Sierra Leone young entrepreneurs…they deserve to be known
Meet Alusine Petema Sheriff. CEO of Big things Company Limited which is a poultry Farm at Mange Road Mabanta Village Gbanti Chiefdom, Makeni, Bombali District. He is a vibrant hardworking young farmer. He has been a household name in the poultry business in Makeni and its environs for fresh, organic farm eggs for hotels, motels, restaurants, and households. We had a tete a tete discussion with him and we are excited to share that with you all.
Q. Big thing’s give readers a brief background about yourself.
A. I am from a very humble home. Both parents were teachers. I grew up in a rough and impoverish neighborhood know as “Portuguese town” constituency 126 wards 433. As a family, we struggled, as my parent’s meager salaries were never enough to care about us. My mother has to complement their salary by doing petty trading and that requires us to be selling for her just so to make ends meet. I had a nickname in secondary school and university because of my love for music. I was known then as “Don Co”. Upon entering the university I founded the music group INDIGENES with two of my talented friends. Indigenous was one of the best music group in the history of Sierra Leone. Then the music industry was dominated by dropout and been that we were all at the university we were able to change the narratives. Our songs top the chart for weeks leading to indigenes winning all the RnB awards in 2005/2006 music year. I graduated in 2007 Bachelor of Art. That same year the music business and industry lost its momentum and started a steady decline. Owing to poor management and industry pressure we could not hold it together so fall out, went our separate ways. Going solo was never easy, after three years of no record deal or shows I have to make up my mind to leave that dream of mine. So I immediately start looking for a job which was also not easy. So I had to take some IT courses before I was able to secure one as a promotion supervisor. Working for people for me was the best thing that happens to me as I got to learn a lot of things that I am using today to run my poultry. I had worked for two privately owned businesses and one NGO when I decided its time in 2014 to start my own business. So I resigned and then start the process of establishing Big things poultry.
Q. Why poultry in the first place?
A. I chose poultry after a series of prayer and fasting, this might sound cliche but I am a very prayerful person and the holy spirit dropped it in my heart. Sierra Leone has high infant mortality and malnutrition rates, diseases and low life expectancy; mainly due to low levels of protein in our diets. After a series of research, I realized that eggs are one of the most nutritious food in the world and the fact that they are cheap and affordable makes this industry more attractive to me. I thought if I go into this business I can produce large quantities of the egg from mainly organic feed components, it will go a long way in solving some of the aforementioned health-related issues most people encounter from not getting enough protein or from consumption of rotten frozen imported eggs.
Q. Why Makeni?
A. I chose Makeni because of the increasing economic activity in makeni at that time, the increase in the expatriate community around the Bombali district due to mining and other industrial activities. Malnutrition is also an issue in the district. In short, there was a massive market for eggs in makeni and its surroundings.
Q. Describe your leadership Skills and experience?
A. I started not knowing anything about poultry or the business aspect of it. I was just fueled by my passion, so by God’s grace, I was taught the principles of business the hard way by employing families and friends I almost lost everything before making the hard decision of letting them go and not mixing business with pleasure. I have also learned to at least get the basic knowledge of any business you want to enter into or invest in. I am a people’s person and a good listener so these are some of the skills that have helped me to this day.
Q. How long have you been in the poultry business?
A. I started in 2014 with relatively small savings and help from my parents. We had to purchase the land, clear and build the structures for the chicks, office, store, mill, procure feeders, drinkers, feed and a day old chicks.
Q. Did you get the support of your parents? As most times our parent wants us to be Lawyers, Doctors, or Accountants.
A. Sure! In the first place, the two teachers; my parents out of the little salaries were able to send me through school up to university. They were there for me through my music days and after college when I could not get a job. Even after securing a job they were not bothered about stressing me for money and that was how I was able to save so much to finance my startup, they still support me through prayers and advice. They are the best parents anyone could ask for and I love them.
Q. What your motivation or what keeps you going every day?
A.this entity was mainly established out of the twin desire to provide fresh farm eggs and affordable food for the people of the Nation and to create jobs for the youths of this country because I know first hands how it is to be jobless, so these are still my motivation for doing what I do.
Q. How are you able to get and feed the birds?
A. When we started, we got our first 4000-day old chicks locally from a Jah and IJ limited Company, but we also do get some from overseas companies. Drinkers we get from Guinea and feeders the rest of the drinkers were made locally. To feed the birds we really around farmers who are very supportive. We feed them maize, rice husk, and some seashells. Other components like concentrate and wheat bran we bought from suppliers in Freetown.
