Adenike Adekunle, Banicorp Foods

Meet Adenike Adekunle, the London-based social entrepreneur cooking up a storm with her social impact jollof rice.

In a nutshell:

  • Founder: Adenike Adekunle
  • Organisation: Banicorp Foods, based in Ealing, London, provides safe and nutritious boil-in-the-bag meals to support those living below the poverty line in Nigeria
  • Business model: Self-funded
  • SSE programme: Start Up Plus 2020
  • Supported by SSE in London

The beginning: Food and heritage

Adenike’s journey began with a well-known, staple Nigerian dish: jollof rice.

Three years ago, she was invited to work on a recipe and product after being praised for her take on the national dish. She worked with various product development kitchens and factories. She could’ve easily gone down the commercial route, which people advised, but that wasn’t in line with what she wanted.

Adenike reflects on her thoughts at the time: “There’s real scope for a product like this. I have to find a way to make sure that, not only am I creating a delicious recipe, but I’m also helping to promote better health and development.”

She started researching the Sustainable Development Goals, focussing on sustenance and malnutrition in Nigeria. “Being Nigerian, I understand the landscape.” This is when her nutritious boil-in-the-bag meals started to take shape.

But a lack of budget and proper financing, as well as losing her job in March 2020, proved challenging.

At a seminar about women in development, someone introduced her to the School for Social Entrepreneurs. Our Start Up Plus programme seemed like the right fit for Adenike. “It came at the right time.”

The programme: Shaping Banicorp

Adenike joined us (virtually) in June 2020. She got access to free learning sessions, inspiring speakers, a peer support network, and a £1,500 grant.

“Joining SSE raised my spirit at a time when I needed a boost, when I needed some sort of structure and something to look forward to.”

“It helped me to see the bigger picture. It gave me a community of like-minded people, and a set of resources that were never available to me before.”

Adenike learnt about the importance of balancing profit and purpose, ensuring that the two work in harmony. Alongside the SSE programme, she started working with a new factory and nutrition experts who helped to refine the boil-in-the-bag product to tackle hidden hunger.

“Hidden hunger is real. You’re full, but lacking vitamins and nutrients. So we infuse these into the product – naturally, without preservatives – to tackle locally prevalent deficiencies.”

Through our programme, Adenike connected with a  law firm offering pro bono support, specifically with a woman who had worked in Nigeria. Her contacts allowed Adenike to widen her network in Nigeria and find potential partners to distribute the product to those living under the poverty line.

“All the progress I’ve made wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t been introduced to SSE”

The future: Heading to Nigeria

Before that, her boil-in-the-bag meals need testing. For her pilot, Adenike plans to roll out the product in the north-eastern region of Nigeria.

“There’s a huge population of displaced people due to insurgency. There’s a displacement camp of 36,000 people that they’ve have built for themselves, which isn’t state-owned. 8,000 are under five years old, and over 70% are underweight.”

The three-month pilot will start in 2021 and will monitor and evaluate the impact of the meals on seven malnourished children. With her team, she’s also working on a short documentary, following these children. We can’t wait to see it!

Top tip for other social entrepreneurs:

“It’s one thing to have an amazing product, but it’s another thing to really understand the problem.”

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