In this Daily Trust post, a Nigerian man tells how he went from hawking to owning his own shop.
Kabir Sani, a secondary school dropout, started selling fruits at the age of 15 but his resolve to reposition fruit-selling as it is known led to trials in different forms of products. 17 years down the line, his natural fruit drink is drawing more customers. In this interview, he speaks about his motivation.
How did you start this business?
I started work through an uncle of mine called Mal. Ibrahim. From there with Allah’s help I started mine. When I was with my uncle, he was selling oranges, then it involved peeling the back of the orange and cutting it the way the buyer wants. Then I had no idea how to do the peeling because it required expertise but with time, I learned from him. I also engaged in hawking. I hawked oranges in a tray on my head going to markets to sell fruits. At the end of the day I gave him the money. As I was exposed to the nitty-gritty of the work, I took the decision to start mine after working for two and a half years with him.
When I left my uncle, I started hawking the fruits I sold in a tray but subsequently, I found a permanent place to display the fruits I was selling.
Five years after starting mine, I thought of giving the trade a new outlook, different from how fruit selling is known. Though some people were already doing what I wanted to do, majority of fruit sellers do not sell fruits in such ways. The normal way has always been buying fruits while they are cut into pieces, then consumed. So, I saw an opportunity to update the manner through which fruits are consumed.
The new way involves extracting the water which will be an alternative to canned-juice which has preservatives which are inimical to the wellbeing of humans. This variety of juice is said to have side effects on the body which is evident in the wide spread cancer, high blood pressure and other forms of illnesses.
So instead of drinks with preservatives, people can have natural drinks, which doctors have said are good for the body. Before then, I was selling another type called fruit pack or fruit salad in a take away. The fruit pack was an assortment of sliced fruits refrigerated. When cold, especially during heat season, it helps the body with nutrients.
It was after a year of doing the fruit pack that I delved into extracting orange juice, starting with watermelon, banana and pineapple, then sugarcane juice because in developed countries, people consume sugarcane juice a lot. With Allah’s help the products were accepted by my customers.
When I left my uncle, I got a relative of mine to work with me, but as I started with fruit packs, we became three and now I have 10 people working with me.
How much did it cost you to start the business?
When I left my uncle, he gave me some money and I added the little I had to start my own. It was not more than N5,000 but when I wanted to start the fruit pack, I spent close to N150,000 because I had to buy a fridge.
How do you make the juice?
I have machines that I use for extracting water from the fruits. The machines come with receptive bowls that collect the water; thereafter it is poured into a bottle and refrigerated. To spice up the drinks, I mix the fruits. So, I have that of pure orange and orange mixed with pineapple and sugarcane.
How much do you make daily selling the fruit juice?
Due to the nature of the business, the season of rainfall is synonymous with low sales but I make N4,000 daily. During heat, sales boom but I also face problem of electricity leading to some of the goods getting to spoil. However, I make up to N7000 daily.
What challenges did you face when you started?
When I started, I encountered little problems but I sought advice from those close to me. Choosing the type of container to use was a headache. But, with the advice I was able to make the right choice. The juice needs to be refrigerated to last long or it will get spoilt, so erratic power supply is another problem I face.
What variety of juice do you sell?
The varieties I sell are many. I sell the fruits in their normal form, like watermelon, orange, apple, sugarcane, pawpaw and others. Also, I make the juice of all the fruits. No matter the kind of juice someone wants I can make it. Even if a customer comes with their own fruit, I can make the juice for them, because some hold the view that the products I make are mixed or adulterated with water or flavour since it was not done in their presence. But I do not do that.
How do you get the containers and fruits you use?
When I started, I never thought of using old recycled bottles, I was preoccupied with getting new ones. I asked around and was told I could get from the markets here in Kaduna. Since then I have been using them. For the fruits, I source them here in Northern Nigeria. I get some from Benue State and other parts of Northern Nigeria.
What steps did you take to create appealing products?
I was patient and prayerful with those two, I was able to overcome challenges. Also, I established a good relationship with my customers that whenever they notice a drop in the quality of the products, they inform me. This has helped me.
Why are the containers not labelled?
The reason for not labelling the containers is because I am processing my registration with the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC). I do not want to label without registration. When that is done, it would show that I am not making the juice through illegal means. Also, it is when refrigerated that the products last long but if I should put a label on them, those buying may not know how long it wil last.
What are your plans for the future?
Alhamdulillah, even now, I have accomplished my ambitions. I said so because places and people I never thought of going or meeting, through this business I have met them. However, I would like to grow and expand my business from the three shops and 10 workers I have now into a big company that will be a source of joy and reference to my home state, Sokoto, and Nigeria in general.