Young Entrepreneurs are Building a Food-Secure Future in Benin
In Benin, TechnoServe is working to provide young entrepreneurs with the skills they need to build prosperous and food-secure communities.
Angèle Tawari is a 30-year-old entrepreneur in Natitingou, a small city in northwest Benin. She is the founder and director of Angel’s Floor, an agrifood business that processes and sells local resources such as fonio, baobab, and their by-products. But for six years, she struggled to run a profitable business. “I didn’t keep track of my business revenue,” she explains. “I also didn’t track my expenses, nor did I know how to approach new market opportunities or create a business network.”
Then in 2018, she joined TechnoServe’s BeniBiz program – a partnership between the BOP Innovation Center, the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Trade and Development, and the Swiss Development Cooperation (SDC). BeniBiz is a business accelerator that aims to provide entrepreneurs with the skills they need to build prosperous and food-secure communities. The program will support 2,500 young entrepreneurs, 750 small and medium enterprises, and 150 nutrition agents over five years.
Unemployment was never an option for me. I chose entrepreneurship because I always had a strong need to feel useful and independent.”
– Angèle Tawari, BeniBiz participant
The program is taking a unique approach to solving two of the biggest challenges Benin’s people face. Almost 10% of the country’s population lacks sufficient access to affordable and nutritious food, resulting in high rates of malnutrition. At the same time, many young people struggle to find good jobs, contributing to a cycle of generational poverty. A stronger business sector has significant potential to deliver better economic opportunities and improved nutrition in Benin.
Angèle knew she wanted to be an entrepreneur from a young age. She grew up watching her mother process and sell local raw materials, and saw how profitable the business could be. Angèle’s mother was able to send her to school to get an education using the income from her business. “Unemployment was never an option for me. I chose entrepreneurship because I always had a strong need to feel useful and independent,” Angèle says. “I want to make my own choices and leave a lasting legacy thanks to concrete and remarkable actions.”
At Angel’s Floor, Angèle exudes determination and self-confidence. She diligently leads her employees while also getting her hands dirty working side by side with them. When she started her business in 2012, she had only $34 in working capital and one temporary employee. She now has a team of 11 people.
I want to become a source of employment for the youth and the women of my region.”
– Angèle Tawari, BeniBiz participant
“BeniBiz has helped me in so many ways,” Angèle says with a smile. “The group training and individual coaching taught me to better manage my staff, to pay them a fair salary, and to give them bonuses and incentives at the end of the month. I have also improved the quality of my existing products and developed new ones that have seen great success and that I would have never thought of before.” Through the training, Angèle learned to enforce strict hygiene standards for her employees and reward them if they respect the set work hours. Inspired by the training, she also decided to hold a staff meeting each Monday at 10 a.m. to share everyone’s plan for the week and to discuss growth opportunities.
Since joining BeniBiz, Angèle has quadrupled her monthly sales, and now aims to expand her business, as well as train and recruit new staff. She dreams of eventually selling her products on the international market. “I want to become a source of employment for the youth and the women of my region,” she shares with pride.
There is something else that Angèle has learned through BeniBiz: the importance of separating work from family life. She is now able to plan her activities more efficiently, which allows her to finish work at reasonable hours and go back home to her husband. She is also more responsible financially, she says, paying herself a set salary so that she knows what she can spend to contribute to the household. Her husband, who has a business of his own, is also actively involved in Angèle’s company and supports her in the decision-making process.
“We sit down together twice a week and share our fears, difficulties, doubts, and achievements related to our own business activities and also to our family life,” she says. “It’s easy to forget the importance of spending time together as a family. My husband and I try to keep being the people we were when we first met, and develop the qualities that we love in order to have the happy family we long for. BeniBiz helped me remember all of this.”
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