What got you interested in nutrition?
As a mother of two, I did a lot of research on what to feed my children as I was starting to wean them off breast milk. I found that most of the examples of nutritious, complementary foods were based on European or American recipes and ingredients were often difficult or very expensive to obtain. I wanted to create healthy meals using local, familiar and affordable food so all mothers and caregivers could make nutritious meals for their children. So, I founded Start Right to share simple meal plans and to create products that were both convenient and healthy.
What do you work on, and how does it relate to public-private engagement for nutrition?
At Start Right, we sell two packaged food products – yellow corn and carrot powder and a legume mix – as well as our cookbook. When I was setting up my business, I worked closely with the Ghana Standards Authority to ensure that my products met food safety, quality, and nutrition standards appropriate for children. I also work with local NGOs to do community education and advocacy with low-income mothers to empower them with the knowledge of how to feed their babies well. Through these networks, families can access my free videos and recipes online and we also give out free cookbooks and products to low-income families.
What is exciting about your work?
I think good nutrition is the foundation for a good life – it’s important for health and education and overall development. Across Ghana and Africa, malnutrition is a big issue, especially for women and children. I love my work because I feel like I’m making a positive contribution to improving the diets and health of infants and children while also empowering women. Not only do mothers receive community education to help stimulate positive behaviour change, but also we work through thirty saleswomen which provide them with additional income.
What is challenging about it?
One big challenge we face as a small company is the challenge of scaling up, which could help us meet the growing demand for our product while also reducing costs so more families could afford them. When I started, I had to import the machinery from China and my packaging from Nigeria. These initial investments and high ongoing operation costs mean we have to sell our products at a price point that is not affordable for many low-income families. As a result, I am competing with international companies to attract middle and high-income consumers through the quality of my products, as well as appealing packaging and marketing. Another challenge we face as an independent business is establishing formal partnerships with the government, which could help us reach more vulnerable families and communities in Ghana and increase our impact.
Has this work made you change your mind about anything?
Establishing Start Right Nutrition Limited has made me realise that there are many opportunities around us in Africa that can be turned into something tangible to impact lives positively. It has also made me see the readiness of Africans to embrace innovation and ideas that are locally influenced.
What’s the latest news or a recent success?
In September 2019, the First Lady of Ghana, H.E. Rebecca Akufo Addo, asked me to represent Ghanaian nutrition businesses at the African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF). This was a very big honor and an important recognition from the international food and nutrition community that my business was making a small but important contribution to tackling malnutrition.
We are planning to expand so our products are available in all regions in Ghana, and ultimately we would like to expand to other countries in West Africa. We will increase our efforts to do community engagement so we can help educate low-income families about how they can incorporate local, affordable, and nutritious foods to prepare meals for their families.
If you had to have a slogan, or a strapline, for this work, what would it be?
At Start Right, we say “Our Babies are Our Pride” and we believe in “Eat Well and Live Well!”
What is your favourite food or meal to share with your family?
Ghanaian Jollof with vegetables and sweet potatoes balls made with Start Right Chubby legume mix powder. We mostly include lots of local vegetables and fruits in most of our family foods to create a great taste.