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‘Packaging Okpehe and locust beans the way I did still amazes people’- Akoh Rose Ojochide

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Whatever is worth doing at all is worth doing well, That’s the Rose Akoh Story, Populary known as the “Okpehe woman”, Rose is a content developer and civil servant. The 35-year-old entrepreneur and Kogi State indigene recently launched her local spice brand Chide’s Spice, powdered Okpehe (Prosopis Africana). The Sociology and Business Administration graduate from the Universiy of Abuja, shares her entrepreneurial journey and the inspiration behind her brand with me in this inspiring interview.

Childhood Influence
All that I am today, and will be tomorrow would be hugely Influenced by my upbringing. I was privileged to have had a father who could see the future, he knew the importance of quality education, independence, and enlightenment, and he did all he could to ensure that I and my siblings had all of that and more.

Being creative and innovative was his forte, and he’d always want you to be on your toes doing one good and productive thing or the other.

He instilled discipline and the fear of God in us. Even though because of work he lived in other states different from where we settled, his authority and influence was so huge you’d think he lived with us daily. My father was a great man, I wish he was here to do this with me, he was a great historian, and I would have gotten alot of insights from him. But he is no more. Powdered okpehe came to be because of who he nurtured me to be.

Inspiration behind my Okpehe brand
The major inspiration is to make it’s handling and usage very easy.Most people who know okpehe, know that its final form is either round balls, or rectangular shapes. This is usually very hard to pound, and does not properly dissolve well in food. Drying it properly and grinding into a final powder, does not only allow for its easy and comfortable usage, it also makes it easy for one to move around with.

Okpehe naturally has a very strong smell because of its fermentation process. But this is hugely contained with my kind of packaging. Until you open the pouch or bottles, you may never perceive anything. I simply provided an easy way of using the spice, and a more comfortable way of carrying it around. Also, this is an attempt to promote an age long important food condiment. Hence the slang “okpehe to the world”

Being a civil servant and Entrepreneur
This doesn’t affect my work in anyway, as I am still very punctual at work. Even before I ventured into this production, I engage in other activities once I close from work at 4pm.

Also, the raw material is sourced and processed by my mother, Mrs. Grace Akoh, she does this in another state different from the one I live in, I only supervise the packaging, and sometimes distribution, because I have workers who I may only have to speak to on the phone to get things done. I love my Job, and I’m optimistic about the potentials it holds.

Reception so far
It has been overwhelming. I’m yet to meet anybody who has any complaint about the product. All the reviews I’ve gotten have been fantastic. Anybody who sees it starts saying, “Why didn’t I think of this? It’s so good.” Everyone has something positive to say about it. Even those who don’t know about it are asking what okpehe is, and I get to explain to them, and how organic it is. It has been accepted really well, and it’s translating in the demands we’ve been getting.

My business in 5 years
I see it doing very well because it’s a genius idea. I went to an office and the lady was making it sound like I invented the spice itself, and not the processing I did. The credit she gave me for it was incredible. I honestly see it employing so many people and I’m really excited about that because a whole lot of people don’t believe in entrepreneurship. There are challenges, yes, but nothing comes easy. I have encouraged a lot of people already. So, I want to expand almost immediately because with the demand we have so far, there’s no way one person can handle it. Getting distributors across all the states is my first and immediate step. Somebody has already gone to the US with some, and people in the UK are already demanding for it as well. And we are definitely going to be exporting almost immediately.

Nigerians and support for budding Entrepreneurs
Well! I think its a 50/50 thing. This is so because friends, family members and some members of the public may want to purchase your products just to encourage you, others may only patronise you because you are satisfying a need. On the other hand, some persons would not give budding Entrepreneurs a chance to prove themselves, they’d rather go for bigger and older brands, irrespective of the fact that a budding Entrepreneur’s product may be better.

Challenges
Systemic challenges aside, Finance to produce in commercial quantity is being considered. As a new product, market penetration is key, this means that one has to ensure a widespread distribution of the product. Also, for now, all of the processing is being done manually, and it takes a longer time to dry properly. We are in the process of acquiring machines to make things easier. better and faster. Another major challenge i’m certain most budding entrepreneurs face is the lack of physical cash, as one would likely be investing in ideas, equipment and anything that would make the business grow better.

On giving up
It has never crossed my mind! Birthing powdered okpehe has been very interesting and fulfilling for me, not financially, but it’s being rewarding all the way, and I intend to look on the bright side . The acceptance of the products and the encouragement from many people has been inspiring, it fuels me to do more, and better.

Being a Woman of Rubies
I have set a precedence for other women to follow. Fear stops many persons from taking any step. I’ll always say “do things afraid”

Packaging okpehe and locust beans the way I did still amazes people, because everyone who knows it, knows how unhygienic it is usually packed. I believe that this move has encouraged, and would keep encouraging more people to take steps and do something.

Other projects and activities
I also run an advocacy-based NGO with focus on women and children. This has helped me to reach out to many indigent families periodically. I have a volunteer force, and we do wonderful things every month.

Final words for women who want to go into Okpehe business

Just ensure that you have a plan, don’t rush into a business because it appears fun and attractive out there, having a good knowledge about a product, its industry and it’s marketability is very important. Also, every budding Entrepreneur should try to ask questions and be informed. And upgrade the product subsequently.

Facts about Okpehe
This age long condiment can be used to cook any food, and it is used just like any other seasoning out there. It gives food a very rich taste. One very unique thing about Okpehe is that it hardly goes bad, it can be used over a long period of time and it would still be as potent as the day it was produced.

Okpehe aids digestion, and good eyesight. It is important to know that okpehe and locust beans, though very similar, are two different spices. Okpehe is made from prosopis Africans seed, and it is common among Igala’s Igbo’s and the Idoma’s. Idoma’s and igala’s call it Okpehe, while the Igbo’s call it Okpei. Tiv’s call it Gbaaayeh+

Locust beans on the other hand is commonly eaten as a seed, however, they are tribes that prefers it grinded into powder. It is called Ugba by the Igbo’s, idoma’s and Idoma’s. Youruba’s call it Iru. While Tiv’s call it Nune.


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