Dr John Osammor

For our first ever edition of ‘In Profile’ we caught up with Dr John Osammor , NPD director at Ardwick-based Odeiga House Limited, to talk about the challenges of bringing a niche product to market.

What’s the name of your business, and what does it do?

The business is Odeiga House Limited; a food and drinks company specialising in African and Caribbean food and drink.

We take traditional African kitchen concepts and convert them to commercial concepts.

Or in other words, we develop and market cooking sauces, marinades, dry spice blends, original smoothie drinks (a blend of pure fruit and dairy, not just fruit purees), fermented food products, ready meals and finger foods and accompaniments.

The sales and marketing of these products is carried out through three subsidiary companies – Delta Spices and Marinades Ltd., CEN Bottling Company Ltd. and Odeiga Foods Ltd.

How long has your business existed, and what inspired you to start it?

Odeiga House Ltd was incorporated in 1998. We discovered a niche in the market and decided to invest in the development of this segment of the food and drinks business.

We are convinced our style of cooking and use of spices has functional effects. In fact – we see our food as medicine!

Moreover, we believe developing this segment of the food and drinks business will make a difference by creating employment for members of our communities, both within and outside the UK. We are glad to say we can see this vision gradually unfolding.

Do you have a business or personal motto?

Our logo says we are the “Flavours of Africa”. One of our brands is “Naija cooking sauces – eat and enjoy”.

What’s the biggest challenge you faced when you set up the business?

Our biggest challenges are under capitalisation and access to market. We also battle with insufficient knowledge of the African cuisine in the wider British public, which affects and undermines our sales drive.

It has been tough convincing potential clients we have a winning product in the Odeiga House brand.

We also continue to battle for protection of intellectual property – large companies are beginning to see that we have a lot to offer the world in the area of food functionality.

And what’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned?

Believe in yourself. Know your subject. Be focussed. Work with professionals, but do not be naive!

In a dream scenario, where do you see you and your business in three years?

We believe Odeiga House will soon become a household brand nationally and internationally. We have so much to offer the world in food nutrition, food functionality and vegetarian and vegan food.

We have a compelling offer which appeals to various sectors of the food and drinks business, from retail and hospitality to travel, health and education. We just need the right access to market and some level of adequate funding.

What’s the best thing about being a business owner…and what’s the worst?

Business affords you the opportunity to live your dream and see your vision unfold. The worst thing is that in following your vision, you need wisdom, favour and God’s grace so that what you are trying to build does fail.

Are there any essential items you always have with you?

Yes; my wits, observation and the power to discern and analyse.

Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently in business?

Not definitely, but perhaps we could have come out with just one product and put all our effort into promoting that one product and creating a brand.

That said, I have no regrets. We are grateful for the privilege of being able to do what we have done and continue to do. It feels good to make a difference and to give.

And finally, if there’s one piece of advice you could give to your 18-year-old self, what would it be?

My advice would be – get to know yourself well, know your subject well, be focussed, get wisdom in and understanding of your area of endeavour and develop the necessary, useful, network of people.

That said, as pioneers in the African and Caribbean food and drinks business, we have had to pay the price of being that pioneer – and I doubt if there is a short cut to success!

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