Mmachukwu Orizu is a passionate Nigerian entrepreneur who uses organic fruits and vegetables from the country to make food products for children. With this, she builds a strong nutrition community.
Her Mmachukwu Somma’s Yummies is a 100 percent natural food brand that is produced using freshly harvested grains, nuts, roots and tubers, legumes and fruits and vegetables, among others, depending on the nutritional combination.
She is the founder and managing director of Mahauty Health Solutions— a start-up promoting infants and children’s health.
In a bid to help Nigeria tackle its malnutrition challenges, especially among children, the biochemist-turned -entrepreneur was inspired to establish Mahauty Health Solutions in 2016.
“I was increasingly worried by the number of children who came to the hospital daily and are diagnosed with conditions caused by malnutrition,” she says, while explaining her motivation.
“Through research, I realised that there was no known healthy baby food product made in Nigeria.
“Nigerian babies are being fed with imported complementary foods that are pre-packaged, full of artificial additives and nutritionally-imbalanced,” she explains.
The young entrepreneur was also inspired to establish her business owing to her experience as a mother.
“When I had my daughter, I started creating recipes and feeding her with it.
“When people observed how healthy my daughter is, family and friends who knew of the recipe I fed her with started making demand for the recipe and this led to the establishment of my company – Mahauty Health Solutions,” she says.
To further broaden her skills, Mmachukwu took up a training course with the United Nations International Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and also acquired an Advance Diploma in Nutrition.
The young entrepreneur started her business with N150, 000, which she got from her personal savings. She has not taken loan from any money deposit bank.
Since starting, the business has grown tremendously and it now has six ranges of baby food products.
“Somma’s Yummies are sold across Nigeria through a distribution network of mothers and a growing number of retail outlets.”
“We have connected over 13,000 mothers across Africa via social media and provided regular advisory sessions using Facebook and Instagram live videos creatively, addressing the very real problem of malnutrition in children,” the young entrepreneur notes.
She sources her raw materials directly from smallholder farmers across the country that grows biofortified crops.
Speaking on why mothers should patronise her products over other established brands, she says hers offer them unprecedented benefits which include ingredients innovation, great taste, enhanced nutritive value and product varieties, meeting both dietary intake and diversity needs.
“Most of our customers say our products enable their children to have good skin, stay healthy and look chubby, unlike other baby food brands. This is what every Nigerian woman wants for their child,” Mmachukwu says.
The business has won several awards both within and outside the country.
In 2018, it was named the Top Health Innovation Company in Africa among 241 health businesses from 21 African countries by Amref Health Africa, an NGO based in Kenya.
In response to the potential in the country’s infant formula industry, Mmachukwu says that the opportunity is enormous.
“The infant formula industry is a very huge one. On 1st of January 2018, over 20,000 babies were born in Nigeria in one day. You can imagine how many babies would be born before the end of the year?” She asks.
“We are strategically positioning ourselves to feed these babies. I must also say it is a very delicate and risky industry. It’s not for the faint-hearted. That’s why we invest a lot into research and development,” she elucidates.
Speaking on the business expansion plans, she says Mahauty wants to standardise its factory with an adjoining quality assurance laboratory.
Also, the business plans to get its products on the shelves of retail stores and outlets across major cities on the continent.
“We are working tirelessly to get more qualified individuals into our team and keep improving our product quality and packaging design to compete excellently with world top baby food brands,” she says.
Answering questions confronting her business, Mmachukwu says that the constraint in getting licensing with the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) is the greatest challenge that the business experienced since it commenced operations.
She explains that procuring advanced equipment and machinery for the factory is another major challenge confronting the business, owing to the high cost and difficult clearing process at the seaport.
Similarly, high cost of major raw materials is also limiting her business.
She tells Start-Up-Digest that continuous partnerships the business attracts have made it survive the odds and grow.
She laments that poor power supply has continued to impact negatively on the business, hurting it while raising operational costs.
She calls on the Federal Government to bridge the huge infrastructure gaps, saying that it will help increase the survival rate of start-ups in the country.
Also, she urges the government to ban or increase tariffs on imported infant food products to minimise importation and ensure the growth of the local industry.
On her advice to other entrepreneurs, she says, “Know everything there is to know about your business. Be resilient. Stay determined and committed to what you do. Make mistakes, learn from them and allow yourself to grow.”