Felix Ikem, Nsukka
At a time many desperate young girls are doing unimaginable things, including selling their bodies to make money, a 300 level female student of Public Administration, of the Enugu State University of Science and Technology (ESUT), Agbani, is poised to make a difference.
Juliet Ozioko, 21, said she was pushed by the dwindling economy coupled with the urge to be self-reliant to start the business of preparing and selling Okpa; a popular snack in Igbo land, especially amongst the people of Enugu state.
The enterprise which she started only recently, according to Ozioko, is fast bringing her fame on campus, regardless that many of her classmates mocked her initially.
She told our correspondent that she wakes up early in the morning to start the cooking and by 7am she will be ready to go. Then, she would visit other occupants of a private hostel where she resides in Enugu to find out those would buy the product for breakfast, thereafter, she would take the remaining to the campus in Agbani.
At the campus, she sells to her departmental students before taking what is left to other departments to sell.
Ozioko who also makes a local drink called zobo said: “I started the business just to keep myself busy, get income and augment what I’m getting from my parents for my studies and upkeep.
“I left other businesses and focused on okpa because I am trying to promote one of the best foods Nsukka is widely known for and to promote the culture of my hometown. Mind you, okpa though taken as snacks is one of those foods when you eat it in the morning; it will sustain you for the whole day.”
The young lady disclosed that she makes in the average about N2000 every day from sales, indicating that her studies actually inhibit her desire to expand the trade.
Surprisingly, Ozioko said that she did not have any formal training in preparing the local food but got the skill while she watched her mother cook it overtime.
“I wasn’t trained; I’m just a normal girl who sits in the kitchen while mum cooks, so, my love for okpa made me learn it so fast from my mother,” she said.
Asked what is special about her okpa, she explained that it is tasty and natural because she does not just use any kind of palm oil, adding that she prepares it under very hygienic condition.
The enterprising student also talked about her plans to package the okpa in a special way that it could with time become a brand.
How do other students look at you on this business?
Some students do murmur things like, I don’t even know that she can do this kind of business and some funny comments, most of them do ask me, Juliet, so you’re now selling okpa and I will reply them, no I am selling suya… the good thing is that the business has kept me away from unnecessary distraction.
How do you combine it with your academics?
I do wake up very early in the morning to make the okpa, latest by 7am it will be ready, then I will take my bath, sell to my fellow students in the hostel and take the rest to school. It doesn’t affect my studies at all.
To what extent do you think you will go in this business?
Well, I can’t really say for now, but I know it’s not ending yet, by God’s grace we might have a factory where we produce okpa in large scale. Again, am targeting places like boarding schools and government institutions where I can get contract to supply the okpa, occasionally.
What are the challenges you face in the business?
During my first week in the business, some students were saying ‘your okpa is too big. You won’t make gain if you continue to size it like this’, but lately they were like, increase the size a bit, that alone is a big challenge because if you don’t serve them right, you might lose customers, and I don’t want to lose any of them. Sometimes, you might not sell as fast as you wished; if I notice that people in our department are not ready to eat okpa, I will have to take it to other departments to sell.
Do you have the capacity to supply large quantity say 1000 pieces, if you get an order?
Yes, and that will give me the opportunity to employ some hands and boost the business.
What is your advice to other students who depend solely on their parents/guardians for all their needs?
My advice for them is that nothing is too small to do; it depends on how you run your business. In whatever you do, always remember there are ups and downs, so you will have to be ready to endure, have patience, be determined, and keep being focused. I urge my fellow students who still depend on their parents for everything to start little business. It will really help them, and keep them away from many negative things. Don’t be shy in anything that earns you little money, be bold, proud and love what you do as long as it’s legitimate. God will lift you. Remember that an idle man is devil’s workshop.