“To be recognized as an equal and receive your fair share of the income and profits that you generate, you must commit to excellence in every aspect of your operations and manage your time and resources effectively. You must put in your best and ensure that your voice is heard, loud and clear. You must never use your role as a wife, mother, sister, or daughter, as an excuse for underperformance.”
“AACE Foods’ vision is to be the preferred provider of food in West Africa, thereby significantly addressing nutrition and improving the lives of farmers. Five years from now, we want to have tripled our revenue, and have gained a 30% market share.”
AACE Food Processing and Distribution is an agro processing company in Nigeria. AACE Foods was registered as a business in 2009 and started modest operations in 2010. Now, they employ 83 employees and have 14 different products on the market.
In Nigeria, according to the 2013 Demographic and Health Survey, 41% of Nigerian children under 5 years old are classified as stunted and 18% are considered wasted. This contributes to Nigeria’s high infant mortality or maternal mortality rates. This is one of the main reasons Ndidi co-founded AACE Foods.
Although the raison d’etre for AACE Foods was clear, the road towards success has not been without its challenges. AACE Foods started out producing jams, only to realize Nigerians only wanted strawberry jam. Since Nigeria does not produce a significant amount of strawberries and prices of sugar doubled a few months into the venture, she had to think of something else. “We were compelled to swiftly shift to our plans for year 3, which consisted of producing spices sourced from local farmers for fast food chains, noodle companies, and for retail. Today, AACE Foods produces nine spices for the institutional and retail markets, and we have recently introduced a range of nutritious meals for the whole family.”
“As a young woman, my biggest issue has always been demonstrating that I am credible and capable. With a strong track record of success and age, this challenge is now being tempered.” Ndidi faced another challenge in starting and growing AACE Foods: to find committed and capable team members who are passionate about the agricultural sector. “Sadly, many people who study agriculture in University did not choose the course. It was typically their 4th or 5th option. In addition, the way that agriculture is taught in our universities is as a science, not as a business. As a result, we have had to train and retain our team members and instill a passion for agriculture”.
When starting your business, Ndidi feels female entrepreneurs need strong accounting and financial management skills. When growing your business you need to go deeper into strategy, product development, operations, HR and marketing/branding skills.
Finally, people management is very important. When you master these skills, you can have enormous impact as a female agribusiness entrepreneur. “It has been a joy and privilege to work in the African agricultural sector. ‘...’ The best part is seeing our products on the shelves of Shoprite or Spar, in camps for Internally Displaced People in Nigeria or even in a friend’s kitchen and recognizing the many people and steps were involved in getting it from the farm to the fork…and that there has been tremendous impact along the way!”