This Start-up Is Adding Value to Local Spices

Patricia G. Sonah, a graduate in Biology from the University of Liberia

The PGS Enterprise is adding value to spices that are specially grown in Liberia. But before it all started, Patricia G. Sonah, a graduate in Biology from the University of Liberia had to think out ways to survive each day after her contract with the Ministry of Youth and Sports was terminated during the peak of the Coronavirus in Liberia.  

 “PGS started last year in October (2020). Before this venture, I worked with the Ministry of Youth and Sports on a contractual basis.  After the contract expired, I went hunting for jobs but I couldn’t get one. Things began to get difficult,” she narrated. 

The few months without a job brought Patricia back to her drawing board, and it was at that moment that the 29 year-old realized that a hobby could become a source of income. 

“I used to make a variety of products like seasoned pepper, seasoned bennyseeds, and bony powder for friends and relatives that live abroad. I stopped because of the job.  So I told myself, “Friends already love these things, why not try it again?” she said.  

In December, Patricia began concocting products from locally grown spices. Demand for her products quickly increased. But improving on feedback from the first few clients has been the key, Patricia said. 

“So I went back to making spices from local ingredients. I shared the first product with family and friends and I encouraged them to give me feedback. The first product was the mixed pepper spice. But we went on producing a range of different products based on the demand from our clients,” she said.

PGS Enterprise's weekly production range is 40 to 50 cups of heterogeneous products, and her brand has its presence among other locally made products at leading supermarkets around town.  Also, Patricia keeps diaspora Liberians connected to Liberia with her products.  “My oldest sister helps sell my products to the Liberian community in the United States.  I send her products quarterly.”

The Team Makes the Dream Work

With the complexity associated with food processing and marketing, Patricia leans on a team of seven to make the dream work. 

“I have four persons that help with the packaging aspect of our operation and three other persons who help with the delivery of orders that come in. Earlier, my brother and I were delivering orders. But now, we have incorporated others because of the increase in demand. These people are not full-time staff, but I compensate them at the end of the day.”

Patricia hopes to increase production by acquiring small-scale machines to reduce the cost of labour associated with grinding some of the spices into powder form.  

“I am working toward having a machine that can give me a fine-powder of some of the spices. The blenders that I am using are not that efficient because they were not built for such an operation.”

Patricia envisions that in four to five years, the start-up, birthed in her parents’ home, will have its own production site. 

“In the next four or five years, I would love to see us at our production station because we are currently working from my parents’ home. And it’s very challenging. So I am looking forward to us having a production station where we can produce all of our products and take them to the market, and someday venture into other areas.”