My name is Haira and I am the CEO, Founder of KoKo Wakanda based in Tamale - Northern part of Ghana. My core mission is to empower and create opportunity for young girls and women in my community, to become economically self reliant in order to cater for themselves. In other words, empowering the less privileged in my community. I was born and raised in a family where petty-trading is seen as a norm. I started street hawking at the age of 5, switched across different retail items/stuff as the season changes. At the age of 8, I decided to start my own business and every summer vacation I had the ability to initiate and take actionable moves towards advancing my craft. Right after senior high school, I traveled to the southern part of Ghana to work. The idea is to accumulate enough savings to pursue my education. It was at this juncture that I met other young girls like myself hustling and trying hard to earn enough income to sustain themselves. This was really an experience that reignited my passion for creating a social intervention that assist some of these girls. Unsurprisingly, I noticed almost all these girls where from the northern part of Ghana, where I also hail from. They moved to the south to engage in Head Potter (Kayayei). Of course these young girls slept in front of stores exposing them to several inhumane conditions including being molested and raped by unknown men, carrying unwanted pregnancies all by themselves resorting to abortion and being affected by sexual transmitted infections. Moving forward, after my Tertiary education I thought of starting a social impact intervention to create opportunities as well as empower and equip these young girls with business and managerial mindset to be able to start businesses of their own, and of course to help curb this unfortunate situation.
However, while in school I identify the unavailability of food market (breakfast hub) on campus - coupled with the high records of typhoid fever among young people in my community due to unhygienic preparation of food within our zones. I had a brainstorming session, presented my idea to my colleagues and most of them bought into it, thus led to the establishment of this startup that seek to produce breakfast product under strict hygienic conditions.To get this startup started, Koko Wakanda. I was awarded MasterCard Scholars Entrepreneurship Seed Fund. That is how Koko Wakanda was found. As part of my social responsibility. I am yet to register the foundation. Thanks to everyone who have been part of my journey re: as an entrepreneur, woman owned enterprise and socialpreneur. Koko is a spicy porridge made from millet. While Koose is made from bean paste mixed with ground pepper and spices. Koose is usually eaten together with Koko. Koko and Koose is a popular breakfast meal in Ghana and other parts of Africa like Nigeria, but many take it as a late afternoon snack. The best times to buy a bowl of Koko is early in the morning and also between 4:00 PM and 6:00 PM. Millet flour from which Koko is made contains vital nutrients such as magnesium, calcium, manganese, tryptophan, phosphorus, fibre, vitamin B, as well as antioxidants, while beans from which Koose is made contains iron and proteins.
What were the biggest initial hurdles to building your business and how did you overcome them
The medical field in Ghana is totally different. Nurses and midwives have to wait for 8 months for their examination results and then be posted to their various work stations. The idea of sitting idle was really challenging for me, that got me thinking - what can I do while killing time. My second
challenge was the fact that, I was not a native of Tamale. Therefore, it became very difficult for me not having my family around. Finally, I didn't know how to prepare Koko so we had to start on a retail level and when we began to have high demand, we had to start our own production. Financial constraints, was another factor - with my little stipend as MasterCard foundation scholar I was able start to my business at the right time.
Did you ever deal with contention from your family and friends concerning your entrepreneurial pursuits?
I had to explain thoroughly to my mum and my daddy why I needed to start this business. My parents and family members felt like why is she still in Tamale all alone after completing her education? My mum wasn't fully convinced but she had no choice than to come over to Tamale to check on me. My friend who stayed back to give a helping hand had to go home after some few months because of the same issues. All these were happening because we were females I guess and our parents were worried.
What would you say was the single most influential factor in your business success?
Resilience I would say is one influential factor that kept me moving through my entrepreneurial journey even though we haven't fully accomplished our vision but we're surely getting there and I'm so optimistic that insha Allah we'll get there!
What do you know today that you wish you would have known when you first got started as an entrepreneur?
When I first started, my short term goal was to help students and also create opportunities for the Kayayei girls. I did not actually have a vision, I must say thank God to Camfed /MasterCard foundation who broadened my mind and made me think out of the box. Looking at everything approach from different perspective through their entrepreneurship training. Now I can boldly say I have a set goals and objectives that I followed keenly to achieve my vision.
What advice would you give to an upcoming entrepreneur locally and internationally?
Believe in your dreams. Don’t settle. Everything is possible.The biggest thing is action in the right direction even if it’s slow.