George Truth Chukwudi was driving home one evening in 2015 when a radio jingle caught his attention. The jingle was lively, he recalled, and it was an announcement of Mr Tony O. Elumelu’s plans to empower aspiring and semi-established African entrepreneurs across the African continent through what is now known as the Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme. The programme includes multiple business training sessions, sizable seed capital and a robust network of mentors.
The next day, George, who had taken up a day job after running into difficulties with a poultry business he had to shut down for two years, went on the internet and began making inquiries about the programme. “Before then, I was actually into the poultry business [which I started] in 2013/2014, and when I applied to the Tony Elumelu Foundation entrepreneurship programme and received the seed capital, along with everything else, it was the lifeline I was looking for,” George tells TEF. His voice was bouncy, his enthusiasm and sense of hope palpable.
George is a 2015 Tony Elumelu Foundation TEF Entrepreneur who is determined to leverage the increasing demand gaps in livestock supply in Nigeria, it is a mission the Tony Elumelu Foundation has helped him achieve to a monumental extent. According to statistics, the Nigerian poultry sector has expanded rapidly in recent years, yet local production only meets 30% of the demand for chicken eggs and meat, thus leaving a viable business sector grossly underdeveloped.
Since starting his business, George has transformed a 1000 capacity family poultry (Animal Home Services Limited) into one of the largest livestock producing companies in the southern region of Nigeria. Animal Home Services Limited now produces over 2 tons of meat per day, creating over 30 direct decent jobs and generating an estimated N300,000,000 in revenue per annum.
The global poultry market is projected to hit $ 422.97 billion in 2025 with a CAGR of 7%, this data speaks to the global viability of poultry businesses across the world. Entrepreneurs like George who are working to contribute to that growth stand a chance of being a part of an immensely lucrative business.
Before George was selected to be a part of the Entrepreneurship programme, his business which was a major source of income for himself, and his family was facing immense difficulties. Funds needed to run the business were limited, demand for poultry products and services were low, and the business had to be closed for two years without any clear path to restarting at any given time.
“This was a very difficult period for me and my family,” the 38-year-old recalls. “But as soon as I heard about the tony Elumelu foundation programme jingle, I knew it was a chance at growing my business again. Even though I had my doubts because of the way things are done in this part of the world, I went ahead to apply.”
After getting selected to be a part of the 2015 programme, George had the opportunity to get business training, network with other entrepreneurs across Africa and at the end of all of that was provided with a $5000 non-refundable grant for his business.
To further demonstrate his commitment, George sold his car and plunged the funds into the business. He went on to start over with 1000 birds, two full-time employees and two part-time employees.
By 2018 George had increased his production capacity by acquiring two production sites. His business was producing over 5000 birds in six to seven weeks. But with this increased production, George saw a surging demand for his poultry products from several eateries and superstores in Rivers state and neighbouring states.
He took steps to increase production by reducing the time it takes to get the output he needed. His research paid off as he found a way to get this done without dropping the quality of his product.
In 2020, just at the break of COVID in Nigeria and the difficulties faced by most businesses around the world, George was able to, not only sustain his business but expanded and increased production to 25,000 birds in five weeks. He has now begun processing his poultry products and packaging frozen meat which has created a new market that allows him to attract customers beyond the east and southern region of Nigeria.
In most recent times, with the increase in demand for white meat and healthy animal protein, George’s business has acquired one of the largest fish farms in Rivers state. This new facility is estimated to have a 100,000 fish stocking capacity with an extension for piggery and snail farm that feeds into a vegetable farm. In addition to this, He has opened a major sales outlet that will ensure increased access for retail customers.
George is projected to create additional 40 new direct jobs by the end of 2022 with a revenue projection of N500,000,0000 per annum and he has made it a personal commitment to getting as many budding and established entrepreneurs he knows to apply to the entrepreneurship programme. George’s success continues to sit at the core of what the Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme aims to achieve. The beauty of the work is found not only in the number of brilliant ideas that are finally able to see the light of day but in the hopes, like George’s, that can finally be restored.