By Esther Onyegbula

Chichi Eriobu is the Founder and CEO of Phronesis Foods Nigeria Limited, a global growing food processing, packaging and export company, creating new food product lines from existing raw materials.

She was awarded Best Female Business Speaker of the Year (Leadership Mind Awards, 2017) and Outstanding Entrepreneur of the Year Award (BAOBAB International Awards, 2018). In 2020, she was appointed one of the young people to sit on the Board of Crown Point College of Health Sciences and Technology, Ogun State.

In early 2021, she won an award for influence through Business & Entrepreneurship, presented to her by FBI Awards.

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Also, in 2020, she emerged top three entrepreneurs from The Next Titan entrepreneurial reality TV show, Season 7. In 2021, her company was selected in the top 14 Agri-business across Africa by GoGettaz Africa.

Also, they were recognised as one of the top six businesses to get into the Entrepreneurship World Cup (Nigeria) in 2020.

In mentoring other entrepreneurs on business and entrepreneurship, she has so far met over three hundred people, providing one-on-one mentorship and coaching sessions to more than 50% of them.

In this interview, Eriobu talks about her vision to build a globally-recognised solution-based business that impacts other young entrepreneurs as well as her journey building a food processing business.

You worked in the corporate sector before becoming an entrepreneur; how would you describe both phases?

I worked in the corporate sector for a couple of years. However, the corporate sector prepared me for my entrepreneurship journey.

The corporate sector is a structured workspace, with humans of different beliefs and characters.

That environment prepared me for leadership as an entrepreneur.

We tell young and aspiring entrepreneurs that having an idea is all they need to start their journey.

The twist to that is that many now assume that they don’t need an experience.

The corporate sector is the perfect place to build an experience before becoming an entrepreneur, no matter how short that experience might be.

What is the driving creative force behind your brand?

Our vision and mission is the driving force.

I am personally an enthusiastic entrepreneur, and at every point in time, I continue to remind myself that we are here because of the people.

Our vision and mission are centred on people; we are a people-conscious organisation, and so everything we have done so far and doing is fuelled by thinking of people first, and what more we could do to make a difference.

How do you think women are changing the narratives in the food production and exportation industry in Nigeria?

I love this question in particular because I personally know a lot of women in the food production space who have discovered new ways of consuming something we have been consuming for years.

And this has constantly been proven as we see multiple opportunities all around us structured for these women.

Looking around, I see women like me, who took over what was literally our family’s small business and built them into a global one.

Women are contributing largely to the growth of food production and exportation.

What kind of legislative reform do you think will help food production and exportation in Nigeria?

Make the licenses easily affordable. The cost of product samples required to get through filling of some government licenses are high, and could be better.

I think the government should look into it. If not, we are going to have small businesses (which are currently a major contributors to the country’s economy) be limited in scaling their ventures because even though they could afford the fee for the licenses, the cost of the products will depend heavily on their finances, thereby causing discouragement.

If you were to serve as President of this country for one month, what change will you make that you feel will effectively address the menace of food scarcity and inflation?

I would ensure that every community has a food storage facility that is readily accessible and available to the communities at a very affordable rate.

One way I think we may be able to curtail it is by building community-based sustainable food storages, with regulated pricing.

What do you hope to achieve in clear terms with the establishment of the Phronesis Foods?

Our goal is to create a sustainable, global market for local foods that are not somewhat readily accessible or available, and to, while doing this, create jobs for the youths and women in the rural communities.

To do this, we have to source these local food products that Nigeria is blessed with, many of which are barely even spoken of.

Our mission is to shine light on them, leveraging the nutritional benefits, whilst making them desirable, global foods.

However, it has been a worthwhile journey.

We are solving real time human challenges because, from just packaging Ukwa in its original state, we have created multiple new food products from that one raw material.

The rewarding part of our journey is that we look back, and see the number of people we have provided opportunities for.

How has participating in the Next Titan Season 7 enhanced your knowledge and journey in entrepreneurship?

Participating in The Next Titan Season 7 prepared me for the next phase of my business.

It killed the fear of the unknown of whether we would meet up or not, and made me take decisions that had helped our team grow in the last months.

l understand the importance of team building and team leverage now more than ever.

I use my knowledge to set tasks, and give power to each team member to deliver on the tasks, also while making room for them to fail, learn and grow. 

Also, irrespective of the fact that I know that I am the smartest person in the room, I am able to trust the opinion of other team members, giving everyone an opportunity to be seen and heard.

How has social media helped you in marketing and projecting your business?

Social media has been a great blessing to our growth. Our first customer bought from us via social media.

And then she gave a review that brought us more customers.

Also, our first ever international distributor read about us on another customer’s review and in 48 hours we made our largest sale, and signed up our first international distributor.

We have since grown into thousands of customers, and tens of distributors, retailers, stockists, and affiliate marketers.

Looking back, what events can you consider the major landmarks?

Major landmarks have been media features like this one because, I believe so much in the power of media.

Each feature is recognition of what we are building and each recognition opens us up to more customers and interests, and of course, more competitors.

Recently, we were selected top 14 Agribusinesses across Africa by The Generation Africa foundation.

We were selected from a poll of thousands of other Agribusinesses across Africa, and it continues to validate what we are doing.

Also, every new customer is a new landmark, and every repeating customer is a landmark, because we celebrate every sale like it is our first.

What legacy do you hope to leave behind Phronesis Foods?

I want to leave a legacy that cares about people first before any other thing.

In the course of researching and creating our new products, Ukwa Poundo, I realised that a particular food product which was recommended for my father who died of diabetes was not exactly a healthy food for a diabetic patient.

I wondered for how many years that food was constantly being recommended, and I figured that it was outright ignorance or simply the doctors (no offence intended) cared more about money than they did people.

My legacy would be that for every decision, it must favour the people more than it favours our pockets.

Vanguard News Nigeria


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