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She had to buy refrigerators for some retailers to be able to stock her products – CEO of Kitchen Hut Foods tells it all



Kitchen Hut Foods

Barbara Mantey, CEO of Kitchen Hut Foods, has come a long way with her business, which started as a conversation in a living room and an experiment in her kitchen space.

She walks us through her journey from the corporate world and how she veered into the food manufacturing industry, the gains, lessons and thrilling moments all on Q&A with William this week.

Tell me about yourself and how Kitchen Hut fully started?

A: My name is Barbara Mantey, a product of Saint Roses and the University of Ghana, Legon, where I studied Sociology and Economics. After school, I went into the corporate world, I did a bit of corporate banking, and also worked with the telecommunications sector. After a while, I was out of the corporate system. I did a bit of beauty before I went into food manufacturing in 2016 when I had my son.

How did Kitchen Hut really start?

A: In 2016 when I had my son, I happened to have moved to my mom’s place as a young mother to receive some care before I move back home. When I was ready to go back home with my husband, my mom said “If you want to go back early to your own home, then make sure you eat well”. Palm nut is one of the dishes you’re ascribed to eat as a breastfeeding mother. Making palm nut soup is so tedious and I didn’t like the taste of the ones on the market. So I decided to let my mom prepare it freshly for me, and store in the fridge till when I need it.  That’s how it started. The idea was to take away the stress people go through just to make one meal. We tried it also on a few friends at church and they all loved it.

When did the business fully start?

A: We had the discussion in 2016 and within a few months we had registered the business, Kitchen Hut Foods, and the following year, we decided to get our FDA certification. So within a year, Ez Palm-nut was on the market and sales began to move at a faster rate so it sort of encouraged us to do more, looking at the quality of product and feedback we got from people. Amazingly, people would take a picture, post it on social media, and tag me or give a review about it. So you preorder, pay, and have it delivered to you.

How difficult was it getting FDA’s certification?

A: Well, I’d say half and half. If you know what to do and you are really determined to do the right thing, you wouldn’t have any difficulties with the Ghana Standard Board and FDA.

At what point did you decide to fully take the business a notch higher?

A: For me, I always say that once I put my name on something it has to be good. So from the very onset taking it to friends at church, I was very critical about it. It is just some type of credibility that i always attach to anything that has my name on it.

How did you come by the name?

I woke up one morning and I said I think Kitchen Hut, will do. That is the name I’m going to use. I am really good at playing with words so I didn’t find any difficulty in getting the name.

What was the reaction like when you first made your product?

A: One of the things that have made this product very successful is that it’s from our raw material and we do not compromise on that. So the palm kennel that we source has to be fresh. So from the farmers straight to our production facility, which gives you a great taste and quality that will eventually give you that authentic Ghana, palm nut soup.

As a small business, where were you sourcing your products from when you started?

A: Initially, in the first few months it was in the market so I have a few ‘customers’ I regularly buy from but within a few months when the demand started growing, I had to start looking outside of the open market because they weren’t able to meet the demand.

How were you able to reach out to the farmers in order to meet demands?

A: If it must be done, it must be done well. I didn’t know anybody; we set out region by region based on recommendations looking at where they cultivate a lot of palm fruits. Even that in itself wasn’t easy but we had to, just because we wanted the best for ourselves and also our customers.

What kind of products do you have?

A: We have EZ Palmnut Extract, Ez Palm Oil, Mixed Spice, Suya Spice, BBQ Spice, Peanut butter, and Green chili sauce. Also, we have the Kelewele mix, Ginger paste, Crunchy Treats (Chin chin, Flour Chips, Coated peanuts & Roasted peanut) neatly packaged.

There’s a perception out there that made in Ghana products are of inferior quality. Is that the case?

A: That perception is totally false, I know that there are few people that have made this statement somewhat true because of some products on the market but currently, there are a lot of young entrepreneurs producing amazing made in Ghana products… from food to cosmetics to footwear… just name it and we’re meeting all standards. Except for those that are not certified, but if the Food and Drugs Authority certify you, you have no business going mess because there are regular checks that are done on you. I think it behooves the public to check if the product they’re buying is certified.

What inspires you to do what you do?

A: For me, I can’t do anything and just put out there. I don’t know what I’ll probably produce tomorrow but if I add on to my product line, it will still be of good quality and healthy.

How difficult or easy was it having your product penetrate the market as a startup?