Q. How do you keep them healthy and protected from diseases and breakout?
A. Mortality in any farmhouse is inevitable. But notwithstanding it must not rise above certain levels. Any mortality above 2% within 2 days is a cause for concern. In order to reduce the risk of a high mortality rate, a strict vaccination schedule has been developed for the sub-region which, we follow to the letter. Vaccination usually starts from a day old at the hatchery and continued in the farmhouse, we treat them with vitamins in their feeds also. We have strict biosecurity measures to totally avert these outbreaks or minimize them as much as we can.
Q. What are some of your personal achievement?
A. I can proudly say through my business I have been able to further my studies. I have just completed my MBA Entrepreneurship Altis Business School, the Sacred Heart Catholic University of Milan and the University of Makeni. I won the 2017 entrepreneurship award organized by Africa and life by design. We also operate an out-grower scheme with a membership of over 100 poultry farmers in the surrounding communities and others within the northern regions. We have also brought electricity in the community making power accessible to hundreds of households. We have a total of 5.5 acres of land yet to be utilized. I am also the first in the country to run a poultry training course for youths. I have also established the big things entertainment multimedia and advertisement companies that aim at creating a platform for youth and local celebrities to develop and showcase their talents. Big things had also partnered with a young women empowerment group “awakening women/girls the only miss high school north which is personally funded. I have as part of my cooperate social responsibilities a fund that provides egg for children that are under the age of two within my community to fight against malnutrition. Big things poultry is also amongst the first top ten runners in the poultry industry for the year 2018 in Sierra Leone. I am the founder and chairman of the northern region pig and poultry farmers association, Sierra Leone. Finally, I have undergone a series of mentorship and business development and management training from NGO’s like Cordaid Sierra Leone, Adam Smith International SOBA Project, Pum Netherlands, Kepro, Hendrix Genetics e.t.c.
Q. What are your positive Moment or Success stories?
A. When I win awards like the youth entrepreneurship award. When I see my employees coming to work very early and happy and that we all can contribute to national developments. When Ministers and key stakeholders in the Ministry of Agriculture came to see my poultry. When I was asked to represent Sierra Leone in an Ecowas meeting and finally when I get to see every day what’s started in my mind as thought is alive and running that is, the “Big things poultry”.
Q. What are some of your challenges?
A. Increase in feed cost due to a yearly scarcity of main maize during the dry season. Which can effects cash flow and profit margins? Access to reliable suppliers of a day old chicks within the country and the subregion, 95% of poultry farmers get their chicks from holland at a high cost and inconvenient timing because of MOQ policies. Lack of appropriate machinery to conduct effective operation e.g. mixers. Another challenge is also the lack of trained and qualified veterinary personnel and outlets to procure medicines during the time of outbreaks.
Q. Where do you see Bigthings Poultry in the next five years?
A. To be the leading producer of fresh and affordable farm eggs in Sierra Leone, exporting the excesses to neighboring countries and beyond owing to the highly organic nature of our products.
Q. Advice to young people readers out there who are anticipating to go into the poultry business like you.
A. Poultry is a very profitable venture and according to statistics $40,000,000.00 is spent annually to import eggs into this country. Meaning for an even if we are able to only take care of the national demand that will be $ 40,000,000.00 in the pockets of Sierra Leoneans. But also just bear in mind that poultry is a capital intensive project so one must be ready not just financial, but mentally and physically ready. And must have some knowledge of how to run poultry. Lastly, talk to people who have been in the business for long, surf the web or better still take hands-on training on-site in a poultry farm, volunteer or enroll in any poultry training course. At Big things we offer full, half and basic training courses on poultry management for starters. You can reach us on the following; email at firstname.lastname@example.org, facebook@bigthings donor call us on +23278882777.
You don’t just sit there because there is no job. Take baby steps in building your dreams so you can be an employer like Alusine. Salone youth be like Alusine Petema Sheriff. There is no job available for the number of graduates leaving university every year. Take charge of your destinies and take charge of Sierra Leone to be self-motivated, go get what you want in life, you can do it just believe in yourself. I am talking to you reading this, yes you! You are in control take the wheels. #itssalonewayornoway# peace out.@dasalone_titi