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“I was just doing what my hands found to do with all my heart”

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“Ogiriwoman” is a brand created as an expression of Ifeoma Uzoma, a woman whose unique style of selling Ogiri, a natural African spice, went viral after a customer put up her video on Facebook. The viral video attracted comments and admiration from Nigerians, home and abroad. She quickly became synonymous with Ogiri woman in Google searches. Mumpreneur.ng, a networking and support group for mothers who run businesses was one of the admirers of this woman. She was contacted and invited to Lagos. A team led by Branded.ng was put together to build this woman’s brand and give her a platform to express her unique marketing talent in the field of cooking. Ifeoma Uzoma represents hope for every Nigerian mother working hard with their heart and mind to support their homes. It’s a hope that whatever you set your mind to, you can achieve. It’s a hope that no matter how small your beginnings are; you can be big if you do it with your heart and stay with it.Maya Angelou had Ifeoma in mind when she said: “You will face many defeats in your life, but never let yourself be defeated.” Here is my exclusive interview with the very inspiring and famous “Ogiri Woman”. Be Inspired!

Childhood Influence
Yes it did, now that I think of it. I am the first daughter of a family of five girls and so I was never allowed to be lazy. I worked so hard, my parents nicknamed me “Oshite” meaning the cook. I enjoy cooking and we were raised to live naturally. Healthy eating and living was part of us.

Meet Me
My name is Ifeoma Uzoma, I am a proudly Nigerian Ogiri seller. I am a happy go lucky person by nature. Right from my childhood, I was always one to cheer everyone around me. I have always been industrious.

Viral Video
I was surprised because I wasn’t expecting it until people started calling me to tell me. I really thank God for everything, because I was just doing my thing as usual.

Choice to hawk Ogiri
I was just using what was available to me in Imo state. The open market is the best place to sell things like that because people come in and out all the time. Also, I started the business with just 300 naira and was determined to make something out of it. My life philosophy is that Rome was not built in a day, no matter the circumstances I find myself, I do what I have to.

Life before hawking ogiri
I had tried several businesses that were moving very slowly. The last venture was nylon bags. It was when I stepped back to ask God what exactly I should do that he gave me the inspiration to take up ogiri.

The fateful day Ugoma Rach recorded me
I am a very jovial person by nature, infact in the market where I sell, I was able to differentiate myself because of my unique style of selling with a song. People look forward to my coming with the usual “O.G.I.R.I Ogiri” song. On this day, I was in the market doing my usual selling when a customer Ugoma Rach (I remember her name) approached me to buy. In my usual way, we exchanged jokes and laughed so much that she said to me “I have to record this and put you in Facebook”. I didn’t think it was a serious thing, I let her record and forgot about it. She bought her Ogiri and left. About a month later, I started getting calls and messages from people who had watched the video. I even got orders from Nigerians abroad. I couldn’t believe that the simple video I did a month before had led to this. It hasn’t been the same since then.

Challenges
The smell of Ogiri is always an issue both in the market square, on the bus and in the home. But that’s the nature of Ogiri. Every good Ogiri has that smell that people say is awful. Sometimes, I get dropped off before my stop because of people complaining about the smell. Even when I take a taxi, it is the same reaction.

Secondly, hawking is not easy because of the hot sun and sometimes the rain, but in Imo the easiest way to get the product to those who need it fast is to hawk it in the open market square or rent a shop where there is footfall. However, shops are expensive and I don’t have a private car to do deliveries.
The other challenges are with the production process with limited equipment. I am stretched thin because, when I get orders, I am the one that produces, packages and I still have to go to the market to sell. It can be a lot sometimes, but I keep going.

“Mumpreneur.ng” Influence
I have been receiving calls from people who want to meet me and know me. This is one of the reasons why I am in Lagos on the mumpreneur.ng platform. Although I had to leave my family and Ogiri customers from the market where I sell, I see it as a temporary sacrifice to move my business to the next level. I appreciate Mofolusade Sonaike who is the founder of the platform for going all out to locate me after seeing my video and also bringing me to Lagos and reranding me

Greatest reward
The greatest reward for me is peace of mind. I am at peace.

Reception while hawking
One thing about me is my cheerful approach to life. Whenever I arrive at the market, I forget every worry I have and start to sing and sell my ogiri with joy. My unique style of selling attracted attention to me such that on days when I don’t come, people start calling and looking for me.

Balancing family life with hawking
Everything is placed in its priority. I do what I have to do when I have to do it. And yes my husband is in support of my work.

Who inspire you to be better
My strength is mainly from God. Also, the reactions of people that purchase from me, keeps me inspired because my ogiri is unique.

Rebranding process
It makes me want to sing “To God be the glory, To God be the honor, To God be the adoration Amen!” Who would have thought Ogiri will bring me here.

Instant Fame and What’s next?
I never saw this coming, so for me, I am not dwelling on the fame as you would call it, I see it as a charge to do more. I really was just doing what my hands found to do with all my heart. My dream is to increase my production capacity and set up what you would call a village soup kitchen, for native soups made with Ogiri. Ogiri is usually looked down on and when I got the inspiration from God to take it up, he reminded of a song about Ogiri that goes like this – “Onu ahun gboro Ogiri asu emecha ya roro ya ra” which means, “The mouth that spits on Ogiri, will later pack it and lick”.

Joy of knowing my video inspire many
It makes me want to keep going on and never stop till God says its over.

I am a woman of Rubies
I would describe myself as a Proverbs 31 woman, a woman who takes care of her family, works hard, builds her home and does not destroy it.

Final word for young budding female entrepreneurs who want to go into the biz
The advice I have for them is that quitters never win but winners never quit. Good, better, best, let me never rest, until my good is better and my best.



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