How did this all start?
For most young students being at university is the ideal time to enjoy your life, lounge around with friends, watch movies and socialise. Some would argue that this time in your life is the most appropriate for some self-indulgence.
Not for Adowarim Lugu-zuri. A self-starter, ambitious 24-year-old Ghanaian woman, she remembers the day when the entrepreneur in her was forced into action… out of boredom.
“I realised my life was boring and empty because my routine was simply to go train and play basketball, watch movies, eat and sleep,” she says. “And attend lectures, of which most times I wasn’t going. I got tired of living that way so I needed to do something that will get me busy or productive.”
And this is how, at the age of 18, Lugu-zuri started doing what all good entrepreneurs do – evaluate the environment to spot an opportunity. Her first market was her university residence building in Accra. It was a five-storey building, with Lugu-zuri residing on the first floor, and the only place where bagged water was sold was on the ground floor.
“Even on the first floor, going to the ground floor to carry a bag of water was a lot of work for me,” she remembers. “How much more for those on the fifth floor? I also realised the price that we were paying was a lot more than what I would pay back at home.”
Lugu-zuri immediately called the local supplier and procured her product. Even at this micro-level she struggled with cash flow – having started with only US$5. Slowly but surely the small business started growing.
When she had to return home at the end of the semester, the concern that her source of income would stop for the duration that she wasn’t at school, prompted her to start another venture – selling clothing procured from a friend.
But one thing that is clear about Lugu-zuri and her business career thus far, is that she is not easily satisfied with small successes. “I needed to do something big or worthwhile,” she says. This principled basis of making a contribution and adding value is most likely the results of growing up as one of a family of six children, born in Paga in the Upper East region of Ghana, and with a father who is a naturopathic physician.
Her journey from start-up entrepreneur to being the CEO of Wazuri Ghana Limited, a company providing employment to more than 30 direct and indirect staff through the growing and large-scale commercial sales of coconut, is one underpinned by constant research, investigation and swift action. This becomes clear when she tells the story of how coconut became the focus of her business vision.
Out on an excursion with friends, and being a coconut lover herself, she met a seller and started enquiring about his business. She engaged with various other coconut sellers as well, asking questions. Three days later she was on her way to Nsawam, in the southern part of Ghana, to acquire her first stock.
Three days from conceptualisation to being in business: this is definitely speed-to-market in action.
How did the business grow into what it is today?
Look for #zuricoconut on Facebook today and you will see a vibrant community page with regular updates portraying customers enjoying the products and clearly showing that an agricultural industry in essence, can be merged with a lifestyle brand.
Lugu-zuri states that it took four years to get the business profitable and to a point where they today provide on a retail and wholesale basis to the corporate, professional and working classes. The aim is to make Zuri Coconut a product of choice for these target markets.
She says her first two entrepreneurial ventures taught her lessons in how to take her business to the next level.
“The experience helps you avoid certain petty mistakes. In business, the basic process you go through is the same even though you might be dealing with a different product. Today we grow our business by always trying to get something different done. Different in the sense of solving problems using our product,” she explains.
The social media approach is deliberate and focused. It puts the name of the brand and product out there in order to become a supplier of choice. She says the most significant thing that she has done to grow the business is to partner with corporate institutions.
“You should be willing to listen and learn. You need to always look out for the long-term. And above all – you need to be focused,” she shares her lessons learnt.