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Agricorp Raises $17.5M To Export Spices From Nigeria and Empower Farmers

Agricorp International is a spice producing, processing, and exporting company. Founded in 2018, the Nigeria based startup is on a mission to satisfy a growing global demand for spices.

Although Nigeria is the second largest producer of ginger in the world, it only accounts for  3.5% of the export market share due to capacity constraints and consistency.

Through our engagements with local community members and farmers, Agricorp has created direct jobs for over 100 women and aggregated products from over 4,000 smallholder farmers and is currently on track to aggregate from over 10,000.

Agricorp recently announced a $17.5 million ( 7.2 billion naira) investment that will enable it to increase the amount of ginger and other spices processed and exported to the Middle East, Europe, and America. The investment also secures Agricorp’s position as Africa’s largest spice export startup.

The funding was raised from Vami Nigeria, One Capital LLC and AFEX. Vami led the funding round with $11.5 million in equity, while the other investors provided working capital financing for the company. Ernst & Young (Nigeria) served as transaction advisers while Elisio Law Office and Pavestone Legal served as legal advisers.

“We believe that by increasing our capacity, we will maximize the potentials to boost Nigeria’s forex earnings through export, contribute our quota to improving the Nigerian GDP from agriculture, and serve as a worthy model to African youths who aspire to be agribusiness owners. We want to show them it is possible and very rewarding as well” said Kenneth Obiajulu, Agricorp’s CEO.

Tony O. Lawson

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Sister Scientist: Helping Entrepreneurs Create & Develop Beauty Brands

Most Black entrepreneurs in the Beauty industry are involved in the retail part of the supply chain.

Because it’s important that we also manufacture and sell wholesale, I wanted to speak with Erica Douglas, aka Sister Scientist.

Not only is Erica a cosmetic chemist, but she is also the co-founder of mSEED Group, a team of specialists that offer services that are vital to the successful launch and strategic growth of brands in the beauty, cosmetics, and personal care space.

SB: I’m pretty sure that most scientists aren’t entrepreneurs. What inspired you to turn your interest in science and chemistry into a business?

ED: The inspiration came from recognizing a need. Over the last 5 – 10 years, there has been an unprecedented number of new businesses and brands entering the beauty and personal grooming space.

Although the number of brands have exponentially grown, the number of manufacturers servicing these brands has not. Specifically, manufacturers with the ability to provide full-service options to budding entrepreneurs that are just getting started or growing rapidly.

New brands require specialized expertise and professional support even when it comes to office operations for example Hosted Telephony. My team and I have the experience, knowledge and network to help these ideas come to life.

I became an entrepreneur to support other entrepreneurs. I try to help entrepreneurs succeed, just like accountants try to take care of businesses financial affairs in order to help them focus their energy on what they are passionate about. In fact, LA’s best certified public accountants are well respected for their track record with numerous businesses including black and women entrepreneurs who are driving the growth in the beauty category.

SB: Most Black businesses in the beauty industry focus on the retail phase of the supply chain. What made you decide to focus offer manufacturing services?

ED: The landscape of the beauty industry is changing rapidly and I believe that the future of innovation in this space more so lies in the fate of the entrepreneur.

I have encountered so many people with great ideas who didn’t have the right resources or access to get started.

This especially applies to minority and women entrepreneurs. People would come to me for help and all I could do was point them in the right direction, which often wasn’t enough.

A number of companies don’t want to work with the “small guy” because their infrastructure is built to support large volume orders.

It dawned on me that if I wanted there to be a change in how beauty startups were serviced, then I had to create the change.

SB: One of the services you offer is Private Label manufacturing. Can you explain what private label means?

ED: Private label manufacturing is when a retailing brand outsources the product development and production of their brand’s products to a third-party manufacturer as a paid service.

Brands come to us (mSEED group) with an idea and with their input, we develop it, design it, bottle it, and then sell it to them as a finished product with their branding, that they then sell into a retailer or direct-to-consumer.

SB: What industry relationships have you built that would benefit an entrepreneur that chooses to use your consulting service for retail placement?

ED: Between my team and I, we have served in roles on all sides of the beauty business. Along the way, we have had the opportunity to work for or rub elbows with some very successful, powerful, and influential people in the beauty space.

We maintain solid relationships with brokers, distributors, category buyers, suppliers, etc. They often refer some of their clients to us because we have experience building brands in mass retail and know what it takes for a brand to succeed at the shelf.

When a client under the mSEED umbrella is looking to take things to the next level we don’t just make the introductions to decision-makers in the industry, but we make sure the client is prepared and polished so that she has all the right answers before anybody even asks.

SB: On your YouTube channel you have a Fact or Crap segment. What are some of the most popular beliefs about natural hair and hair products that aren’t necessarily true?

ED: There are so many! The myth that irritates me the most is about silicones…silicones have gotten a bad rep in the natural hair community, but when used properly in formulations, silicones can be one of the most effective lines of defense for breakage, moisture retention, and heat damage.

SB: What is the biggest challenges you face as an entrepreneur?

