Husband and wife team Alex and Lorraine Anyakwo always had a passion and flare for creating new recipes. Alex had developed his own range of dishes reflecting the food from his West African childhood roots.
The popularity of the couple’s African-inspired pastes and chilli dips had spread through recommendations and word of mouth. They were now supplying to an expanding circle of social contacts.
Realising there was demand and a gap in the market, Alex decided to turn this labour of love into a business. The couple wanted to provide greater UK representation of African Culture through these little-known dishes.
Stockport based Alex and Lorraine took the plunge and incorporated as Africa Al’s Ltd in March 2018.
With demand far exceeding supply it was clear that in its present form the operating platform was just not sustainable, and that the business model would need to be re-thought.
Alex and Lorraine approached Emma Wilson, a food consultant at Light Bulb, for advice. Along with fresh ideas, they also received a short, medium and long-term business strategy. This plan highlighted a need for significant investment to enable an increased outsourcing of production, as well as a marketing and distribution capability.
Emma referred Africa Al’s to GC Business Growth Hub where they met with both an Access to Finance and a Manufacturing advisor.
Geoff Clowes from the Access to Finance (A2F) team provided support and advice in helping the client and their advisor to develop a focused business plan which set out a new B2B model.
A funding proposal with forecasts outlined the consultant’s recommended plan to take on a production facility at Chester University, purchase equipment and stock, as well as to cover marketing and other production costs.
Together they developed a borrowing structure to meet their funding requirements. Geoff of A2F also accompanied Alex and Lorraine to meetings with Lloyds Bank as well as GC Business Finance where they respectively secured an overdraft and Start Up Loan.
The business was also supported by one of the Hub's specialist Manufacturing advisors, Martin Hyman. Martin worked with Alex and Lorraine to develop and increase their range of products. They received a manufacturing grant to support the move from being homemade to the status and quality of ‘retail ready’.
The support from the Hub has had an immediate effect, with production capacity increasing by around 400%.
Africa Al’s is fast establishing an excellent reputation and has been in discussions with a well-known supermarket chain.
The business has created two full-time job positions, all thanks to the increased revenue made possible through the higher production capacity funded, following the couple’s interaction with GC Business Growth Hub’s Access to Finance team
"Our products bring premium West African food that is accessible to the wider public palate, to the general retail Marketplace. To our knowledge, no one else serves this niche of the market.
As a result of the support provided we have now started production and are now at the pre-launch stage for our Paste for Jollof Rice, which is a New to Firm/New to Market Product.
The support we have received from the GC Business Growth Hub has enabled us to move towards our growth objectives/aspirations."
Geoff Clowes an A2F Advisor at the Business Growth Hub said;
“I was delighted to have been able to support Alex and Lorraine with their exciting new business venture. Their sauces and dips are delicious and speak for themselves and so my task was to work with the client to convince funders that with the right financial support this business was scalable. Suitable introductions to positive funders then produced the successful funding outcome. I look forward to seeing their products in the supermarkets in the not too distant future”