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Maria Eneyi: Challenges fuel rather than discourage me

By Esther Ijewere
14 January 2023   |   3:10 am
Maria Eneyi is the founder of Enechambs Food, a business that has grown significantly since it kicked off two years ago with a N55,000 capital to making over seven figures monthly.Enechambs Food is a virtual store that deals with seafoods and other raw food items. Maria and her team are on a journey of reducing sicknesses caused…

Enechambs Food

Maria Eneyi is the founder of Enechambs Food, a business that has grown significantly since it kicked off two years ago with a N55,000 capital to making over seven figures monthly.Enechambs Food is a virtual store that deals with seafoods and other raw food items. Maria and her team are on a journey of reducing sicknesses caused by wrong food handling practices by ensuring raw foods are directly sourced, processed in a healthy environment and packaged for maximum protection. She has successfully established her business presence in Nigeria, African countries, European and American nations, delivering neatly processed and packaged food at their doorsteps. Maria has trained over 100 students on how to start a food packaging business through her Enechambs Food Institute.In her words, ‘our mission is to become a household name for everything groceries shopping within and outside Nigeria’.
In this interview with ESTHER IJEWERE, the public administration graduate shares her inspiring story

Childhood Influence
I was born in the very early 1990s in Kaduna State, Tudun Wada precisely. Before the Sharia crisis of 2020, I could remember accompanying my mum during holidays and midterm breaks to sell cooked food at a spot popularly known as “mama put” then. We took hot rice to those who couldn’t come to her stand to buy food. There, I learnt how to serve customers with a smiling face and greet them so they can come back the next day.
After the crisis, my mum had a provision and cosmetics shop at the Central Market in Kaduna, where I accompanied her to whenever I was on holiday from the boarding school.
My dad also had a salon then where I visited mostly weekends as it was one of their busiest days where we had to provide errand services for women who came to make their hair.
So, going to their stores helped me gain firsthand knowledge in marketing, sales and customer relationship and has formed the basis of my success in business.

Inspiration behind Enechambs Food
When I followed my mum to the market where her store was located, I saw first hand how foods were managed by market men and women; how they used insecticides to ward off pests and rodents in their stores where these foods were kept; how different hands will touch the raw foods and most times they ended up not buying and then an unassuming customer will come and buy.
I also saw how busy professionals rushed into the market between 4 and 6pm to shop for dinner and most times they got foods that were not as fresh as the morning set or foods that had been touched by different people, which was a major turn off for me from an incredibly young age.
I have also met people who just do not like groceries shopping from the local market, which on my own part is what I love.
Having experienced all of these inspired me and I thought of how I could really make life easier and better for people by giving them a better food option and this gave birth to Enechambs Food.
Enechambs Food is a virtual store that deals with all kinds of seafood like snails, dry fish, prawns etc. and other raw food items like egusi, ogbono, palm oil, proteins of all sorts, tubers, grains etc. We are on a journey to reducing sicknesses caused by wrong food handling practices by ensuring raw foods are directly sourced, processed in a healthy environment and as well packaged for maximum protection.

The journey so far

My journey so far has been one filled with so many lessons, difficulties; all in the quest for evolving into a global brand. When I started, I struggled with gaining the trust of people to patronise me and I remembered one time while looking for trust I sent some foodstuffs to Abuja to some persons who showed interest but on the condition that they will pay after they receive the products.
After sending, you will not believe they refused to pick up from the park, giving one excuse to the other. One told me she has travelled with someone I spoke with before heading to the park; the others complained of where the park was located. But look at us now; we are gradually making a name for ourselves that people do not hesitate to commit six figures even without knowing me.

Challenges

Overtime we have not really been faced with serious challenges. But the few that we experience are: Logistics: Enechambs Food being a virtual store means we take orders virtually and most times we send stuff outside Kaduna State and Nigeria too. For the Nigerian deliveries, there are times we get orders for perishables to the eastern states but because of the situation of the road and the vehicles used for this purpose are halfway gone, items that are supposed to spend less than 24 hours on the road spend more than that, which isn’t good for business. Because of this constant experience, we were forced to stop collecting orders for perishables except the client wants the tomatoes to be processed into paste.
Internationally, Nigerians in the Diaspora also wish they can still access all Nigerian foods most especially incredibly good palm oil. So, getting the right route to send this item is usually difficult.