ED: I have so many challenges day-to-day, but most of those challenges fall under one category which is balancing and managing growth.

This is why I’m up at all hours of the night…for 10 hours out of the day I am reacting to time-sensitive matters of the day, and for the other 10 hours, I am trying to find ways to implement smart and efficient solutions that ensure scalability.

The other 4 hours of the day are usually a blur or I have blacked out. 😉

SB: What is the most fulfilling part of what you do?

ED: I love helping people fulfill their dreams and live in their passion. Seeing the look on somebody’s face when they see their vision come to life for the first time and get that first sale is priceless. I will never get tired of seeing that look.

SB: What advice do you have for entrepreneurs that want to start a beauty or personal care brand?

ED: The space is very saturated right now, so if you’re going to come with it, you need to have a compelling story and brand identity that entices consumer loyalty and products that live up to their claims. Also, building the proper foundation is key.

Just don’t wait too late to get serious. It’s better to fail fast and pivot, otherwise you can stay on the wrong path for a long time.

SB: Where do you see your business in 5 years?

ED: I want mSEED group to be a valuable part of a thriving ecosystem of minority and women-owned businesses. mSEED group is a beauty entrepreneur’s one-stop-shop to success and we would like to see that grow into a supportive community of entrepreneurs celebrating one another’s successes.


-Tony O. Lawson

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What Africa Needs: Trade Not Aid


“Trade Not Aid” is a popular phrase used by proponents of the idea that instead of giving ‘free money’ to Africa to fight poverty and hunger, donors should support job and business creation through foreign direct investment. Don’t get me wrong, not all aid is bad. I am not referring to emergency aid given in situations like a natural disaster.

Nor am I referring to donations given to help a child go to school or clothe an orphan. My sister actually runs an NGO, Change A Life Africa ( whose focus is providing disadvantaged children with a quality education. While some NGOS are also guilty of exploitation themselves, I have seen the difference such organizations can make and applaud and support their efforts.


The type  of aid I am referring to is government to government aid. It’s time we recognize that this type of assistance is not only the least effective in terms of poverty reduction but is also destructive. It is stunting the growth of an African middle class that is needed to spur economic growth. Zambian-born economist and author of the best seller, Dead Aid, Damiso Moyo states that “Over the past 60 years at least $1 trillion of development-related aid has been transferred from rich countries to Africa.

Yet, real per-capita income today is lower than it was in the 1970s, and more than 50% of the population live on less than a dollar a day, a figure that has nearly doubled in two decades.”  If this economic development model is CLEARLY not working, why is it still being imposed? Why is it being used in Africa only?

China moved 300 million people out of poverty in 30 yrs. India has approximately 300 million people in its middle class. They did not achieve this by relying on aid to the extent that the entire continent of Africa does today and has for the past half century plus.


A serious issue is that African governments are now relying on this aid  as a source of income like a welfare recipient waiting on their monthly check, instead of looking for alternative means of revenue generation. Some say that aid promotes government corruption because the funds are just moved to private accounts abroad.

I’m certain that this happens a lot of the time. However, that is not the only issue. Even where there is no corruption involved, you have a situation where African governments are relying on western countries to provide their people with goods and services that they should be providing e.g. education, healthcare, infrastructure etc.

Who will respect a leader that does not care for his own people? That’s partially the reason why many African ‘leaders’ get zero respect in the global community. They are perceived as beggars. They are sitting on priceless natural resources that can be traded, begging for money from countries that are in actuality, broke themselves. But I digress…

Another issue is that aid does not create a meaningful amount of jobs or opportunities to start and grow a business in Africa. Aid also comes in the form of goods donated. Why not invest in local producers of these goods or invest in a manufacturing plant to produce the goods that are currently being shipped to Africa?

This is a sure way to spur job creation and invest in a local business instead of flooding the market of charity goods that will put local producers out of business. There is no way to reduce poverty if there are no jobs or means for individuals to pursue entrepreneurial endeavors as a means to increase their income and start to create wealth for themselves.

Therefore, if there is no middle class to drive the economy you are left with a situation similar to that in Nigeria where there exists the extremely wealthy and extremely poor with a few middle class citizens sprinkled in the middle. I’m sure you can see how this would also lead increased crime, whether it’s the latest 419 scheme or good old fashioned armed robbery.


The good news is that in recent years due to the slowed economic growth in Western countries, the amount given in aid is now gradually reducing. Now, more than ever, the focus has turned to Africa, not just as a poor desperate continent in need of help, but as a place where Western and Eastern countries need to do business in order to not only stay competitive in the global marketplace, but to survive.

This in addition to business friendly policies that have been implemented in several African countries  have led to economic growth in different regions of the continent over the last few years.

Trade Not Aid

The aforementioned to me is proof that we do not need handouts. What we do need, however, is to be taken seriously as players in the global trade market. We have the resources, we have the talent and we have the potential. What we need to do now is phase out aid and increase the amount of trade deals and investments that help move the Continent in the right direction.

– Tony Oluwatoyin Lawson