I would agree with this old cliché that says, “Whatever a man can do, a woman can do better”. Indeed, women have proven that they can do valiantly well in agriculture and farming regardless of its demanding state. This pegged on their unrelenting effort towards making food business and agriculture sustainable. The thrive of Alima Umaru Bagudu, Chief Creative Officer, Kuruxy Crunchies has proven, through her achievements that agriculture is not gender-based. She explains how her brand, Kuruxy Crunchies seek to provide adults with the healthiest, tastiest and crunchiest indigenous snacks of traditionally-processed groundnuts into KuliKuli in a bid to preserve culture, her dive into agriculture from architecture, including the challenges she faced and how they were surmounted. She further made known her enthralling success stories, of how her brand was the first to pioneer KuliKuli as snacks on airplanes; what distinct her from her competitors as well as her words of advice to youths and women, who want to be successful. Excerpts:
Introduce yourself and what you do
My name is Alima Umaru Bagudu. I am an architect by profession and an employee. I am a cereal entrepreneur in the agricultural space. I add value in the Shea butter and groundnuts value chain. I am married with four lovely children and I am a budding entrepreneur.
Your journey into entrepreneurship and agriculture; how did you start out and what inspired you
My journey in entrepreneurship agriculture started during my university days where I used to buy and make something out of what I got. Then, I sold clothes, made gift baskets and anything basically that I could use my hands to do, was what I did. I started working, but I didn’t get the type of satisfaction I needed at that time. I wanted to do more and give more to society. And then, I started again, wanting to do things with my hands. So, I started making gift boxes and souvenir packaging. I was also making snacks as well for events. I did this for a while before I started the value chain for agriculture where I am now fully-footed and grounded. The Shea butter value chain started when I needed to find an alternative to importing skincare products from abroad at that time, I tried and it came out well, but as at then, Shea butter was still done with from a very local perspective. I made my way into the industry where I was making body butters, hair butters and foot balm. It was an entire skincare and hair-care brand. I also made snack alongside Shea butter. I wanted to preserve and promote our snack culture because I grew up in a KuliKuli-producing community as a young child and so, after going to school, I still wanted to toe into that field. So, I started and that was how I founded Kuruxy Crunchies, which is an indigenous snack brand that preserves and promotes our snack culture. We produce clan-based snack for adults, so that they can live a healthier life and we have a desire to see our snacks all over the global shelf. We produce our KuliKuli with the finest indigenous groundnut, maintaining our traditional culture, yet improving the method of production where we can to ease the stress of women. We are fully women-owned and women-operated with just about 10% men present.
What is your company’s mandate and how do you intend to achieve them
Kuruxy Crunchies Limited is a snack brand and our mandate is to produce the healthiest, crunchiest, and tastiest-based snacks for adults with flake-shaped products of groundnuts and we intend to produce more snacks that are indigenous to us, by promoting our health with our culture, still protected.
