Since graduating from university in 1984, Isaac Bohulu had been a pharmacist in Accra, Ghana including six years spent at Hoffmann-La Roche, the Swiss-based international pharmaceutical company. But he always was an entrepreneur at heart, especially after gaining his Masters’ Degree in Business Administration (MBA) with a marketing focus.
Believe Begin Become Business Plan Competition Kickstarts Natural Scientific Pharmaceuticals Company
In 2006 he learned about TechnoServe’s Believe Begin Become (BBB) Business Plan Competition in Ghana. He had already planned to start his own natural medicine business so his goals then became to win some money to jump start the new idea as well as receive some practical training. Isaac was a top 20 finalist, receiving $15,000 cash and $10,000 in services to start testing Neemfresh, an herbal mouthwash using extracts of leaves (and other parts) from a large Neem tree in his backyard!
Though most of the [Believe Begin Become] training theories were not new to me,” Isaac states, “now I am implementing better business practices, such as separately tracking business vs. personal expenses. Besides the prizes, there were many other
useful aspects: learning the importance of networking; maintaining key relationships; exchanging new ideas; exposure to different expertise; and problem solving. I especially enjoyed mentoring “young ones” with less experience. TechnoServe and my BBB colleagues are resources when I need help; they have opened doors and linkages to new funding and other resources.” As sounding boards, linkages to new clients, and area-expertise among other things, members of Isaac’s peer network—thanks to TechnoServe–have been his best counselors.
In 2007 Isaac obtained a business license to build a lab/manufacturing space in a separated bedroom of his house. Most of the BBB cash prize went toward processing equipment (e.g., water pumps, filtration system, and refrigeration); bottles for the products; and his lab/manufacturing addition. His services money paid for a media company to create product ads. He has been very busy honing the formula with feedback from his pilot customers to successfully apply to Ghana’s food and drug board for certification of Neemfresh mouthwash.
As of February 2009, Isaac still ensures his family income and cash flow for Natural Scientific Pharmaceuticals by working weekdays for a private insurance company, then weekends and evenings on his herbal products. With the help of three sales reps, a factory worker, and his own marketing knowledge, he has focused on recruiting Neemfresh customers from dental-related groups. For example he has done a presentation to the Accra Dental Association so now some private dental clinics are using his product and the local dental school and a nearby hospital are interested in trials. Also, he is advertising on targeted-demographic radio (e.g., with professional and trendy young listeners who care about their appearance), and promoting Neemfresh’s competitive advantage of ensuring both healthy gums and teeth.
Diverse Nature-Inspired Products
Natural Scientific Pharmaceuticals offers discerning customers high quality, herb-and-plant-derived choices rather than industrial-chemical-based products. As Isaac’s company expands sales and facilities to reach his 5-year goal, he could require as many as 20 employees for running the factory floor, administration and sales. Certainly as a growing small business, his new staff, suppliers, revenues and taxes will impact local, regional and national economies. All these factors are positive for Ghana’s medical health and communities’ welfare.
Mentoring Key to His Success
Naturally realistic yet optimistic, Isaac has been laying the foundation for his company’s long-term success. He’s begun to pilot test more herbal products such as a nasal spray decongestant for ongoing sinusitis and a body cream using shea butter and herbs. All his products are sold directly, through word of mouth and targeting key customer environments like dental clinics. With support from his BBB alumni network, he has set pragmatic business goals for Natural Scientific Pharmaceuticals for the next year and several years out by which time he plans to more than double revenues. In order to make a profit with strong inventory turnover, Isaac’s top priorities are to enforce Accounts Receivable for goods already sold; establish bigger manufacturing and warehouse space; create and implement the right strategy to develop and commercially launch multiple health-care products; and leverage venture capital money to sustain operations and buy additional equipment. Thanks to Isaac’s BBB colleagues, he knows “I now pick up the phone to ask for help. I’ve learned never to ‘go it alone’.”