Nigerian food entrepreneur Seun Sangoleye, is washing sorghum in preparation for a new batch of baby food products.
Seun runs a range of baby meals known as BabyGrubz that cater for weaning babies and toddlers.
Once the sorghum is clean the grains are thoroughly dried before dates and roasted peanuts are added as sweeteners.
My baby was just going to be five months -- my second baby, and before then I was on the lookout for what food to give
Seun began BabyGrubz, an all natural baby food range in 2013 when she could not find a locally made natural meal to wean her baby. What was available were imported brands which she says often have preservatives and lots of sugar.
This prompted Seun to do some research on how to develop infant meals made from locally sourced ingredients which she realized had great demand.
“I started with just my phone, my black berry phone then. I did a broadcast, I didn’t even have the products then, I just did a broadcast to test the market and that very day I got about ten orders from mothers from different parts of the country and I even did…I didn’t even have the money to process it. So what I did was I told them pay into my account. They paid into my account and I gave them the delivery date. I went into the market, produced and then I sent it to them, then it has been growing ever after. So the initial reaction of people was, people were very receptive and they were very eager to have something fresh, something new, something different and natural for their children,” Sangoleye said.
All ingredients are later processed into a powder for packaging.
The computer science graduate now produces different cereals and meals from locally sourced grains, nuts, vegetables, fruits and fish. Her products range from 2 US dollars to 5 dollars.
The entrepreneur also exports her products to Kenya, Uganda, Botswana, Dubai and the United States.
Seun says she has over 26 registered distributors across 17 states in the country who help get her products to clients.
Seun now sells between 750kgs to one tonne of cereals every week. She says though that she faces many challenges as a small business owner, with the erratic power supply experienced in the country as well as high interest rates on loans from banks.
“You know, several times I have wanted to stop, there are so many times I want to quit because doing business in Nigeria is very very tough. But the feedbacks are what keeps me going. You know you get messages…most times doctors call me, nurses call me and tell me they have problems feeding their child, so they understand that they are not experts at that, they call us and we tell them this is what you need to do, and so such feedbacks keep us going,” she said.
About 1.6 million children in Nigeria are malnourished according to the UN children’s agency, UNICEF partly because mothers don’t have the right information on the right foods to feed their children.
Justina Eke, a mother of two found out about BabyGrubz on an online platform and decided to use it to feed her children. She is now a distributor of the baby meals.
Justina works from home and usually sends out BabyGrubz products with riders who drop them to clients around the city.
Justina says the products made weaning easy for her especially because it combines various ingredients that can be difficult to source.
“My baby was just going to be five months — my second baby, and before then I was on the lookout for what food to give. Because with my first child, I did more of tinned foods and by the time I — the knowledge I had from public health, because I was lecturing nursing students and we were advocating going healthier for children. So I actually wanted to practice it on my child,” said Justina.
Seun has trained with the UN children’s fund UNICEF on feeding programs for infants. She plans to expand her reach to more African countries in future and offer mothers a more convenient and healthy option to feed their children.