In this interview, Happy Amos, Executive Director, shares her entrepreneurial journey and activities in the clean cookstoves sector.
Can you give us a brief introduction about your organization. What motivated you to start your organisation?
Roshan is an indigenous company that is involved in fabricating, distributing and retailing of clean cookstoves. We also conduct training in the clean cooking sector. We have sold thousands of clean cookstoves and trained artisans and micro entrepreneurs in clean cooking fabrication and retailing. Since our inception, we have sold thousands of clean cookstoves, grills, built improved bakery ovens and trained hundreds in clean cookstoves retailing and stove fabrication.
We believe in providing safer, affordable and environmentally friendly cooking solutions as we ultimately want to save lives, save money and save environment.
I have always wanted to start and run my own business and be an employer of labour. I also wanted a social business that adds value to people. After researching the internet, I came across clean cookstoves and it was a great moment for me – I can provide clean cooking solutions which will help people save money, health and environment. And I can make money for myself providing this solution! Nothing felt better for me, it was love at first sight and since then I never looked back despite all the challenges. What motivates me to keep going is that Happy Stoves is saving lives, resources, environment and empowering people.
What does your company seek to achieve in Nigeria’s cooking energy market?
Roshan wants to carve a niche for herself in the Nigerian market as an indigenous clean cookstoves manufacturer that uses 100% local content. Our stoves are manufactured in Nigeria by Nigerians, for Nigerians but meets international standards. We also ensure our stoves are readily available and visible in the market at an affordable price.
What are the opportunities in the business environment that have supported your business over the years?
The size of the Nigerian market is huge! This is a major opportunity as it gives me access to a large population who are potential buyers of Happy Stoves.
How are your customers reacting to your products in the market – benefits of using your product?
Our customers are impressed and satisfied with the performance of our clean cookstoves. The stoves are designed to save 50% to 60% of fuel, cook faster than traditional stoves and because it is smokeless it can be used indoors and our customers have verified all these claims. We get comments like “wow it does exactly what you said it will do” “it saves my money, I used to spend 300 Naira daily on fuel but since I started using Happy Stoves I now spend 75 Naira”. At this stage we have satisfied customers. But due to lack of awareness a lot of people are not aware of our wonderful Happy Stoves.
Job creation and the empowerment of women seem to be increasingly important. How has your organization helped to drive employment generation and the empowerment of women?
There is a huge opportunity for women empowerment in the clean cookstoves sector. Being a woman myself, it makes it easy to understand and support other women. Roshan has made it a matter of policy to have at least a woman on her payroll. Our staff strength is still small but we have a female employee and we hope that as we grow, we will be able to employ more women. However, 97% of our distributors are women and they make better sales agents for clean cookstoves than men. These women had no source of income but are now making money from the commissions earned on stove sales. More women can be empowered through the clean cookstoves value chain, from stove production to distribution and sales.
If you were asked to advise the Federal Government of Nigeria on policy options, what are the three most important things the government can do to expand the market?
I will advice the Federal Government of Nigeria to make funds more accessible and affordable for more women and men in the clean cookstove sector, help create awareness and make it a matter of policy for clean cookstoves not to be given freely except for humanitarian settings.
If an enabling environment is not created by government, what future risks do you envisage?
Being a small scale business, if the government does not provide an enabling environment for our business to thrive, we face the risk of running out of business which automatically means the number of unemployed people will increase.
Where do you envisage your organization to be in the next 5 years in terms of production?
In the next five years we see ourselves as a well established clean cookstoves manufacturer in Nigeria with increased market penetration, selling more stoves as well as introducing and up-scaling other cleaner cooking products.
What risk does your business face and what is your biggest challenge?
At this stage our biggest challenge is funding. If we have access to funding we will be able to upscale production and operate at our optimum. We are also faced with serious lack of awareness of clean cookstoves. We have a lot of people still asking what a clean cookstove is. And with the poor economic environment in Nigeria today, our sales are slowing down and thus we face the risk of bankruptcy with no access to funding to reach other markets.
What are your suggestions for moving the cooking energy market forward in Nigeria?
At this point I suggest in order for the clean cooking sector in Nigeria to thrive, there has to be conscious efforts made by the government to:
• Provide technical skills acquisition in the clean cookstoves sector to enable Nigerian stove manufacturers compete at an international level on stove standards.
• Create access to finance for existing and start up businesses in the clean cooking sector
• Create massive awareness on clean cooking solutions and make it a standard that every household must use clean cookstoves and ban the distribution of free stoves except in humanitarian settings.
• Strengthen the value chain in the clean cookstoves sector to help provide employment, reduce the huge waste from inefficient cooking that consumes large amount of fuel, and in so doing save the environment. Happy Stoves are clean, they saves lives, money and the environment.
Find out more about Happy in the video below
Video Credit: Heinrich Boll Stiftung Nigeria.