November Edition with Anthea Peretu had us in full rib-cracking mode! Listening to her revalidated the popular belief about the resilience of the typical Nigerian amidst all odds.

Anthea’s Profile
AThis delightful indigene of Bayelsa State, Nigeria and brain behind the wheels at Moin Moin Expresso holds a diploma in Health and Physical Education from the University of Nigeria (UNN), Nsukka. She put the challenges of being unable to gain admission into a Degree programme in the University firmly behind her and took a job with an Art Gallery (Lifestrokes) in Abuja, and later as a Customer Care Officer with One Number Telecoms. While on a Marketing job at CoolFM Abuja, she registered with the Abuja University Distant Learning Program where she eventually got her Degree in English language. Some years later, she got a job as a Customer Relations Officer with an international NGO called Doctors Without Borders. 3 years later, the NGO ended its mission in Nigeria and paid off its staff. What followed was various experiments at buying and selling clothes, shoes, jewellery etc. Anthea later started a ‘ready to wear’ clothing line called ‘REDDI 2 WEA’ but customers indebtedness led to a crash. Her next foray was a job with High Definition Edge Media as the Production Manager. However, the kind of positive restlessness that leads to complete self-discovery had set in, leading to the inspiration to open MOIN-MOIN EXPRESSO in September 2011 which she now runs full-time. Moin Moin Expresso is moimoi, akara & even gbegiri (beans soup) at the snap of your fingers. It is neatly processed and milled beans mixed with ingredients. All you have to do is SCOOP, MIX, COOK or FRY!!!

Anthea is of the belief that nothing good comes easy but with God all things are possible.

Below is the excerpt from our Community Session with Anthea Peretu. Enjoy.

Welcome Anthea, tell us, who names a company Moin-Moin Expresso, what is that about?
(general laughter) AH! I do! The thing is, we do a lot of things with beans as the raw material. However, in the process of trying to get the necessary registrations and patents in place, I found out that I was expected to do a separate registration for each product, moin-moin, akara, gbegiri, etc, and financially, that was not practical for me. So I thought, hey, moin-moin is a well-known name on its own from the beans family, so how about we just use it to represent all the by-products that we prepare…and so I came up with MOIN-MOIN EXPRESSO!

But what took your mind to beans?
Funny enough, I for one never liked beans, but growing up I did realise that beans is not such a bad idea. Nutritionally too, I actually did a lot of research on possible by-products and then I thought, hey, beans is a major source of protein, ironically, most children, in fact a lot of people don’t like beans, so, I could render a service. I thought to myself, the only way you could possibly get children to like beans, outside of porridge which not many children like too, is having to cajole them to eat moin-moin or akara. Like you heard in my profile, I’ve always wanted to do my own thing. I’ve done ready-to-wear, I’ve dressed people up, all sorts. In as much as I love fashion, I realised that it was simply too much stress. I was looking for something that will stand out as unique, such that when people see it, they will think of me. And…the idea came. The day it came, it was so funny because I had actually prayed about it and at the time, I was as broke as a church rat. I didn’t have a dime but I knew I had to put things in motion. I got up, went to Banex plaza and sold my Blackberry Torch phone that I bought for N110,000.00 (hundred and ten thousand naira). I sold it for N35,000.00 (thirty-five thousand naira). I was with a friend of mine, Gloria. She said to me “what is wrong with you! Why sell your phone?”  I ignored her, asked them to give me a N3,000.00 (three thousand naira) phone that can call/receive; send sms and receive. Next stop, we went to the market, and she was asking me, “what are you doing in the market with N35k? Are you shopping for a party?” I said “I am shopping for beans!” she said “BEANS!” I said “yes!” I went and bought different varieties of beans. Then I’m aware that a couple of other people have beans flour in the market, so I bought a few different brands and set off for home and started experimenting, cooking the various species of beans I had bought. I cooked, labelled them and got friends and family to taste. I did a lot of stuff with ingredients, flavours, etc and people made their choices. Then I cooked the beans flour samples I bought in the shop too and discovered that not all the samples gave you the actual moin-moin taste for instance. So many other discoveries until I got the best specie that worked from different experiments. I must say it has been a very interesting journey. For someone that did not have any money but had an idea, I heard all sorts of things. “you want to start selling moin-moin! What is that, are you alright?” “iya moin-moin”; “moin-moin woman” all sorts of names. And I say to them, ha! Call me the names, it puts money in my pocket. Getting it out there, I started packaging with bowls, but it was so expensive. Matter of fact, any form of production in Nigeria, packaging takes a large chunk of the money outside even the product itself.

