Basia & Amie
Basia & Amie’s story
By Cath Harris
With a keen interest in sustainability, a desire to visit West Africa and a passion for helping other people, Basia was drawn to the Pilot Programme in November 2018 with a desire to give-back and make change. From her written application it was evident that Basia had an incredible warmth about her – she is the definition of ‘heart-led’. It was only right that she be paired with Amie (also known as the peanut butter lady) two vibrant women with complementary high energy and huge ambition.
Amie’s business is making beautifully smooth, organic peanut butter. (Side note: The peanuts or ground nuts from the Gambia are the best I have ever tasted!) They first are roasted and then taken to a grinding machine where Amie will clean the machine first before making her pure peanut butter. There are only two peanut butter grinding machines in the whole of the Gambia and whilst peanut butter is a ‘must-have’ consumer product, the demand for sellers to use the grinding machines is quite high so often she will have to queue. There is a Gambian wives tale that says you need to place a grain of sand into the grinding machine to make it work more effectively, but Amie says this is nonsense and makes sure to clean the machine before each use.
A humanist at heart, Basia’s interest in the programme stems from her desire to both empower women and encourage economic growth in African countries. It struck her that this programme is first about seeking to understand and then using skills and knowledge to help others. Ahead of meeting the Gambian women, Basia had compiled a research document about peanut butter brands, markets and ideas for packaging. She was keen to showcase inspiration to her partner about how peanut butter is sold and consumed in other global markets.
After spending the initial day together, Basis was getting a better idea of what she might be able to help Amie with. There were three key areas: firstly, time management and streamlining operations, secondly diversifying the market and products, and finally seeking investment for a new peanut butter processing machine. Amie’s dream is to ‘become the face of peanut butter’ and to sell internationally in supermarkets.
Amie uses white plastic containers with lids at around 500g per unit, printing address labels and hand-delivering each pot to each customer as and when they request a tub. This process was great for Amie’s brand because she could get to know her customers and has a personal, trusted relationship with each of them. However, it was time consuming and a stretch of her resources.
When looking at the finances for Amie’s business, the pair worked out that with all production overheads and delivery processes that each item was only making her about 10 Dalasis (around 15p) per pot. Amie instantly knew that the maths was not going to lead to a sustainable business model in the long run and exclaimed that she needed to put her prices up! The pair also decided to look into a more sustainable packaging, glass rather than plastic which although harder to get hold of is more widely recyclable. Using her family connections, Amie was able to track down a wholeseller in nearing Senegal and purchased smaller glass jars with metal lids. The best part about having smaller glass pots was that now Amie was able to sell to tourists who could take the jars home as gifts. So she collaborated with another of our Gambian participants and purchased some wax print off-cuts to create colourful covers for the jar lids! Ida, our host in Gambia, requested some of these pots to sell in her gift shop!
Another idea Basia and Amie came up with was to create larger, catering sized tubs for sale into local restaurants. There is a delicious Gambian dish called Domoda that uses peanut butter as the base for the stew. Many restaurants and hotels around the coastal area of Gambia would go through decent quantities of peanut butter each week and so this felt like a great opportunity for Amie to fill larger containers and sell into the various kitchens.
Basia and the other British participants noticed that in some of the local gift shops there were roasted peanuts for sale. Something that would be very simple for Amie to implement as and additional product line for both tourists and her existing customers.
The pair spotted an opportunity for Amie to commission her own processing machine. With only two machines in the country, Amie has to travel and pay for each use of someone elses machine. If she had her own, it would mean she would create another income stream by having other local people use her machine for a small fee. Amie is seeking investment for her processing machine and has worked out that with the extra income it will take her just 6 months to pay back a loan.
Basia and Amie continue to chat regularly on WhatsApp and hope to get together again in the future.
Quote from Amie
Before I thought I was a businesswoman but now I know I am a businesswoman! I have a better knowledge of handling my business like how to spend and save. I know how to manage my business by separating cost from benefits and I have good ideas for the future.