StartUpper By Total - The Story So Far


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Barely a year after Total Petroleum Ghana Ltd.'s flagship entrepreneurial support programme dubbed "StartUpper of the Year" crowned its champions, the three winning candidates of the contest recount the enormous benefits they have gained through the programme since being adjudged winners. In all three instances, the underlying objectives of the StartUp per challege have been largely realized in the business operations. One key point that cuts across the stories of all three winners of the contest, is the fact that demand for their products from the market has spiked , a positive sign of the immense impact that the programme has had on the contestants. The Total StartUpper was launched in late 2015 across 33 of TOTAL's operational countries in Africa with an aim to help young and promising entrepreneurs expand and grow their businesses while contributing to the development of the economies of their respective countries. In Ghana, the financial support, exposure and market opportunities extended to the winners of the competition have had telling effects on the operations of the beneficiary startup companies.

Not only were these young entrepreneurs mentored and a financial lifeline worth GHS 160,000 extended to them, but they also had a supply contract with Total Petroleum Ghana to sell their products in the oil marketing giant's shops across the country. And so a year on, businesses have been expanded, lives impacted, and destinies have been changed for these young entrepreneurs and the families that depend on them for their livelihoods.





Joshua startupper  

Joshua Ayinbora's Groital Company Ltd. formerly known as JE&F Co. Ltd. is a sprawling agribusiness company that cultivates pineapple, pawpaw and lately vegetables.

The project, located around Nsawam in the Eastern region sits on a 30-acre piece of land with 50 percent of that currently under cultivation. Joshua speaks of the immense benefits that he has reaped from the Total StartUpper project in a way that clearly reveals his gratitude for the timely intervention StartUpper brought to his business.

According to him "StartUpper came in quite handy at the time as the funds won were invested in very key aspects of the farm leading to a staggering 64 percent expansion."

"Now" he adds, "I cannot even meet demands from buyers of my pineapples because the exposure gained has brought in so many market opportunities whilst interest from investors has also shot up exponentially." "HPW (one of the largest buyers of fruits in Ghana) has given the company a purchase order till about the end of the second quarter of this year, whilst we still count giants like Blue Skies as our key customers."

Explaining further on the aspects of his farm which received a boost from StartUpper, Joshua reveals that he used part of his cash donation to "pay off landowners and buy solar equipment to provide electricity to power his irrigation machinery." Joshua also recounts the high impacts that the mentoring session during the one-week residency has had on his business "I learnt a lot about business plan designs and how to keep my books during the mentoring support period and I'm actively using all the knowledge acquired." "Indeed my company won a business plan competition valued at GBP 6,000 organised by Technoserve, four months after winning StartUpper." He further adds that "We were selected by AAIN (African Agribusiness Incubators Network) for demonstration of the use of drones in Agriculture in October 2016 and Joy FM, through its Joy Business Van, visited our farm for a special report on small agribusinesses." Things could not have been better for Joshua as through

StartUpper he has been able to recruit more permanent workers for the farm who are greatly contributing to the growth agenda.





Salma Abdulai's Unique Quality Product Enterprise is a classic example of a social enterprise whose wide impacts on the women in its catchment area cannot be underestimated.

The company is truly unique in the very sense of the word as the raw material used in its product, fonio, which is a nutritious and climate resistant cereal, is found nowhere else in Ghana except the three Northern regions.

Salma is the typical change agent as she has been at the forefront of organizing women cooperatives in her area of operation and has succeeded in creating economic and livelihood-changing opportunities for these women. In her words "These were women who would have been depending on their husbands for support but through this project, they are able to earn monthly incomes to support in the upkeep of their families." As game-changing as Salma's project has been to the women in her operational territory, fonio, had not been a known food source in other parts of the country but through StartUpper, Salma says "the orders are so many these days that I'm unable to meet them." "Total Petroleum Ghana" she stated with an air of satisfaction "has orders for 189 of its shops across the country." "The exposure gained through StartUpper and the opportunities that have come my way through the programme havebeen nothing short of phenomenal" she reveals. Salma discloses that through the support received, she has been able to employ more women and invest in her business. Fonio contains major sources of energy, protein, vitamins, and minerals and is highly rich in amino acids and iron. Fonio, like cereals such as maize, can be prepared for breakfast or for a main course meal.

selma workers  

A shot of a few women dunng the Fon1o production process




eunice and co startupper Eunice Owusu-Karikari, a banking and finance graduate from the Valley View University decided to chart an entrepreneurial course for herself after school. She started E-Juice Ltd., a natural juice processing company, with barely nothing but armed with determination and hope. Before being adjudged as one of the winners of the StartUpper challenge, Eunice says "E-Juice was growing small at its own pace." The company which currently employs 15 people has however seen its fortunes increased and more opportunities pouring in after being selected as one of the three winners of the Total StartUpper challenge. As a result of the support received from the StartUpper programme, the company has been able to scale up its operations. Eunice and husband now run a fully-functional juice making business with a huge market demands that has spiraled out of their own control. "This image enhancement is creating opportunities for us that unfortunately our resources are too little to meet" she says. "We have had over 6 different institutions calling upon us to set up and do business with but unfortunately we have been able to take advantage of only two of them" she adds. "Thanks to the support received from the StarUpper contest, we have been able to expand our operations and now produce our juice in commercial quantities although we still fall short of market demands" she reveals.

Taking advantage of the financial reprieve that StartUpper brought, Eunice invested in some crucial aspect of her business. "We invested in freezing equipment, juice dispensers, improved our branding and packaging and even used part to fund our Food and Drugs Authority's Certification and Analysis." As the business grows, we are seeing the need to add more expertise and now we have recruited a full-time food scientist to help in standardization." "This investment", according to her, "has greatly shaped our company and we are poised for higher growth in the next couple of years."



Taking up the Challenge

The success milestones chalked by these three winners have really demonstrated to organizers of the competition of the potential in the young Ghanaian and as Olivier Van Parys, the Managing Director of Total Petroleum Ghana says "This success story has encouraged us so much and we will use these stories as the basis to scale up the next competition which will be launched soon." This move, he adds, "Is borne out of our belief in the fact that entrepreneurship can change the lives of young people and help in the growth agenda of the economies of countries we operate in." As Total Petroleum Ghana winds down its support for the three beneficiariesof the maiden edition of its StartUpper programme, the second edition will be launched soon and young Ghanaian entrepreneurs are encouraged to take part and reap the huge benefits that come with the contest to change their stories.