Serial entrepreneur Siraj Bah, 21, in Freetown is running his poultry business at a loss but he is still in business.
When the coronavirus pandemic hit, Bah was in the US away from Sierra Leone. Bah was hit twice when government officials implemented travel restrictions and stay at home measures–effectively shutting down non-essential activities. He couldn’t come back home when the borders closed and he lost his clients. The worst affected of his companies was the poultry farm.
“Our major customers are hotels and restaurants,” he says. “We’re not making money at the moment.”
Bah has already shut down his paper bag production as well as coconut charcoal briquette operations which won him a $15,000 award in 2018 from the Anzisha Prize. The poultry farm which is still going on is gravely at risk.
“We’re having problems with raw materials like feed and medication,” says Bah.
“A bag of corn before the pandemic was 250,000 leones and now it costs around 350,000. The prices of raw materials are high and our running costs are up but our selling price is still the same. We projected to make $25,000 to $30,000 net revenue this year but we have not been able to make more than $10,000.”
Three years ago Bah sold pure water plastic sachets on the streets. After seeing the amount of plastic waste from factories he was inspired to venture into making paper bags with an initial investment of just $20. Since then, he continues to grow various businesses.
“I started Ragsul Paper Bags. Later, we went into briquettes. We also did vegetable farming but we went into a great loss,” says Bah.
“In 2019 we started with poultry farming with 1,000 layers and today we have 3,000 layers.”
Bah believes that entrepreneurship is more than just a quest for profit.
”Every entrepreneur will face a bad time. Everyone is facing a bad time, even the big companies. Making money is a process. You have to be persistent, hardworking, and work harder.”
Bah is the Total Startup 2019 winner and the Turkey Social Entrepreneur Awardee for 2019.