What a bold step! Can you imagine your child, brother or sister completes university and after national service comes back to tell you: “I want to sell waakye”?
Just for the sake of our international readers, waakye is a Ghanaian food made of par-boiled rice and beans.
That is the kind of job three youngsters decided to do with their university degrees.
Read on as they tell the B&FT how they surmounted all the challenges of family pressure and pushed their idea to become one of the top emerging brands in the food industry.
Priscilla Apeadu, born and bred in Accra, is a product of St. Roses Senior High School, Akwatia, Eastern Region. She proceeded to the University of Ghana, Legon, where she graduated in 2015 with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. Then she did her national service with the Bank of Africa. After completion, she was retained on a contract basis for 10 months.
Jeffery Osei-Karikari, was born and bred in Nsawam. He had his secondary education at St. Peters Senior High School, Nwatia-Kwahu in the Eastern Region. He took his first degree at the University of Ghana, Legon, where he graduated with a degree in Linguistics and Economics in 2015. Jeffery also did his national service at the Bank of Africa, and that was where he met his business partner, Priscilla.
The third partner, Jeffery Sarpong Kwakwa, was born and bred in Koforidua and is a product of Ghana Senior High School (Ghanass). Jeffery studied Natural Resource Management at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, then had his National Service with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
How they came together
Jeffery Kwakwa was already friends with Priscilla. Jeffery has always nurtured the idea of doing his own business ever since he was in university.
He believes doing his own business will provide him a more secure future than working for others. So, while doing his service he kept thinking about starting a business. The only problem was what kind of business.
He discussed with Priscilla who worked in the bank at the time—on contract basis. She thought it was a nice idea, too, so she also began thinking about what business would be good.
Then a situation that confronts her in the office daily came to her mind, and she thought it could be a good business idea.
“I like waakye very much, but the problem I had was that I always had to join a long queue where I bought it. My colleagues in the office also asked me to buy some for them, and so I was always late back to the office. Then I thought about it: why not be a regular supplier instead?”
Priscilla discussed the idea with her boss in the office, who encouraged her to take it up. Then she talked about it with Jeffery Kwakwa, who also felt it was a brilliant idea. There and then, they decided to start.
The family pressure
In our part of the world, prestige is attached to having a university degree. You are not expected to do certain jobs after you become a graduate. So, when Jeffery and Priscilla both communicated their business idea to their families it came as a shocking news for them.
The question they were both asked was: “If you knew you wanted to sell waakye, why did you allow us to spend a lot of money on your education? Why don’t you look for a better job with your certificate, rather than use it to sell waakye?”
Those comments were heartbreaking to Jeffery and Priscilla, but they found a way to finally convince their families to give them a chance. Then, they acquiesced.
The waakye dream begins
Jeffery and Priscilla decided to pilot their idea. First, they contracted a waakye seller to supply them; and they in turn supplied to Priscilla’s office and nearby offices on rented motorbikes.
After having sustained demand for some months, they decided to change strategies. Priscilla resigned from the bank, Jeffery Kwakwa did the same and Jeffery Osei, who was a colleague to Priscilla, also resigned and joined the fray.
They combined their resources and set up at Atomic, a suburb of Accra. They bought a motorbike for delivery and kick-started their own business, which they call Atomic Waakye.
What makes their waakye unique is its packaging. In one pack of Atomic waakye there is the waakye itself, gari, fish, meat, an egg and a bottle of water—making it a complete meal. Above all, the price is very affordable. One can have the mini-pack for as low as GH?7, with the medium and large packs selling at GH?10 and Gh?12 respectively.
The progress thus far
Today, Atomic Waakye is now Atomic Foods. The youngsters have diversified into other foods, such as fried rice, jollof rice, plain rice, and banku.
They now boast 11 employees, which includes cooks, sales agents, bikers, and customer service personnel. They also have two delivery vans, as well as joints dotted in and outside Accra.
A major source of advertising for Atomic Foods is social media. They have accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, among others.
They also use personal selling, whereby they have the foods delivered to clients at their doorsteps. They also have sales agents who take them to traffic areas.
Atomic Foods want to be one of the biggest food chains in the country and even beyond.
We know that most startups are confronted with financial challenges. Yes, that has become ‘normal’ so the three youngsters are no exception. But the greatest challenge they encountered was getting family acceptance of the business idea, which has already been discussed above.
One other thing that has continued to be a challenge is the addressing system, even with the coming on stream of the Ghana Post GPS addressing system.
How education has helped
Even though not all the partners have backgrounds in business, the experience they acquired from their various previous employments has trained them to be customer-centric. They believe in satisfying the customer no matter how difficult it might be.
How government can help
Priscilla, Jeffery and Jeffery believe that government can help budding startups with some form of funding as well as create an avenue for mentoring the younger generation of entrepreneurs.
Advice to the youth
Priscilla has this advice for the youth: “You can do anything once you set your mind to it; never give up, because once you give up you’ve killed your dream”.
The two Jefferys also advised the youth not to give up no matter how tough it gets.