After completing Methodist Girls’ Senior High School in 2017, 18-year-old Vanessa Limann was clueless about what to do within the 6-months period she was going to be home, even though she wasn’t prepared to idle around and waste the period.
To occupy herself, she decided to join her mother in her business of processing sheanuts into finished products like butter and cream for sale. She narrated how she went round to look for market with her friend for the products of her mum.
At 19, she went with her mum to exhibit their products at International Trade Fair in February 2018. Her ability to market the products to potential clients and visitors and the ease with she went about her activities for the day, helping her mother make more than GHC5000 in about a week, was the turning point for her.
It was after that event, Vanessa Limann began to think about starting her own business to earn for herself, what she was able to raise for her mother the next time such an opportunity presents itself.
Detailing how she conceived the whole idea of starting a venture Vanessa Limann recounted, “I was thinking – I was the one mostly doing the sales and I realised I could sell a lot so I was like if I can actually sell products in 10 days for GHC5000 why can’t I do it for myself. When we go for Trade Fairs. So the plan was to produce when there was Trade Fairs not to always produce and send to Supermarkets. So I was like if I can do that why don’t I come up with a product?”
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“Back in School, my mother used to prepare Cerelac for me and it wasn’t that good at that time. So I was like okay, why don’t I add value to the Cerelac, produce it and start selling. At that point I was thinking of a name to use, then NESSLAC came to mind. The ‘Ness’ is from my name ‘Vanessa’ and the ‘Lac’ is from ‘Lactose’, that is, anything with milk content in it” she told Jonah Eledi in the interview with ABC News Ghana.
With an initial investment of GHC500, which at the time was her life-savings she intended using to buy a phone, a cousin to design logos and packaging materials set, Vanessa Limann began her entrepreneurial journey without knowledge that it will grow to catch the attention of the President of the Republic, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.
“I started the business last year May, I registered it in April. It was actually two months after I started my business and I won the Presidential Pitch. At that point I won’t say I was selling (on a large scale), I can’t account for it because it was just two months and I was sampling and I wasn’t making major sales. I was actually running at a loss and at a point I got stuck because I wasn’t making enough to buy more raw materials.”
This is how Vanessa described the state of her business prior to entering the Presidential Pitch, a vehicle created by the Ministry of Business Development to help to unleash an entrepreneurial revolution in the country, according to the Ministry for Business Development.
She was one of 20 finalists to receive support from the Ministry out of over 1, 500 applicants in the maiden edition. Vanessa Limann’s agro-processing concept, coupled with her ability to sell her idea in a presentation on the final day did not only win her the competition, beating 9 other shortlisted in the ‘top 10’, she was privileged to have the President of the Republic, Nana Akufo-Addo donate a personal sum of GHC25, 000.
For winning the competition, she earned for herself GHC50, 000 capital of the Ministry to support the implementation of her idea. She, together with the 9 others, whose businesses were selected to be part of the ‘Top 10’, are also to receive monitoring, evaluation and guidance from the Ministry for the next few years till the business blossoms.
Opening up on her experience at the Presidential Pitch and how it has influenced her business in the interview with ABC News Ghana, Vanessa Limann mentioned, “it has actually thought me somethings in life. I have been able to scale up my business. So far, so good. Before then I didn’t know I was going to come this far. I knew I had started a business, I didn’t intend to grow this big, I didn’t intend to come this far within a short period of time. In less than a year, I have rebranded, I have FDA (certification), I have a factory, even though it is still under construction. I have been able to achieve certain things within a year because of the Presidential Pitch.”
On the support she receives from the Ministry she noted, “when they fund you, they don’t leave you alone. They hold you, they incubate you, they keep supporting you. It is not only the GHC75, 000. They send you for training as well.”
Vanessa Limann indicated, after the interview that the factory will be completed by November and she hopes to have the President there to commission the factory, in Gwollu, Upper West Region. In addition, the factory will be included in the One-District-One-Factory. The latter, she says, became possible because of the support and expertise provided by the Ministry.
The 20-year-old entrepreneur is into Agro-processing, specially value addition to crops like maize and wheat. Besides these two, she hopes to include millet to her line of production in the near future. With her maize cereal, she adds coconut, honey and skimmed milk powder.
To ensure the products leaving the packaging to the shelves in various shops are of the highest quality and curtail any mishap, each sachet is carefully embossed with an identifiable code that makes it easier pointing out which farmer the raw materials was sourced from, she explained to Jonah Eledi in the interview.
Taking us through the processes from production to distribution, she asserted, “the processing is done there, in Gwollu, because most of the raw materials are sourced there. We also intend to create employment and minimise post harvest loses. Most of the raw materials are gotten from there and processed, when I say processed, it has gone through the roaster, then the grinder and others and then it is transported to Accra. This is where the packaging is done. When it gets here, it is reheated and packaged. Then we distribute to various shops.”
“…We are able to trace to the farmer, where we actually bought the raw materials from…so we use the batch numbers to trace where we sourced the raw materials from for every product” she stressed in the interview with ABC News Ghana.
Current state of business and prospects
Vanessa Limann is upbeat about what the future holds for her business, despite confessing that she hasn’t broken even yet. She hopes, though, that with the completion of the factory in Gwollu, she will start making profits since she will be able to retain more revenue which she currently pumps into the business.
With a current production of 3 cartons, with 24 pieces in a carton, Vanessa hopes that in about 6-8 months after the interview with ABC News Ghana, she will scale up to produce adequately to feed her growing market, particularly with the coming on board of some of the country’s largest supermarkets and malls.
“The main reason why I haven’t been able to break-even is because of the factor. Anytime I make profit I invest it back into the factory and I buy more raw materials. Fixed assets, you don’t money from fixed assets as in for raw materials, when you buy more you are able to produce more but with the fixed assets what ever sale I get I have to put it back to we fence the building and do certain things and it is a lot of money. Immediately the factory is completed and we use the machines then I can start to break-even because I wouldn’t have to invest everything again into fixed assets” she detailed.
All smiles, Vanessa averred, “I am actually supplying to a few supermarkets in Tema, in Cape Coast and Kumasi, Tesano and some other areas but I intend to supply to Shoprite, Melcom and Koala probably before the end of the year.”
From the humble beginning selling with her friend and attending events to market the products of her mother, Vanessa Limann, today, boasts of 4 permanent staff and 10 sales personnel who are paid on commission basis aside the GHC200 they earn at the end of each month.
The four permanent workers, based in Gwollu, are in charge of processing the raw materials, a part of the business she leaves to her mother to supervise, Vanessa Limann told me in the interview.