Mabel is a woman entrepreneur from Ghana, founder and CEO of Acquatic World Industries Ltd, a Ghanaian enterprise that deals with the production, processing and sale of fresh Tilapia and cat fish.

She attended the 1st edition of the Global MBA in Impact Entrepreneurship at Catholic Institute of Business and Technology in Accra and saw great improvements in her activity.

“I picked enrolment forms from most of the universities in the country but did not find what I was looking for until I saw the E4Impact advert in the dailies. I was attracted by the great emphasis placed on gaining entrepreneurial skills and not only on academic skills, as well as the flexibility of the course structure. I had a tough time with my first degree where I had to attend evening lectures, combining work with motherhood!” she told us.

Now her business enables lots of women in her community to access a job with flexible term and acquire important skills. But let’s go deep in the Acquatic World to know more.

1. How was your Business Idea born?

In the course of my duty as a Relationship Manager at Universal Merchant Bank, I went on a site visit to a fish farm of one of my customers and got interested in the production of farmed tilapia. I was intrigued by the statistics my further research into the industry revealed. The demand for tilapia far outstripped its supply by about 50%. There existed a huge opportunity for business along the entire value chain of fish farming. This gave my desire to get involved in the fish farming industry a financial accent and thus my decision to opt for fish farming over the importation of Avon Products.

2. How can your business improve the life of the beneficiaries of your activities? Can you give us an example of this improvement?

The farm employs 6 permanent staff, but at harvest time, 10 to 15 casual hands and 50 casual women are engaged. The women benefit by making money to support the household and thanks to flexible working terms they can have their children or attend school. Some women are also introduced to the processing of fish. Set skills required for this endeavour are taught to interested women to ensure that the farm does not fall short of experienced hands in the drying (smoking) and salting of the fissh. The women also make additional income from the by-products from de-gutting the fish. The fish waste in converted into cooking oil and this sale enhances the earnings of the women on the whole. Sale and distribution are mainly done by women both at the farm gate and at the markets.

3.What has been the main challenge you had to overcome in your entrepreneurial experience? 

Basically two:

  • Pricing: Farm gate sales are dictated by the buyers and are not negotiable and not favourable most of the time to the farmers.  To overcome this we have started our own retail channel and distribute directly to the households and other final consumers.
  • Feed cost: Feed for the tilapia takes about 70% of the total cost.  This makes production very expensive. With the difficulty in accessing funds for the agriculture sector, tilapia farming becomes a very expensive venture even though the return on investment is high.  To reduce our production cost and also to get adequate funds to run the business, the company has also ventured into the production of cat fish which requires less funds to operate and has very high returns (about 80% returns).  Additional, the company cultivates vegetables, the proceeds are used to supplement working capital requirements.

4. In your opinion, what are the main qualities an entrepreneur should have?

I think an entrepreneur should be passionate about his/her business idea and be a risk taker. He/she should be able to create worth in an innovative way and be disciplined, most of all in planning (both working capital and work process). Competitiveness, detemination and the ability to groom others to replicate and improve the idea are also fundamental.

5. Is there a person you are inspired by, i.e. an entrepreneur or a particular mentor?

Mr. Ahmed Jamal, the Director, Investment and Credit National Board for small and medium scale enterprise, who was our mentor for the Agric students at the Institute.  He encouraged me to start the business before the completion of the MBA course. The second one is Mr. Clement Boateng who introduced me to fish farming.

6. What would you suggest to a new-born entrepreneur?

Never to give up, there is always a way out of every situation. You have to go back to the drawing table and re-plan everything. 

7. Could you tell us a particular satisfactory moment you had in your entrepreneurial activity?

The first harvest where everything turned out as expected, the growth of the fish from 5 grams to between 150 to 550 grams.

8. Could you tell us how the MBA has helped you and your business?

E4Impact MBA could be consideres an educational innovation that makes one an entrepreneur.  The first benefit is having a business idea as a condition to your admission in the Institute and working with it through out the duration of the course. The Business model canvas was very helpful giving a summary of all activities for the business on one sheet, but I’ve also appreciated the relevance of the course materials and services: Business model canvas, mentoring, motivational speeches, pitching… As mentioned earlier, it was during one of the mentoring session that I was encouraged to start the business and this is something that has changed my life. I have applied what was learnt (for example “getting out of the building” to find out the actual situation and adapting some of the findings in the business) and it payed!

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