5.30am starts on a Monday morning are never easy. To compound matters further, we awoke to another power cut which meant showering and getting ready in darkness – good job I decided to iron my shirt the night before! Ordinarily, if I had to wake up at that time after a restless night’s sleep I’d be absolutely shattered. I don’t know if it’s the increased intake of Vitamin D or just my general excitement to get started but it didn’t feel like a typical Monday morning and after eating a hearty breakfast cooked by Auntie Mina, Collins and I embarked on our lengthy commute from East Legon to West Legon.
The public transport system in Accra consists of large minibuses called Trotros that have been converted to house a maximum of 20 passengers and a driver. There is no timetable and bus stops are not signposted – you just have to know where to go. Luckily, Collins has lived in Accra for seven years so he knew exactly what to do. A short walk to the American House bus depot got us on our first Trotro to Madina. At Madina we then got another to Achimota. The trotros generally don’t leave until they’re completely full so you have to factor this waiting time into your journey. With gaping potholes, open sewers and crazy traffic it’s like no other commute I’ve experienced before. However, in many ways the bus network is a lot better than back home in the UK. The buses are very regular, affordable and if you’re lucky they’ll be blasting out Afrobeats, Reggae & Dancehall even early in the morning!
We arrived at Penta Foods early – we didn’t want to be late on our first day. After hanging around in a nearby café, we met Lloyd Kusi; CEO of Penta Foods and the man behind the delicious probiotic Yoghurt drink ‘Gogurt’. Lloyd works from home at his family’s house and we were instantly made at home with refreshments and the much needed air conditioning of his home office.
As Lloyd explained how the business started, it was clear to Collins and me that he has a real passion for producing a healthy and affordable product with a particular focus on increasing the overall dairy intake amongst Ghanaians. This statistic is very low and significantly less than neighbouring countries such as Togo and the Ivory Coast. Lloyd and his business partners are determined to get their product into schools so that children are able to get vital nutrients that will ensure they can reach their full growth potential. As a biochemist, Lloyd has carefully selected three active cultures that provide this nutrition – though he won’t be telling us what they are for obvious reasons!
Aside from his secret formula, Lloyd was really open about his business and was able to give us all the information we needed to carry out an initial Business Diagnostic and Baseline Survey. Having worked with small business owners back home, I could tell Lloyd was extremely passionate about his Gogurt brand and it was very inspiring to hear about the direction he wants to take the business.
After our exploratory meeting and diagnostic work, we spent the rest of the week doing some general market research as well as exploring possible marketing avenues for the business. On Thursday night, the two of us went to the British Council in Accra for a lecture and debate about Why Diversity Matters in the Workplace in Ghana. It was a lively, stimulating debate and we even made some great contacts for the business – an advertising executive and a possible celebrity endorsement for Gogurt!
Despite the regular power outages often lasting 12 hours and sometimes even longer, things carry on here in Ghana and everyone has a very hard working attitude. Despite the challenges, I’m confident that Collins and I will be able to put together a robust Marketing Plan together for Penta Foods. More than anything it’s a pleasure to work with Lloyd who has so much enthusiasm for his business. It’s going to be an interesting and exciting next eight weeks!