Akoh Rose Ojochide is a content developer/strategist and a civil servant. The make-up artiste who also likes to be identified as a charity enthusiast is a graduate of sociology from the University of Abuja. She speaks with ANTHONY ADA ABRAHAM on her passion for Humanity, the Okpehe spice and other sundry issues
When did you realise you had it in you?
I love to cook! I’m very adventurous with food, as such, using different spices when cooking is always fun. Okpehe as a spice is an ancient traditional spice, made from prosopis Africana seeds. The seed is cooked, fermented for a while and moulded into balls or rectangular shapes, and used to sweeten food.
I dried and grinded the balls into fine powder, and was using it to cook for over a year and it didn’t spoil nor lose its taste. So I decided to share this method with the world, as you’d only find balls or rectangular shaped okpehe in the market. Same with Locust beans, you’d only find the seeds, and only in an open food ingredient market.
What spurs you to success?
It is the zeal to make a difference and create value. It has been an exciting journey being an entrepreneur, and each day, I think of other better ways of improving my life.
What makes the business outstanding?
It is my ability to advance from the norm, I processed a local spice from its normal form into an easier to handle and assess form. People who are familiar with Okpehe and Locust beans are aware of its strong smell, and the fact that it might never dissolve properly in food even when the balls are pounded severally.
Even in homes, okpehe and locust beans cannot be kept anyhow, it is usually tied in several polythene bags and thrown inside bottles, or frozen, this also hardens it and further makes it difficult to dissolve in food.
But, with my powdered okpehe and locust beans, the smell is minimised and contained in its beautiful packages, anyone can travel with some with ease. No need to pound and pound and still bite on lumps of it in food, you just open, use and tuck away.
Most valuable lessons have you learnt?
It is to seek help and advice from people, especially the older and experienced people running successful businesses. The fact that I spoke to other industry players saved me from a lot of problems I may have naturally encountered as a first timer in the spice making and packaging business. I’ll always encourage people to seek wise counsel at all times, many are willing to help you succeed.
Is there any business advice you would have given yourself five years ago?
It would be to believe in myself more and to take risks. I let many ideas I had kept ruminating in my mind forever without taking steps to bring them to life. I made the costly mistakes of thinking the first step to birthing a business is money, not realising that an idea well planned for execution comes first.
What would you consider your achievements?
My most outstanding achievement was the ability to run two masters programme concurrently. It wasn’t planned though, I couldn’t avoid it, so I faced it headlong and performed well. It gave me red eyes and back aches, but it was worth it.
Who do you look up to in business and life in general?
It varies at different times, based on how I’m influenced by an individual. However, I hold the values and ideologies of my late Dad very dear, it guides most of my decisions. Also, one person whom I see as an all-time mentor is Mr Abel Agbo Onyeke of Nexia Business
Solutions and Abel Agbo & Co. I go to him with countless questions whenever the need arises, and he seems to always have answers to most of my questions and dilemmas. His brilliance and ability to see through things is top notch. And this reiterate my earlier stance, always to seek counsel from older and more experienced people, you will likely never make grave mistakes.
When you look back, do you have any regrets?
I regret not taking risks and taking steps to nurture most ideas that came to my mind. Even when I wrote them down, I didn’t follow through, or wrote down steps to achieving them. I dreamt and wished a lot, I didn’t do much. I also regret that my late Dad is not around to do this with me, I’m almost certain it would have been awesome working with and sharing ideas with him.
Do you care to share about a memorable day in your life?
It would be my 30th birthday and the weeklong charity activities I organised to commemorate it! It was beautiful and blissful.
What are some of the challenges you’ve encountered?
Well, I wouldn’t say I’m experiencing serious challenges right now, as everything seem to be working out seamlessly. However, I know better to envisage and prepare for unavoidable challenges that may arise. For instance, the seeds used for the product is seasonal, I will have to purchase some bags and keep them against when it is less available. I do not want to mention finance, as I’m hopeful that I will plough monies realised from current sales into the business for better productivity. I will also take one day at a time, and seek help and advice when the need arises.
Where do you see the business five years from now?
It is seeing powdered okpehe and Locust beans on most store shelf. I am hopeful that many who are not very familiar with the spice will come to know and understand it better. We are already exporting on a small scale, I’m certain that it would get bigger and better. Powdered okpehe and locust beans is here to stay.
I’m poised to see that it becomes a force to be reckoned with when food and cooking is talked about.
How do you balance work, business and family?
I try to balance things out, and try not to overdo things. I have a 9 to 5 that I go to daily, and I’m committed to being productive for the salary I earn. However, the ability to do stuff digitally without being physically present is something I’m truly grateful for. I also pray to be fortunate enough to engage competent and committed workforce to help me grow this business. I’m single, and don’t necessarily have a husband and kid(s) to consider for now, so I’m my family for now, (laughs)
Most prized possession?
My Values, I do not take them for granted. I believe in doing the right thing at all times, irrespective of whether I’m being watched or not. I grew up with very strong moral values, and I love how it shapes my life.
What’s your take on style?
Style to me is simple, that distinct feature(s) that stands someone out from the crowd. Style is timeless, ageless, and consistent.
What advice do you have for entrepreneurs?
It is to always seek for advice and ask questions when necessary. Money shouldn’t be the first issue to come to mind in wanting to be an entrepreneur, think idea first, think how an idea can solve an existing problem. Like my okpehe and locust beans powder is solving the problem of containing its strong aroma and making cooking with it very easy and affordable. Planning and taking steps to actualise a plan is also very important. Many things aren’t how we think they are, simple questions will help solve many big problems.
Certain business regulations may seem like an insurmountable stumbling block, but it is important to take steps to understand them. Also, anyone aspiring to be an entrepreneur should not put money first, and believe that they will start cashing out immediately.
Engaging in charitable causes, setting and meeting targets, Watching TV and cooking.