In 2015, Chucks Ajali established Engraced Touchstone Nigeria Ltd, a freelance sales agency in the food and beverage industry. He started by solely sourcing a variety of edible and nutritious Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) from small companies and hawking them in the streets of Ibadan and nearby states. One of the main goals for this young company is to avail affordable, nutritious food products to the Base of Pyramid consumers in Nigeria.
To achieve this, Chucks purchases food and beverages from local producers and resells them in streets and villages in Nigeria. Among his main clients are school-going children who buy snacks to eat during lunch break. On average, these healthy snacks cost 10 Naira each. Sold individually, these food items often have a low-profit margin, but because of bulk sales, they can be very profitable. Furthermore, companies pay him commissions based on the sales he makes. Chucks says:
As a company, we encourage manufacturers to develop and package products in quantities which low-income earners and the masses can subscribe to. For instance, a smallholder farmer would afford products worth 40 Naira to give to his four children, enabling them to have a healthy lunch at school. Meaning that with 10 Naira, one child will have a healthy meal while in school.
Constrained operations during the onset of the pandemic
With the advent of COVID-19 and given that most of the customers were school-going children, the operations of Engraced Touchstone were immensely affected as schools were shut down and movements restricted. Covid-19 posed a significant challenge for this business as no sales were made during this period. It was also tough to make sales in the cities and villages due to lack of transportation to deliver to consumers.
As a food distributor, Chucks got to know about 2SCALE when he attended a strategy workshop organized for the marketing and distribution of one of 2SCALE’s business champions- Cato Foods.
It is during these interactions that he learnt about the 2SCALE crowdfunding campaign, an intervention he found timely and realistic to solve his transportation challenges. Although it was the first time for him to officially participate in an organized fundraising campaign, Chucks dedicated all his time and effort to ensure that he raised money from many diverse supporters. For 40 days, he set aside his normal sales activities and solely focused on mobilizing different people and institutions to support his campaign. He adds:
The crowdfunding campaign organized by 2SCALE connected me to people who were willing to invest in my business and my dream. People gave me money free of charge to make my dream come through. In this, I realized and came to appreciate the value of numbers. I was also lucky that I met a lot of people who already believed in me and in what I do as some had seen me around, carrying products and moving around on foot from street to street to sell them. For example, the first person I met gave me 50, 000 Naira because according to him, he had seen me around supplying products to the small retailer on his street!