Africa Business Communities

[Startup Interview] Emmanuel Douglas, Founder, El Classico Foods, Nigeria

Emmanuel Douglas is a Nigerian entrepreneur, a beneficiary of the Tony Elumelu Entreprenership Program through which he started his company, El Classico Foods.

His interview with Africa Business Communities:

Would you please introduce El Classico Foods?

El Classico Foods and Agro-processing Industries Nigeria Limited is a start-up company founded with the objective of providing quality processed meats and food products to Nigerians. The company was born as a result of the vision and magnanimity of one of the greatest Entrepreneurs from Nigeria, Mr. Tony O. Elumelu who empowered 1,000 entrepreneurs from 54 African countries, myself included, with mentoring and seed grants to set up and/or expand already existing businesses across Africa. El Classico Foods is employing a unique business model that encourages a healthy eating culture and a departure from that age long tradition of patronizing ''Cotonu Frozen Chicken''. We seek through our model to encourage eating of farm fresh, freshly killed/fresh-chilled meat hygienically processed and packaged under our brand name, ''Happy Chicken''.

What are the USP’s of your business?

Customers get to eat farm fresh, freshly killed/fresh chilled whole chicken meat as against frozen chicken from unknown sources that have been preserved with harmful chemicals.

Depending on their convenience, customers may choose to witness firsthand how their chicken is being processed.

Our packaging style (with the gizzard, neck, hock and head stuffed in the belly of the chicken) gives customers full value for their money when they purchase our whole chicken as against the normal whole chicken specs available in the market. 

What did you do before starting El Classico Foods?

I was still in employment as Senior Administrative Personnel/Company Legal Adviser of a Freight Forwarding company when the TEEP opportunity came in January 2015. Prior to employment in that company in 2012, I had been self-employed, managing my own law practice with a friend and colleague. I was blessed and fortunate to have joined the Freight Forwarding Company where in 3 years I had under the visionary and business leadership of High Chief Elder Athanasius Ekechukwu Egwim [FNIS] learned how to manage and direct the affairs of a small company and appreciate the intricacies of running a company as an entrepreneur. 

What can be done by entrepreneurs and government to stimulate the business environment in Nigeria?

I think most African countries if not all share common problems and challenges that have militated against business success. Particularly in Nigeria (and in fact this is one area I am currently working and making a write-up on for presentation to the relevant department in my Industry) is the issue of regulatory authorities and government institutions not thinking outside of the box by observing their foreign counterparts and emulating policy formulations that encourage innovation. The world today, and in fact business, thrives on innovation. We cannot keep using old methods of doing things and expect changes or success. Most billion dollar companies in the China do not have elaborate and eye popping edifices or factories yet their annual returns are mind blowing.

Established entrepreneurs should take a lead from Tony Elumelu by rising up to encourage more young entrepreneurs with brilliant ideas to set up their businesses. Government through the various Ministries should set up committees of experienced and intelligent professionals who would periodically look into laws and policies that affect businesses in their various departments with a view to accommodating changes and/or expunging irrelevant or cumbersome provisions that would not support a small business; these small businesses are the drivers of the economy. Entrepreneurs who encounter red tapes either in the early stages of set up or at whatever stage their company is in should also make their voices heard through any of the social media platforms or personally approaching the Governing Boards of the affected parastatal to present their cases for change or innovation if the present policies do not support their businesses.

Do you think women entrepreneurs in Nigeria typically have a harder time accessing loans through traditional bank channels?

Traditionally, women have not been seen as business leaders in this part of the world and so there's this sort of weariness when a woman walks into the bank or finance institution to ask for a business loan. In fact this tradition seems to still hold sway in present times. However Governments from past administrations have encouraged female inclusiveness and participation in business and have led by example by encouraging the Affirmative Action where 30% of political appointments are reserved for women.

Presently the various Government agencies have initiated programs and policies such as the NEDEP, The Life Programme, SMEDAN and MSMEDF which encourage female participation by ensuring that up to 60% of the grants or loans are reserved for women-owned enterprises and these loans can be accessed through the banks. Women can now go to their bankers to access such loans with ease but have to meet the requirements just as well as their male counterparts before such loans can be approved.

Do you believe Social Media and the Internet to be a plus to the business environment, as it applies to your industry?

We now live in a world that thrives on innovation and we all seem to be living a movie. We now live from our computers, phones, IPads and electronic gadgets. So, if you are not in any one of the myriads of social media spaces then you must be living in history or a place that hasn’t yet been discovered. Everything about life and business comes live on social media and the internet. If you brush your teeth and post a video of it, it sells and gets the views, so why would any serious business not utilize social media and internet to sell their brand or service? Not doing so means that such a company may have an anti-social media or internet policy and I don’t think there's such a company anywhere in the world.


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