Mentoring, support essential for startups to thrive - Tilly’s farm CEO

BY: Samuel Doe Ablordeppey & Dotsey Kobla Aklorbortu
Some of the pigs in a sty
Some of the pigs in a sty

An agricultural processing startup, Tilly’s Farm, has called for structured mentorship and support to enable young entrepreneurs to develop successful businesses.

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Tilly’s Farm, Mr Maxwell Hammond, said the agricultural sector was ripe for innovation by new and agile businesses, adding that startups in the sector had the potential to drive productivity and reduce unemployment, but needed help to succeed.

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Mr Hammond participated in the Kosmos Innovation Centre (KIC) Business Booster Programme. The programme guides small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to overcome barriers to growth through a range of business development support, from mentorship to introduction of potential investors and wealth advisors.

Speaking to a section of the media after the Booster programme, Mr Hammond urged policymakers to assess further support that could be put in place to help livestock farmers to grow.


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Pork products

Tilly’s Farm produces pork products from ethically raised pigs. It has its own farm but also sources pigs for processing from a network of smallholder farmers.
The company assists the smallholders with technical support to improve the quality of their livestock.

Tilly’s’ products are sold through a special purpose retail outlet at Osu, Accra. They include a variety of pork cuts; chops, thigh, ribs, trotters (nane), and fresh pork sausages.

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Its signature, Kpakposhito pork sausages as well as smoked pork, are also available at the shop.

The farm also sells directly to some hotels, restaurants and commercial caterers. It also provides onsite and offsite barbeque services for corporate and private events, with its hog roast being popular among its clientele.

Tilly’s currently has a farm near Somanya in the Yilo-Manya Krobo area in the Eastern Region.

Agricultural sector

Mr Hammond and his team believe that the Kosmos Innovation Centre should be supported by the Ministry of Agriculture to reach out to other livestock farmers.
That, he said, would create a shared body of knowledge to help in the development of the livestock industry in the country.

“As a company working in agricultural processing, I think policymakers should broaden their focus beyond cocoa and support areas such as the livestock sub-sector,” he said.

He said he was happy about the recent declaration of intention by the government to help grow the livestock sector, especially in rural areas: “hopefully such moves are not going to be beneficial to only the poultry industry but other areas as well.”

He added: “The truth is that every country interested in profitable livestock production should have good cereal production as well in order to adequately feed the livestock. At Tilly’s, we don’t feed our pigs with any artificial enzymes or hormones; we only depend on cereal grains and agro by-products,” he said.

Planting for Food & Jobs

Mr Hammond said the “Planting for Food and Jobs” initiative could have been an opportunity to grow the livestock industry as an off-taker for crops.
“If the country can produce more maize and other cereals to service the livestock industry, we will be able to grow the industry, and with less reliance on imports.

“But to achieve this ideal, companies working in the sector need to have similar approaches to sustainability and business growth. That is why initiatives providing business mentoring and support, such as the KIC, are so important to the agricultural sector in Ghana,” he said.

The Business Booster & impact

Mr Hammond relished his participation in the KIC Booster Programme, saying it had been of immense help to the company as a startup. “We met several people and investors who are interested in what Tilly’s does. We have created a network of entrepreneurs working in the sector, which would not have happened if not for the KIC.”

He said opportunities such as the KIC were very rare: “The entire programme was just a shopping list of all the things a startup needs. The interaction was great as well as gaining access to people with practical experience in the industry.”

Most importantly, Tilly’s intends to share the knowledge it acquired through the boot-camp with its network of smallholder farmers to support the wider business community.

Recommendations

Mr Hammond said one of the areas that needed attention was funding for small businesses. Participants in the KIC programme are now keen on expanding their operations.

“We need to be able to access a fund with affordable interest rates to speed our growth and expansion,” he observed.