You are into the business of farming and producing groundnuts, what challenges have you faced and how did you overcome them
Farming is not a very easy one in terms of production. However, the reason why we started farming was because we wanted to grow our own specie of groundnuts and we are also working towards growing organic specie so that our snack can be certified as an organic snack. We have tested our hands on farming twice or thrice, but because of the bad weather, we didn’t continue. Although, we intend on continuing while we are still building a very sustainable production line that allows us to use the raw materials, which is 80% groundnuts coming from our farm into our products. Our challenges have been the cost of farming, the cost of owning land to produce and modern technical know-how to farmers because we are dealing with indigenous and local people. Another uprising challenge is security. With insecurity in the land in the last few years, farming has become more expensive and less attractive. Hence, people do not want to go to the farms because they are not so sure of their lives. Flooding is another major glitch that has affected farming. We farm in the middle belt of Nigeria and most often than none, when the River Niger and Benue overflow, the region suffers the most in terms of flooding and this affects farming. Also, our specie of groundnuts is only found in the middle belt, the other specie are found in other parts of the country and farmers are not attracted to this particular specie because the volume that comes out during harvest is not plenty when compared to other species that is used for making groundnut oil; ours is not that common because we use a very tiny specie. Lastly, we also have challenges in production whereby we are trying to encourage youths to come into production because we inherited a lot of elderly people in our production area. Upon overcoming some of the challenges we have faced, we have been able to tackle the challenge of reducing health hazards by producing, using totally traditional methods, so that we can have less firewood exposure for our women. We have been able to get deep fryers that use gases to reduce the hazardous fumes that come from wood while still trying to maintain the traditional method. We have been able to educate our workers on the importance of hygiene because we are National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) certified, and the importance of hygiene is very dear to us. Challenges come and go and so in experiencing them, we have undeniably made huge progress in business
Give us your success stories so far
We have quite a number of success stories. The very first is that we pioneered the production and packaging of groundnut crunchies, aka Kuli in the manner, which it is now. We were the very first brand to go to the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration Control (NAFDAC) to get legitimate certification. We were the very first brand to serve KuliKuli in partnership with an airline where we served KuliKuli on board. We are also one of the first brands to begin to see how we can integrate KuliKuli to our regular event where it is served as a snacking culture; an ongoing project, but already pioneered. We keep trading the blaze and our desire is to be on global shelves. That is, to be in big supermarkets all over the world; in America, United Kingdom, South Africa, Canada and Saudi Arabia. We also pioneered standard pricing for production where we produce; we were able to segment the production of KuliKuli when we were paying workers per section of the work they did that is against blanket paying. We divided the entire production chain and we were paying per kilogram (kg) and standardised process of measurements in which other people are now following in order to give women value for the money they worked for because right from time, our desire was not to only preserve and protect our culture, but also to empower women that were in the production space. We pioneered the gifting of KuliKuli in gift boxes where by it can be served as gifts to corporate entities and others. We have continued to open more frontiers for people to explore opportunities that exist in this business and we are proud to be doing this consistently for over eight years, going to 10 with our tasty, quality and products, and being consistent.
What can you say distinct you from other amazing competitors in your field
Some of the things that distinguish us from our amazing competitors is that we have been consistent over the years. We have doing this despite the urgency and we have been consistent. We have also been willing to share our knowledge and information for those who want to ask. We have also trail the blaze in terms of providing different kinds of packages thereby inspiring our competitors to pick up this style and also do different things. We are open to collaborations with our competitors if the opportunity comes and we have also worked with other brands in terms of partnership when there are events. And for us, our amazing competitors mean that we are doing something right.
Agriculture is indeed a thriving sector, which when utilised, meets various human needs. What do you have to say to youths, especially women who want to succeed in the industry, but are held down by financial challenges
Agriculture is a long-term business investment. You don’t reap immediately. You have to think big, but have the courage to start small. You have to be there and be consistent because only with consistency do you get there eventually. So, I will encourage young people to think big, but start small. Be willing to undergo tutelage from those, who are already doing it. Don’t be too much in a hurry to succeed because agriculture is a life-time industry. It has been here and it will be there forever. Be committed and consistent and have the courage to start because little steps help to build bigger success steps. It is a very profitable space if you know what you are doing and the value chain of every product is very wide so you can be at the farming stage, aggregator stage, marketing stage, branding stage, and you can be in the manufacturing or production space; it is endless. Each grain of farm produce has a very wide value chain and you can put yourself into any of these value chains and still succeed.
Your parting word
I’ll say nothing is easy at all. Farming, production and all, but it is doable. That’s the best mindset to adopt. You can do it, if you can put your mind in to it. You have to be consistent, patient, and you need to have values that will last a long time; values that will overflow with integrity, honesty, hardwork, perseverance and tenacity. If you are able to apply all of these, I’m saying you will succeed in everything you are doing. However, there is no short-cut to success. The farming industry is not something you just come into and step out with a box; you learn everyday. Be open to learn from your mistakes. Have the courage to be on associations, organisations, groups and in anywhere people of like-minds gather because you learn from them and get support from them. It is never too late to start. You don’t need so much. Just start with the little you have and keep pushing. It’s not going to be very easy. So, prepare yourself for the long ride. And if you work hard, success will come.