Vera White: From Kitchen to Agripreneurship

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Maya Enterprise's CEO, Vera White at her production site on Peace Island

In her early teens, she spent most of her time with her elderly relatives in the kitchen spicing up foods that would eventually prepare her for the next big thing to come in her life.

That is the story of Maya Enterprise’s CEO Vera White early life. Ms. White owns a startup that is currently mixing local spices to produce tasty products that include ginger chips, coconut chips, seasoned bony fish powder, seasoned benne seeds (Sesamum indicum) powder and other edible organic powders.

The big moment for the young female entrepreneur came 2016, when she raised seed capital, a little over L$2000, to run her startup that is now supplying Maya Enterprise’s Products to expats and leading supermarkets, including Era, Monoprix, and Falama Organic Food Mini-mart.

“I started this business with L$2000, and the money was part of what I used to earn as a hired registrar at the University of Liberia (UL). Then, I was working as a student’s registrar,” said White.

Unlike most of her young peers that are taking jobs just to sustain themselves in an economic harsh environment of present-day Liberia, Ms. White informed this newspaper that it has been all about Liberia’s agricultural products and connecting with the kitchen and recipes that she once experimented.

“I grew up in the kitchen, and from there I reached a point where I never wanted the things I have learned by experimenting to go in vain, while pursuing higher education. That was how I started producing my products in a small quantity, and today am supplying other businesses,” Ms. White told the Daily Observer.

On a weekly basis, the Maya Enterprise, produces about hundred jars a total of all of its products. However, the company currently struggles to meet the increasing demands from the market, a challenge that Ms. White attributed to low technology.

Maya Enterprise’s Organic ginger and garlic

The young company produces its products through manual processes that include sorting, sun-drying, grating, pounding, and hand packing of the products.

“Our style of production is labor intensive at the moment, but with modern kitchen equipment, we can produce more, because there is already a market for our products, even though it will take us little longer to raise that amount of money to get some modern products that will increase our production,” Ms. White said.

Maya Enterprise’s seasoned Bony Fish Powder

Like other agribusinesses, Ms. White said that getting packaging materials to include pouches has been difficult for the Maya Enterprise. She said that her business is currently not in the position to import packaging materials that are only sold in huge quantity. As such, the young business uses recycled bottles to package its products.

Amid the challenges, Ms. White remains optimistic that Liberian youth have ideas that can advance the country’s economy, but said that government should avail favorable investment climate to harvest from the vision, ingenuity and resourcefulness of young Liberians.

“Another thing that came strongly to me is the lack of Liberian products [Made in Liberia] on our local market. We have so many products imported, although we have the idea to produce the same thing; however, the lack of supporting power has been the issue. If this is addressed, we can do a lot for mama Liberia,” Vera White assured.

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