workplace and most to the student in the high school in my neighborhood. My motivation to start a business was to respond to society’s needs, provide income for myself in order to take care of my own need and mostly to create job opportunities for fellow youth in my community. All these businesses have grown and continue to expand from the profits gained. I decided to venture into the production and marketing of smoked fish because our ordinary smoked fish in, like many African countries, losses value easily because of its perishable nature. As a way of adding value and increasing its shelf life while preserving the nutrients, I adopted the traditional smoking techniques which also prevent contamination thereby safeguarding the health of the consumers.
However, I have plans of building another company in Uganda and in Benin which will be specializing in the reduction of malnutrition and food insecurity by composite food equitable in nutrient and micronutrient, so that I can put into practice what I learned during my experience in entrepreneurship, during the TAGDev orientation training as well as in class. Through the company, I intend to bridge the gap between entrepreneurs and the consumers, and increase food security and food safety within the rural community.
My business is growing steadily the construction work will soon commence. From the company, I expect to sell over 10,000 packs of good quality smoked fish every month through supermarkets, markets and parking lots. I intend to hire, for a start, four young people with a background in food technology who can help me in the transformation. Currently, my associates already produce our smoked fish on a small scale.
As in any commercial endeavor, there have been some hurdles to overcome. This year a prolonged flood season caused by climate change has affected our access to raw materials, so the lack of essential built premises prevents full-time processing to meet demand. As a result, the smoked fish currently produced does not exactly meet the standards of our vision and we cannot satisfy all of our customers, which implies that we lose a lot of customers.
Looking to the future
Steve Paul Jobs, a co-founder of Apple Inc. said:
“If you are working on something exciting that you really care about, you don’t have to be pushed. The vision pulls you”.
Based on these words, I can say that, it this vision that I have on entrepreneurship that pulls me and leads me to be more motivated. My plan for the next five years is to expand both my business and promote my products regionally and even internationally. In ten years, I hope to be a major player in the food value chain and especially in entrepreneurship by producing various food products in sufficient quantity and good quality to adequately meet the food security and nutrition requirements of my community, my country and if possible, from my dear continent Africa.
Gad Simone Mahoussi Assocle is studying for an MSc. Food Security and Community Nutrition at Gulu University, Uganda. She can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org