What was that thing that kept you committed to this experiment to the point where it started yielding financial fruit for you?
First of all I would say, curiosity, my restlessness and maybe passion…yes, that is it.

Let us deviate a bit…paid employment, self-employment, which is better?
I wouldn’t say anyone is easy o, because with paid employment, you look at the time you put in and sometimes deep down you feel you are not paid enough for what it is you are doing, whereas with self-employment…you know it won’t be easy, as they say, “any way is a way”, you are crying, you are wiping your eyes and continuing because you know you will get there.

Contributions from the house?
Ota Akhigbe: the truth is, paid employment is easier, but is it fulfilling? In the long run, it is not. Self-employment is a lot of hard work especially for a small business. If you have staff, you have management issues etc, but knowing that you are working for yourself, you are sweating for yourself, gives you a better sense of fulfilment than reporting to work for someone and waiting to be paid at the end of the month and being trapped in the “rat race”

Kai Orga: I think also, when you work, and you’ve stayed there for so long, at a point, you are so comfortable staying there that you are not really sure of the future. You might just wake up one day and it is gone. It is so key that working for oneself, we are actually doing something for yourself which no one can take out of your hands. What I say to young people usually is, if you want to work, start with paid employment to get some experience, but start early enough to find out whatever it is that you are passionate about and start to develop it.

So for people who are in paid employment, do we think that everyone is destined to break out at some point?
Anthea: some people are not cut out for self-employment. It is just not for them. They enjoy the career thing…this is the line I want to tow and they stick to it. And there are those who will say, yes, I’m doing this for the money but passion-wise, this is where I want to go. Back to the question, the beauty with paid employment is that you somehow generate the funds for self-employment from paid employment; and you start with the network of people/friends you’ve met in the course of the paid employment to grow the new platform, depending on what you’re doing and basically expand from there.

How many staff do you have?  Two

What’s your typical day like?
Hmm…my typical day (smiles). First of all, I have to drive as far as Kurudu (after Karu) …and it was NAFDAC that made me end up there. The requirements for NAFDAC I must say are crazy…I know it is all for quality control, but ….heee when I looked at the requirements I needed to meet to run a moin-moin business, hmmm… First of all, they tell you you need to have factory space, and for someone like me that sold my phone of N110k for N35k to start? But NO, to do moin-moin business NAFDAC says I need factory space that is secluded, fenced on its own, sequestered round…(general laughter), it should not be near refuse dump, yes we know that one. It shouldn’t be near an abattoir, yes we know that one. It shouldn’t be near a grave yard, we definitely know that one. Then they say you need to have a 5-space environment. Looking at that, it means you need a 5 bedroom house. Now, let me tell you what a 5-space environment is: packaging room, raw-material room, production room, finished product room, cloak room. I went house-hunting and the rents I got were N2.8m, N1.8m, N2.5m etc and I thought, did they want to kill me first? I went as far as Bwari, Dutse to look for affordable space…the rents in this town? Hm..anyway, I eventually found the current space and being a bungalow which is hard to find, it sort of met what I was looking for despite being so far out. Being mobile helped me take the decision to settle for it too. My production is not necessarily every day. My products have a shelf life of 18months. I can stock-up for like a week, distribute to distributors and when I see my stock is going down, I get into production again. I can go into production in a month or in 2 months depending on how business is.

Do you use the expresso powder to produce and supply? And what kinds of by-products?
Yes, basically, I do the moin-moin itself, because I realise there are a lot of upwardly mobile people in this town who don’t have time to cook, especially weight watchers, most people just like having moin-moin for dinner. So what I do is a minimum order of 20 plastic bowls, you can store up in your fridge and eat whenever. You may think it is a lot, but you find that you finish it in no time and what’s  more, it still tastes the same. The important thing is I do it the way you want. If you want it with shrimps, liver, biscuit bone, minced meat, anything…

Biscuit bone in moin-moin?
Whaaaat! It is tasty I tell you. You know I do a lot of fairs and people always like it a lot.

What other things are you involved in?
I do Events Compere, it is something I’ve done for a while

What is that thing you would advise people who want to go into their own business to have?
Passion…and God. There are times I’ve parked my car on the road and cried, shed tears, no joke, on that Asokoro express and simply asked God “where are you?”

