Leticia Osafo Addo is the managing director of Samba Foods, a Ghanaian indigenous food-processing company that focuses on ready-to-eat foods, condiments and seasonings which are made for the domestic and the export markets.
1. Tell us about one of the toughest situations you’ve found yourself in as a business owner.
Samba Foods was the first company to commercialise the production and the distribution of shito, a traditional pepper used … in the coastal region of Ghana.
The most stressful challenge I encountered as an entrepreneur was when the company became indebted to a bank. The company, being the pioneer in the shito business, enjoyed high patronage, serving public and other institutions, including officers on peace-keeping operations around the world.
A major client, who had the bulk of our business, was unable to pay for products supplied for … [more than] two years, thereby throwing our cash flow projections into disarray. We … defaulted in servicing our loan facilities with a bank that supported us through our rapid-growth period.
Instead of discussing a reasonable repayment schedule, the bank decided to call for the money. No amount of negotiations yielded any positive response as it sought to redeem its money by seeking a court order to auction my private residence. This was a stressful moment for me and the family.
Together with the board of directors and experienced consultants, we came up with a strong strategic plan, sought capital injection from a venture capital company, restructured our operations, [and] increased our product portfolio and client base. [In addition, we] put internationally accepted food safety systems in place and got a contract from an international fast food chain to supply pepper in sachets to its restaurants, another novelty that changed the fortunes of our company.
We have since paid all our debt, expanded the company and are listed on the alternative market of the Ghana Stock Exchange.
2. Which business achievement are you most proud of?
Starting a micro-initiative from my kitchen, with less than $10, that became a medium-scale agribusiness listed on the Ghana Stock Exchange.
Creating awareness that a simple local pepper sauce could be an exportable commodity, [and] creating jobs and income for people along the agriculture and agribusiness value chain.
Our efforts have been recognised and rewarded both locally and internationally.
3. Describe your greatest weakness as an entrepreneur.
Employing unqualified family members to work in my company and not having in-depth knowledge about the business I set out to undertake without a comprehensive business plan.
I was able to overcome these weaknesses by … [hiring] a good human resources (HR) expert, who took care of our HR needs. Samba has a business plan that is periodically updated to guide us through our … journey.
4. Which popular entrepreneurial advice do you disagree with?
Hard work brings success. I disagree with this … because working hard without an efficient and effective plan, [and] without passion, commitment and honesty will not bring you success.
5. Is there anything you wish you knew about entrepreneurship before you got started?
Again, I wish I had had a comprehensive business plan before starting. Most of the mistakes I made during the initial stages, such as lack of knowledge about suitable packaging materials, financial management, sources of raw materials and lack of product development, could have been mitigated.