Finance: For a very perfect finish of our processed foods, equipment is needed to achieve it.

The food business is highly capital intensive and these equipment are not cheap and as a small business owner, it is not easy gathering such money for equipment. So, this is a significant challenge.
Also, in our quest to be recognised globally, our products need to be standardised by the appropriate bodies locally and internationally and all these cost a lot of money.
Why I resigned from my teaching job
As a subject teacher, I was taking four subjects. I have three kids and no house assistant. There are days we process food like snails or meat for export till 2-3am then we rest for 1-2 hours before we start preparing for work.
This was not the life I had imagined growing up. I saw how my parents owned their time and made decisions and this had already been factored in my head.
After the COVID-19 pandemic when I started my business, after a year, I noticed that in some months I made more than my salary and some months after I made close to my actual salary.
After one year, my business grew into making over six to seven figures in turnover and then I knew there was more from where it was coming if only I gave the business the desired attention it needed.
I struggled to make up my mind as I was already attached to my students but then I wanted to be free so I can do more. Eventually I did and it has been an amazing journey.

How my work inspired other women
Managing business and family is not a walk in the park. But because of how determined I am to succeed in this business, all the things happening around me never discouraged me but fueled me more.
I remember that when I was working there were days I kept my kids in the custody of my neighbour or locked them in the house after I came back from work by 3:30pm to do market runs.
There were also days I would leave them in school in the custody of the Nannies or security to pick up or drop off items.
So, some months back, my neighbours and I were having a talk and one was asking me how I manage my business, three kids with no domestic assistant and my house and immediate surroundings are always intact. So she had to tell herself to sit up. Guess what? She recently started her business from home too.
I have had women write me, telling me how I inspire them on social media and how they will like to do what I do but they have kids below the ages of five and 10 and don’t think they can do it. When I open up to them that I also have three kids with no help, they are always shocked as to how I do it. Most of them have dropped their excuses and have started pursuing their dreams.
Other projects and activities
Right now, there are no other projects. We are only focused on this business and how we can scale up, get licenced by the appropriate bodies, sit on international shelves and become a household name and globally recognised brand.

What I enjoy most about my job

What I enjoy so much about this business is the joy that fills our customers’ faces when they receive their package within and outside Nigeria. Aside from the joy, it gives me a sense of fulfillment when my clients do not have to bother about stocking up for themselves, loved ones or parents. The feeling of solving a major food problem is what I enjoy. Serving you undiluted, unadulterated, cleaned, processed and neatly packaged foodstuffs is my calling.

Three women who inspire me and why

Chiddie Anyasado: Meeting her changed my entire life and reduced the time I would have spent finding my feet. After she placed an order with us to be delivered to the United Kingdom, she announced us to her audience and her entire tribe came knocking on our doors.
Since then, our business went up and turnover increased to over 100 per cent. She is so meek, supportive and a pacesetter. She has refined and brought out a lot of hidden potentials in me. Numerous times she has challenged me in so many ways. Her approach to matters is also quite different from the normal and a huge inspiration to me.
Ifeyinwa Ighodalo:  How this woman started a business at 52 years of age after she and her partner parted ways surprises me. What I learnt from her, despite living a comfortable lifestyle and having it all, her love and concern for the welfare of her former workers made her come back to doing business and even better. Following her lessons made me understand that your staff are also a major priority.
Ayodeji Megbope: Remember that lady who sold moi moi in the White House? How a complete novice in business was able to learn all those stuffs like accounting, bookkeeping and all that. I tell myself if she could do it I also can. She is also one confident woman who knows what she is capable of doing and one who is not ashamed. I see a lot of her qualities in me and it is a major strength for me.

Being a woman of Rubies
My ability to stand tall even amid all the challenges that face me that would have brought my end makes me a gallant woman of ruby.

How I am scaling up despite the economy

I constantly show up and I deliver well. I reach out to anyone who I feel can help me as a person or brand. This has brought so much help and referrals to the point that I don’t even know if the economy is bad anymore.

 

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