Why did you cry?
Pressure! Is it the machinery requirements I needed to meet? Or how many times I have been swindled? Because that is what you face in Nigeria. Ok, I go to NAFDAC with my whole packaging plan etc, they advise on preferred packaging, I say ok. Ofcourse, you need to trademark things, standardise, Nutritional lab tests before being certified, so many things, fumigation certificate, SOPs (Standard Operational Procedures), the list is endless. And you are doing all these things. Every step entails money. So somehow, you have to find a way to do stuff to generate some funds to be able to put into the processes.

Have you had need to get money from a bank?
Haaaaaaa!!!! Where do I start? X Bank (name withheld) was my first attempt. You need to have banked with us for at least 6months. Understandable, my account was just 3 months old. They first of all give you this juicy package for farmers. In fact, the guy was like, look, what you’re doing is fantastic. You’re dealing with agro product, so we’ll put you in the farmer category. All you have to do is fill this form, then you’ll need to do agric insurance (that costs about N20-something thousand, which I did), and then the minimum you can ask for is N1m naira, repayment plan, 2 years. And I thought, ah! Fantastic, 2 years to pay back N1m? I can do that. The N1m is the only loan you can get without collateral but you need to do equity contribution of about N250k. and I’m like, if I had N250k, would I not simply go ahead to start off by myself? Next is turn-over of…as soon as I heard “turn-over”, I said to him, guy, if I had this turn-over, you would not see me within the corners of this bank. And you say you are here to help us, you put advert “we are your friend” and show people coming out of the bank with shining clothes on tv….(general laughter)

Anthea your challenges have clearly turned you into a good story-teller, but if you were to define what your greatest challenge is right now, running Moin-Moin Expresso, what would that be?
Funds. You need money every step of the way because of expansion needs. Demand is now competing. We need more machines. Then human factor issues. Swindling/dishonest agents. Because as you have little money, you just want to keep sorting out equipment issues, and you engage artisans and three months down the line, the man is not even picking his phone anymore and it becomes a case of no man, no money, no bag. You heave a heavy sigh and know that you just have to move on because all such things are distractions.

But what’s the reception been like for your expresso?
We thank God. Like I said, initially, they will ask you all the questions in the world. We are all Nigerians but I’m sorry to say, most of us, just don’t like to read. Because I have spelt it out on the sachet how to prepare it. There was on lady who said to me “err…my friend said she bought this thing and it was not nice” EH? (general laughter) I said to her, “what did she say was wrong with it”, she said, “oh, she said it was hard”. And I said, “I saw that coming, it is written on the sachet that you prepare the mix with “warm water” not regular temperature”. The preparation instructions are clearly spelt out on the pack. Personally, I take care of personal preferences when I’m working on orders. What I do is make deliveries in town. People call, place their orders and I deliver to them wherever they are. I also have a few distributors for the Moin-Moin Expresso itself for the outskirts and a couple of other states. It is not easy doing most of the work yourself. I have like 3 Marketers, I don’t pay them, it is a commission-based arrangement, they get it at a much lower price, re-sell and make their profit.

You have a tremendous sense of humour, I know we’ve asked about challenges, but is there a moment you can recall that was your happy moment so far?
The fact that people call me, people I don’t know who have tasted my product, not even from me, probably picked it up from a shop and call my number from the pack, or they ate it at a friend’s or a fair, and they ask, where can I get it? It makes me so happy, it gives me joy, it gives me that feeling of acceptance, and I say oh, thank God no one has complained about this.

I think with the explanation you shared with us on how to prepare it, you may want to do a few you-tube videos and place it on maybe food channels, etc because it’s a beautiful product…
Thank you. Oh yes, I’m working on that. You know I don’t want to just stop here. There are so many other possibilities with beans that we have not even explored.

If there is any form of legislation you would want in place that would improve the chances of SMEs in business, what would you go for?
First of all, I would sit the NAFDAC guys down and tell them that they cannot be giving the same requirement to DANGOTE to me that sold my phone for N35k to start. I would definitely change a lot about the requirements expected of start-ups.

If there is one thing that stands out in your story, Anthea, it is the fact that the challenges we encounter in Nigeria only helps to bring out the best in us so long as we maintain a certain positive outlook on who we want to be, where we are going and the need to excel. Thank you so much for spending time and sharing with us.
Thank you too for having me. I truly appreciate the opportunity.

Represented by the only present celebrant – Keturah Gbefwi.  Happy Birthday Ladies!

Goes to MUNA OKAM (absentee November Birthday Lady) for donating the absolutely beautiful and divinely tasteful November Birthday Cake specially prepared by her Chloe’s Cupcake Heaven.

Also, NSISONG DICKSON of Crystal Plates – our Venue host for the November Edition

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