Zanau Hassan Maikasuwa, President of Farmfields Agro-Allied Services talks with the AWP Network about how he got started and the role his company plays in supporting local farmers and agricultural investors. His company deals with all aspects of farming – animals and crops. He states, “it is our goal to help farmers and agricultural investors make the right business decisions.” Maikasuwa tells his story and shares useful business tips.
What inspired you to start?
I have always been interested in large-scale farming and agriculture because I was exposed to the business as a child. When it was time to attend university, the school selected Agriculture as my major even though I had applied to study Medicine. Easily, I fell in love with my courses – I became more passionate about farming and dreamt of becoming an ‘Agropreneur.’ During my time off from school, I continued to work on the farm and this gave me a clearer idea of how to implement the various theories that I learned in the classroom. Upon graduation, I wrote my business plan and I just believe that destiny made everything work in my favor.
Who is your target market?
My target market includes farmers who plan to expand. We support their expansion from peasant or non-commercial farming to commercial agricultural production.
How have you financed your business?
I started my business with support from my family. In 2010, I sort alternative forms of financing and held various jobs. I supplied seeds to farmers in rural areas, held a job in irrigation farming, and worked as a part-time consultant. It was challenging but I kept planning and going at it. Around the same time, the YouWIN Nigeria program started. I entered the competition and won a grant for my business. I know that the money from the program will support my expansion plans.
What is your competitive edge?
My company’s competitive edge is our ability to offer innovative solutions that adds value to our client’s agricultural enterprises. By that I mean – identifying the right markets, helping out with simple innovative agricultural technology that produce results, increase profits, and create employment opportunities.
What is the long-term plan for your business?
In the next 5 years, we plan to expand our operations and build a solid client database. We will also establish training centers for modern agricultural practices and continue cordial relationships with various funders including banks so that we can easily gain access to financing as we expand.
What challenges do you face or have you faced thus far?
Market research and penetration is a huge challenge. My company has an innovative approach to farming but our competitors are government agencies, therefore, trying to make people pay for the service that we provide poses a challenge but our phenomenal customer service and innovative business strategy makes us very useful to the market that we serve.
What five key things have you learned since starting your business idea?
1. Success is not immediate. Business is not about immediate success but strategic long-term planning and the proper execution of your idea.
2. Be willing to fail. Despite failing or not being profitable in the first few years does not mean that you give up or lose hope. Learn from your mistakes and move on. If you are in the start-up phase, losing money is normal – by making mistakes, we learn.
3. Stay Connected. Learn from others particularly from those who manage or own a successful business. You can do this by reading what others have to say about their failures, attending seminars, workshops, trainings, and conferences.
4. Just go for It. There is always an opportunity for those who are prepared – Start.
5. Be Innovative. You must be creative and innovative to stay ahead.
What five things do start-up entrepreneurs need to know?
1. Plan to grow: starting small does not mean that you remain small.
2. Keep going: Do not give up.
3. Ask questions: Always seek and do not be afraid to ask for help from professionals and experienced entrepreneurs.
4. Opportunities: Look out for opportunities that will enable you to remain afloat in business.
5. Stay engaged and connected: Network and partner with the people that can support your work.
What advice do you have for youths looking to start an idea but say \’there is no money\’?
My advice is to start anyway. Money will come and you are likely to get it when you offer services or products. You can always start small but do not plan to remain small. Look out for funding opportunities and tailor your business plan to meet various funding criteria. Nigeria is the land of opportunities despite challenges. The journey certainly will not be easy but it is worth the try. Also, look out for opportunities from the government and the private sector – find them and take advantage of them. The Nigerian government today creates and supports many initiatives, so be on the lookout.
How do you think Nigerian youths can continue to support each other?
African youths should create networking forums to share ideas, partner with one another, and it is time to take up intra-Africa opportunities. Let us create our markets and swim in it.
How many jobs have you created so far?
So far, we have created four (4) jobs. We have also created jobs indirectly for those offering services to our farmers. We plan to grow our staff to about ten (10) in the next two (2) years and provide more jobs through our clients.
Farmfields Agro-Allied Services
Phone: 011 (234) 803-634-7255
Location: Shop 306 Nguroje House, Hammaruwa Way, Jalingo, Taraba State