How Affiong Williams made a wild adventure back to Nigeria to start selling fruit

For most individuals, stepping into entrepreneurship typically begins with Discover a enterprise concept, then pursue it as a sideways movement till it clicks. Solely a courageous few exit to check the entrepreneurial waters. Affiong Williams is a type of few who entered. And up to now decade, not solely has the “fruit merchandising” enterprise she based has thrived, nevertheless it has additionally efficiently raised funds to drive its world enlargement.

her childhood and profession

Affiong Williams was born on March 9, 1986. She accomplished a primary diploma in Physiology and Psychology with plans to attend medical faculty afterward to pursue her dream of turning into a physician.

However by the point she graduated from faculty, she had already misplaced curiosity in medication and needed a possibility to discover different profession paths. She obtained a Postgraduate Diploma in Enterprise Administration from Wits Enterprise Faculty, Johannesburg, South Africa in 2006, with the hope that this is able to open her as much as different profession alternatives.

Williams landed her first job at an entrepreneurial help group that helps small and medium companies in creating markets – Endeavor South Africa – and started interacting ceaselessly with entrepreneurs. After 4 years of working with and secretly admiring entrepreneurs and all the things they stand for, Affiong was prepared to leap in on her personal.

How did Actual Fruits begin?

When Affiong Williams determined to turn out to be an entrepreneur, she knew the enterprise needed to focus On value-added agribusiness and started to consider completely different concepts. The primary plan was to supply fruit juice as a technique to cut back post-harvest losses for fruit growers. Nonetheless, Affiong knew that they might not construct a fruit juice manufacturing unit within the early levels of the enterprise. Subsequently, dried fruit processing got here instead enterprise concept that may additionally assist obtain the identical purpose. As a dried fruit snack, the product additionally doesn’t require vitality to maintain, which signifies that the issue for the Nigerian sector won’t be a difficulty.

  • I used to be residing in South Africa on the time, and dried fruits have been extremely popular there. I assumed I might be the primary to carry it to Nigeria and make it large. Sure, it was daring, however I did not know a lot. When you had completed some research, you might need left the thought on the shelf. I used to be merely satisfied that Nigerians have been extra open to completely different tastes, based mostly on the number of issues that have been being imported on the time. I assumed all I wanted to do was create consciousness and demand,” She stated.

She went up and got here to Nigeria to start out a fruit enterprise in 2012. One encouragement to return was the ten million yen UN scholarship for which she utilized and was chosen for the primary spherical. Sadly, shortly after arriving in Nigeria, she obtained a rejection mail which shattered her hopes of getting any scholarship.

  • “It was a really troublesome time as a result of not solely was I doing one thing new, however I used to be additionally full of plenty of self-doubt. I assumed I had made the largest mistake of my life, however, in fact, I could not stop so early.” she stated later.

As market analysis, Affiong began promoting some dried fruits that she had introduced from South Africa. Though the merchandise do not have the perfect packaging, suggestions has been encouraging and Affiong has began producing extra of its flat. It was solely a matter of time earlier than Actual Fruit had the type of drawback each entrepreneur craves. The merchandise have been promoting out rapidly, and the demand was rising even sooner, to the purpose the place it was not possible to fulfill the demand from her tiny condo.

I acquired my first angel investor, and put the cash towards getting an workplace house, a pickup truck, and getting extra fingers on the enterprise. It took about 5 years of operation earlier than Reel Fruit acquired the funds to arrange a correct plant with the best equipment. Up till that time, the corporate had been as depending on outdoors producers as Ghana was, doing just some processing.

A unique type of fundraiser

Like most startups, Williams has tried to boost cash for the enterprise however issues simply aren’t going wherever. The dried fruit enterprise was an unexplored space in Nigeria, and traders weren’t positive the best way to make it occur, particularly contemplating the share of companies that fail throughout the first 5 years.

When it grew to become clear that it will be troublesome to boost a big funding spherical, the CEO of Reel Fruit took a unique strategy and started elevating small capital from traders for his or her proof-of-concept.

  • “As a result of we did not increase an enormous spherical, it grew to become clear that folks did not consider the massive image. So after we claimed we have been going to develop by x, they discovered it simpler to consider that we may, for instance, double our gross sales, or rent extra individuals, or Opening new places, or launching extra merchandise. That story had extra to do with traders,” Williams recounted in an interview.

On this means, the corporate has constructed investor confidence and has been in a position to pursue one achievement at a time, based mostly on the funds raised for this objective. That means, when it got here time to boost more cash, traders have been assured of investing their cash in companies that had confirmed themselves in smaller levels. It will take 9 years of operation earlier than the corporate lastly raised its Collection A.

  • “As a result of we have been the market chief in dried fruits in Nigeria, it took our first 5 years in enterprise to show that this wasn’t a flash product. While you couple that with all the opposite challenges of fundraising in Nigeria, it is simple to see why it took so lengthy. However I am proud of the end result.” stated Williams.

Reel Fruits sells a spread of dried fruits and snacks by way of a wide range of channels together with greater than 700 shops, airways, faculties, lodges and export gross sales through Amazon.com. Affiong operates a staff of over 80 workers in 3 regional places of work in Nigeria and has created employment alternatives for 50 rural girls skilled to develop prime quality, export high quality mangoes in Kaduna.

In September 2021, ReelFruit closed a $3 million Collection A funding spherical to develop manufacturing capability 5x to fulfill rising demand. The corporate is now targeted on increasing its buyer base outdoors Nigeria, collaborating with extra farmers to eliminate extra fruit and cut back waste in several elements of Nigeria, and rightfully incomes its place because the market chief on this subject.

“Over the following decade, we’re working to diversify our buyer base. So whereas individuals know us as a shopper model, and we’ll proceed to take action, we wish to course of plenty of the inputs for the massive producers, like baking, and we additionally wish to deal with export. These two segments are the place we see plenty of Most of our progress will come from it, and that is the place we’ll deal with constructing the power to try this.”

Awards and certificates of appreciation

One needn’t be a serial entrepreneur earlier than the honors come. Beginning and constructing a world model from a one bed room house in Yaba takes guts and skills past the extraordinary.

She has been invited to many boards on agribusiness, funding and commerce together with the inaugural Africa Commerce Honest, Cairo 2018 the place she was one of many audio system. Finalist within the Attempt Masiyiwa Go Gettaz Initiative in Accra, 2019; AFDB Entrepreneurship Market Days Exhibition. Johannesburg, 2019; and AFDB African Youth Agripreneur and Agripitch Discussion board, CapeTown, 2019.

Winner of Village Capital Agriculture Accelerator, Kenya, 2020. In 2022, Affiong Williams was named the primary winner of the celebrated Veuve Clicquot Daring Girl Award.

Affiong is keen about entrepreneurship, agriculture, and politics and is an avid runner, having completed greater than 15 marathons and elevating cash for charity within the course of. Her primary piece of recommendation to incoming entrepreneurs is to hunt information.

  • “Errors are expensive by way of money and time, and searching for extra skilled individuals that can assist you keep away from errors is typically value greater than cash.”

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