Natachi is the Founder of Health & Healthy Complete Living in Nigeria. She is one of the 22,500 Nigerian women entrepreneurs to have participated in our Road to Growth programme, which from 2019-2020 supported her to develop her financial literacy and confidence so that she could better manage her accounting and make big decisions about her branding. A year on, she reflects on her experiences…
“My name is Natachi Peace Ugbajah, I studied human resource management at the University of East London but growing up I have always known that I was going to be a businesswoman. My studies helped equip me with relevant skills to manage people in and out of business settings.
It all changed for me when I had health issues. I was massively overweight, and my mum kept insisting I needed to lose weight. In the process of losing weight and blogging about my progress, I found a balance between eating healthily and eating tasty food. I started baking for family and friends at home – and they loved it.
I saw a gap in the market because a lot of people want to stay fit without missing out on the food they love or have allergies or other health issues. After about two years of study to become knowledgeable about food allergy groups, I launched my fitness-motivated food business. That was how I started H & H Complete Living.
Watch Natachi discuss her Road to Growth story:
At the time I started my business, I was in a relationship that meant I couldn’t move forward professionally at the pace I wanted to. As a woman entrepreneur, I have also faced the barrier of not being able to access funds. I always thought I needed a huge sum of money to start a business, and no one mentioned I could source funds from family. Many women entrepreneurs also face the problem of not being able to get a loan: banks make the requirements too hard to meet or sometimes request a man signs on your behalf..
I believe what makes it harder for women to start a business is fear of failure, because as a woman a lot of people are already doubting your capabilities. Furthermore, a man can put all his savings into his business, but women have different family responsibilities and are expected to have savings to take care of children or family.
I heard about Road to Growth by chance and it turned out to be a blessing. It opened my eyes to a lot of the things I wanted to address in my business which were to do with finances and accounting. I learned financial literacy through Road to Growth, the tutor was amazing. Attending the programme also made me fearless in approaching banks for loans.
It was very useful meeting other women entrepreneurs and networking. It was something that I have never done before. It was exciting, I learned a lot listening to their stories, challenges and seeing how they overcame them. That networking opportunity is something I will cherish for a lifetime: we have a WhatsApp group where the mentors and female entrepreneurs still share knowledge, opportunities and support each other.
One thing we were taught on the programme is that you cannot learn without doing. During the programme, we used our existing businesses as case studies to practically apply what we learned in each session to our business straight away. My accounting has now improved a lot, I am more responsible with money and buy items I need for my business in bulk. I have also learned to outsource some roles to save time. My branding has changed since the programme, and prior to Road to Growth, my business didn’t have an online presence. The programme helped me to know I was running a proper business and it was not a hobby.
The COVID-19 pandemic came as a surprise and impacted a lot of businesses. Mine wasn’t as hard hit during the lockdown due to the fact that I applied the knowledge Road to Growth taught me. Since I was running an essential business, I was still allowed to open, but I had to adjust my strategy by offering home delivery services three times a week, and I made sure the change was communicated clearly to my customers via social media.
What having a successful business means to me is the ability to go to sleep knowing that my business is running as it should with or without my presence. Success also means that I am taking care of my staff, ensuring they are working a good environment so that they are happy to come to work. For me, my employees come first, because if they are not happy, they will not treat our customers as well as they could.
For me, the wider economic impact of this programme has been the ability to contribute financially towards my family, knowing that I can take care of myself and ensuring that I am not financially vulnerable. For my community, my success means I can have a positive impact on numerous women by passing on what I have learned, and in turn they will teach other women in their circle. When women come to me seeking financial help, I try to empower them with skills that can help them become financially independent.
I have mentored other women on sustainable ways to run a business or how to acquire relevant skills to start a business. I also teach my employees how to have other side businesses so that they do not rely solely on their salaries.
I think it is important for the world to support female entrepreneurship because it will reduce poverty in society. When one woman is empowered, she passes the knowledge down to her daughter and as such can break a cycle of poverty in their lineage. It also means women can contribute to families and do not have to rely on men to provide.
In the near future I want to go back to school to learn more about healthy living because it is my goal to help people lead a healthy lifestyle. I intend for my business to become a household brand within Nigeria and internationally, and want to sell my products in big retail supermarket chains. I will also continue mentoring more women.”
Road to Growth is highly scalable and adaptable. The Foundation is actively seeking funding partnerships to enable the programme to launch in, but not limited, to Rwanda, South Africa, Ethiopia, Uganda, Ghana, Tanzania and Mozambique, with each iteration carefully adapted for a local context. Please get in touch if you would like to discuss potential partnerships!