Young entrepreneur making tasty crisps from cassava in Gabon

Mariama Maguiraga

Tuber’Chips is a food processing company, based in Gabon, that makes crisps from cassava roots. The company was started in 2018. Founder Mariama Maguiraga (21) answers our questions.

1. Give us your elevator pitch.

Tuber’Chips is a small business specialising in transforming raw cassava into crisps. We have three flavours at the moment: salt, pepper and chili chips. A packet retails for 500 CFA franc ($0.9). It is a natural product without any additives or chemicals.

At the moment we don’t sell through retail outlets – customers can order it, then we deliver. We work with a local delivery service based here in Gabon.

2. How did you finance your startup?

I started with my savings and my dad helped me a little bit too. Up until now, I haven’t used any kind of finance from anyone.

3. If you were given $1 million to invest in your company now, where would it go?

I would buy a big production facility because at the moment I don’t have enough space at my home for the processing equipment. I will also formalise the business because at the moment I’m operating informally.

That’s all I need for now. All the rest, I will get it over time. I am working to improve my production and the quality of the product. My goal is to get to industrial production and packaging, and to then sell all over the world.

4. What risks does your business face?

There are many, but the major concern is the preservation of our cassava product. The crisps are all natural without any additives or chemicals, which means that it can’t be preserved for a long time.

5. So far, what has proven to be the most successful form of marketing?

Our best form of marketing is through social media. Because of our social media presence, a lot of television shows have approached me to talk about my products. From Benin to France, media platforms everywhere are talking about my chips. People are even calling from Canada to ask if the products can be delivered to them.

Packs of Tuber’Chips

6. Describe your most exciting entrepreneurial moment.

I always get excited when exhibition organisers call me to showcase my products. I enjoy getting away from the processing zone to interact with customers. A lot of people in Gabon have never heard about Tuber’Chips.

7. Tell us about your biggest mistake.

It was in the beginning when I started the company in 2018. I produced 500 packs, thinking the product would remain preserved for two weeks to a month. However, two weeks later when I tasted the product, it was no longer edible. All 500 packs have gone bad, you could not eat it.

Always keep studying the preservation process of your product. Do not rush into an activity, especially food processing. You have to go step by step. Take your time to work on your product, take your time to know your product before selling to people. Imagine if I had not tasted that batch of 500 packets first and had sent it to a customer, imagine what would have happened.

Further reading

[June 2020] The Ethiopian entrepreneur who wants to disrupt the paper industry
[June 2020] Burkina Faso: Food processing company adds value to locally-grown cassava
[June 2020] Food processing company taps into health trend with millet snacks
[April 2020] A product that reduces post-harvest losses in Ghana: Entrepreneur shares his story
[January 2020] Profit-making idea: Cassava processing offers unexploited potential