Today on TEF Alumni Corner, we discuss with one of our entrepreneurs from Ghana, Eric Ade Darku. He is a Technical Farm Producer and Commodity Aggregator who has a lot of experience in the Ghana Commodity Exchange Market becoming one of the leading commercial poultry feed traders in Ghana.
Q: Can you tell us about your business?
A: My business is called Country Finance Limited and we deal in commodities like sourcing feed ingredients such as maize and soybeans, we also produce and trade in commercial poultry feed (yet to begin).
Q: What inspired your business and how old is it now?
A: From a very young age, I have always loved Businessmen and Entrepreneurs and deeply aspired to be like them and own my business. So, basically, my inspiration started from there. I have been in business since 2020.
Q: How did you start your Entrepreneural journey?
A: After I graduated from school, I had to think of a way to make better use of my savings, so I registered Country Finance Limited which was typically a peer-to-peer lending business but within my group of friends and colleagues and it was bound by a contract so they paid back what they borrowed. After a while, I needed a business that didn’t depend on my friends or colleagues so I found the Ghana commodities exchange and figured out I could trade in the commodity exchange market if I put in the work. I became an aggregator in the market and would go to the farthest part of the country (the North) to get goods to sell to the South.
Q: What makes your business stand out from all other businesses within your niche industry?
A: For me, I think it’s my level of interaction with the Farmers. I like to make it very convenient for them to access my poultry feed so they don’t have to be stressed about the transport costs so I take my Feeds to their Farms and that way, we share the transport costs. I also partner with Multinationals such as Koudijs and Flour Mills of Ghana.
Q: When did you become a Tony Elumelu entrepreneur and how has it helped your business?
A: I became a TEF entrepreneur in 2021. I had initially applied in 2020 but the covid outbreak delayed the process so we were added to the set of people that applied the following year. I eventually became one of the beneficiaries and because it was my first try, it meant so much to me and has given my business a very good boost.
Q: After training and mentorship from the TEF Entrepreneurship programme, how has your operational model changed?
A: The training really gave me all the confidence I needed to succeed because it opened my eyes to believe a lot more in my ideas and business and not just to have it sitting in my head but to put it down on paper and work on it. The training was so comprehensive and it helped me devise a range of marketing plans that are sure to help grow my business. I’m so grateful and privileged to have gone through that training.
Q: How do you market your business and which methods have been most successful since completing the TEF training and mentorship programme?
A: I use the online marketing social media channels like Instagram, WhatsApp, and Facebook. I’m also a part of a Farmers’ association and we hold regular meetings physically and on WhatsApp so that way I’m to meet my potential Customers and this, I learned from the training as well.
Q: What are some of the challenges you face as an entrepreneur in your operational environment?
A: My major challenge has to be the unfavourable macro-economic conditions in the country. Inflation is very high and it’s making the prices of everything skyrocket especially the fuel price here in Ghana which in turns doubles the cost of transportation and it is taking a toll on our business. Another one is the government policy on taxes that small businesses are obliged to pay such as the electronic levy on mobile money payments and all other taxes. As an aggregator, when I go to these villages, asides paying the charges for transfer, I also have to pay the electronic fees to the government and most times, I also have to pay the charges of the farmers selling products to me. It is too heavy for entrepreneurs given the current rate of inflation affecting costs of business.
Q: What are some of the solutions you might suggest to help solve these challenges?
A: The government should be more interested in helping young entrepreneurs and make the environment very enabling for small businesses to succeed and reduce the tax obligations burdened on small businesses. They should also give incentives to small businesses because entrepreneurship is a tedious journey on its own. Asides, the Tony Elumelu Foundation, you would hardly see any organisation or body that helps young entrepreneurs like Tony Elumelu does.
Q: As you know, the core of the TEF entrepreneurship programme is to promote Africapitalism, how has your business been able to make an impact in that light?
A: Africapitalism is a business philosophy we have all bought into, especially the Alumni. It is all about directing African capital through the private sector to create economic wealth and prosperity for the African continent. In my little corner, I have been able to promote Africapitalism by engaging in Local sourcing and aggregation where I buy from our local farmers and also give them businesses that bring them good return. We create employment opportunities as well because we hire workers regularly who work on our farms and warehouses and also add value to the international supply chain.
Q: If you had a chance to start your entrepreneurship journey all over again, what would you do differently?
A: This is a very interesting question. If I had to start this journey again then I would start very early even before I graduated so I would have taken all the necessary risks I needed to take and learn from them early enough because now that I’m married, there are certain risks and decisions I can’t take alone given the fact that I have to consider those who depend on me. Another thing I would do if I had to start again is getting a mentor. Having a mentor to help you through the journey can never be over-emphasized.
~ Author: Derek Nwankwo