A: It was quite difficult in the sense that when we wanted to look into the retail space, they will tell you there’s no storage for you. Yet this is a fresh product we were producing in every two (2) weeks. That was a challenge because there were actually certain places I had to buy my own freezers if the shop had space in order to have my product in there… so that’s how we started and now we’re in over 20 retail shops.

How important is packaging for your business?

A: Uuhh, the packaging is everything and for the customer, it is one of the things they would even look at before they buy the product. So great packaging is everything and for me, it has really helped my business but for startups, it is all about money… But on a whole, the 21st-century entrepreneurs have taken packaging and branding a notch higher than it used to be. And I’m proud to say that all across the world, Ghanaians have found a way to have EZ palm nut even if it is just once. From Dubai to Germany, Canada, the US, UK, Islands you name it. People have managed to find ways to travel with our products. It is surprising.

How do you react to the overwhelming comments about your products?

A: You sit back and think about it, how a conversation that started from the living room, experimenting in the kitchen, and knowing FDA wouldn’t certify you in your kitchen therefore you have to clear your backroom to make way for production.  To receive great reviews is encouraging. We’re always humbled by such reviews and comments because it is not easy but God has been faithful and also we on our side have tried our maximum best to give out the best of quality. So we are humbled when we hear such reviews.

How did pricing affect your business?

A: Pricing is everything but you have to narrow it down to who your customer is. Sometimes the difficulty is, can we serve everybody? You’d want to bring it at a point where the product is accessible to everybody based on prices but what really goes into it makes it simply impossible. But in all, we try to make it affordable for everybody.

How much did you need as capital to start your business?

A: In the beginning, we started with 10, 000 cedis. And everything was so manual and although at the end we sort of wanted to take away the stress from the consumer, it was tedious. So after a few months, we had to look out for a few types of equipment and it cost us a bit, which obviously caused our productivity level to increase a bit.

With all this money, was it from your own pocket?

A: Everything we have done up to this point is from our personal savings. As a parent, it has taken quite a toll on us because there are kids involved, schooling, maintenance feeding, and all that but one day at a time, and God has been faithful.

How many people did you start with?  

A: I started with my mom and my cousin but later when it was becoming tedious I brought in two more workers but because of their engagements, my mom and cousin had to leave to continue their activities so currently, we are 5 in all

Do you believe that opportunities do exist in Ghana?   

A: Many! Many opportunities do exist but I find that people want others to come to “their rescue” too quickly. Whatever the idea is, you need to start. I’m bursting with so many ideas but I need to take it one at a time and make sure our growth is steady. So there are a lot of opportunities here in Ghana, but if you don’t start, how then do you move forward? Obviously, the Government can’t do it all, so in the absence of the Government’s intervention, you try something. I believe there are millions of ideas but how do we see these ideas and make them profitable? That becomes the problem.

What advice would you give to young people looking forward to starting a business

A: Right, I can’t emphasize this enough, start. The idea is in your mind, the next person doesn’t know. Write it on paper. As time goes on you will cancel out a few of them and you will see that what is left is what you are really passionate about and would want to do. Put some form of professionalism on it and keep doing it, and once you keep on, you will be noticed.

With all that you do, where do these ideas come from, and how do you put them together to produce what you do?

A: Well I must say that I am a very creative person. I don’t know where it came from but I’m a very creative person. From sewing to hair, makeup artistry, you know, I’m a very creative person and I say that if you have your quiet time, have some time and listen to the voice of God. Usually, we’ll keep asking God for stuff meanwhile we barely wait for God to speak to us when we speak to him therefore end up getting little responses than we should. Spend time with God and he will drop ideas to you… All you have to do is to write them in your diary.

You are a mother, a wife, and a businesswoman. How do you strike a perfect balance for all these?

A: Well, I would say it’s not a perfect balance, but there’s balance. We try to do our best each day at a time. Take each day at a time. Although those around me will not agree that I take each day at a time… hahaha because my mind is constantly running. But my family and husband have been very supportive of all of this.

Q: What should every starter, or entrepreneur start-up to know?

A: I think you must always believe we can make it and can also fail but failure shouldn’t be the end. Keep trying and always make sure to better yourself. When you fail at an attempt, re-strategize, and make sure you learn from these mistakes. That is the only way to grow stronger. When the cash is not flowing as expected, it shouldn’t demoralize you. Just keep up and it will pay off.

Q: What have been your tactics in marketing your business.

A: Errm I think social media is very good yet quite tricky especially for a platform like Instagram. But generally, social media and word of mouth have been helpful.


Thank you so much.


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