The quest to help individuals eat healthier drove Ivan Oluchi Okaro into starting a business that provides healthy juices, smoothies and fruits salad. She started the Vani Wellness Shop with just N2000 few years ago, and today the business has grown into a million naira business employing many people. She tells us more.
How did you start?
I studied Computer Science at Bingham University, Abuja. Initially, going into this business was not on my mind. But my mum had a life threatening ailment and she started introducing us to healthy foods. So, we started eating more vegetables and fruits. That is how my interest in vegetables and eating healthy came about. So, I turned it into a business.
After graduation, I worked for a while, but then it came to a time that I wanted to start my own business. So, I asked myself what I loved to do and I discovered that I became an advocate for healthy fruits and vegetables.
I remember while I was working that there were times that I wanted to eat fruits and vegetables but there were none readily available, so you end up eating junk. So, I said there may be people like me who want to eat healthy and may not find, so I went to the market, got vegetables and sliced them into chunks and transparent cups. I took it round in cups and showed people that I have fruits for sale in cups. People patronized me. So while I was selling to people, a client asked ‘why don’t you make juice too’. I did my research and decided to try that out as well.
I discovered that you don’t just make the juice, you have to know the calories and other nutritional content. So, you can help people who want to eat healthy and lose weight as well.
The motto of my business is ‘let’s fight diseases, with healthy foods’. From juices, we started introducing smoothies, and then parfait and then granules. We tell our clients the amount of calories they are taking and the benefits.
How many people do you have working for you?
We have five staff now and we started in 2017. We will be two years old in April. The business excites me because we are creating awareness about healthy living. I have a Facebook page were I enlighten people and tell them of the need to eat healthy. And what they should eat. We incorporate healthy seed like flaxseed and others into our product.
What is the secret of a successful business?
There are days you would want to quit and say ‘who sent me’? You don’t have a boss, so the buck stops at your table. So resilience and perseverance are what keep you going as an entrepreneur.
Why did you start this business?
This is to ensure that each Nigerian takes healthy juices and vegetables. Also, I turned my passion for wanting healthy juices and fruits into a business.
What are the five things you think start-up entrepreneurs should know?
Every entrepreneur should now how to manage their books/finances. It is very important. Also , you should know where to get your raw materials at an affordable rate.
You have to know how to run your business. You should go for training. Also, you should know your strength and your weaknesses. Know who you are.
What challenges do you face in this business?
Our major challenge is electricity. You know we work with fresh vegetables so we need light. Also, to expand your business, you need investors. I started this business with N2000 but now the business is worth millions.
How has technology enhanced your business?
There is the cold pressed juicer. It’s good technology. A cold pressed juicer requires low heat to extract juice and most of the nutrients are preserved and go into the body. This is not the same with other juicers.
Also, online technology has helped boost this business. I use that platform to market my business. I market it through different platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Our dream is to be in the home of every Nigerian in the next five years.
What is your advice to other young people out there?
Start something. Don’t wait for government. I will like to say that government should invest more in agriculture. And for us that process agricultural produce into finished goods, we want more encouragement.
If you are offered a N1 million job and managing this business, which do you prefer?
I will stay back running my business. I will choose my business because my business can make that kind of amount if I work very hard in one month. A lot of people are in the train of eating healthy. So I want to remain here to provide them with healthy juices, smoothies, vegetable salad. So, why won’t I stay to help them?