Born in a small fishing community, Naiden Ewuradjoa Kutubebi is disturbed by the gigantic mountains of plastics piling up on Ghana’s beaches. So instead of contributing to even-larger piles of plastic, she offers restaurants and other users of packaging eco-friendlier alternatives. With her customised paper bags, she aims to become the go-to person for sustainable food packaging in Ghana and beyond. Your travelling reporter sat down with Naiden at the West Africa Deal Summit to talk about her business, The Planet shop GH.
Hi Naiden, lovely to meet you! Could you quickly introduce yourself and your company?
My name is Naiden Kutubebi, CEO of The Planet shop GH. As a company, we’re into the eco-friendly packaging business. We strive to become a brand synonymous with green packaging. And we seek to help alleviate plastics off the surface of the earth and replace them with eco-friendly alternatives.
My journey started during COVID. I was going through my timeline on Facebook and I realised that there’s a high demand for eco-friendly packaging. Paper bags, food packaging and all that. So I invited an expert to come to my home to teach me how to make these paper bags. And when I posted these bags on social media, a lot of restaurants and individuals reached out to me to produce these paper bags for them. I was really excited about that opportunity, because even though a lot of food in Ghana is packaged in plastics, I’m not a fan of that myself. So I designed paper alternatives, which could hold food for a few hours even.
My own background is in HR, before COVID I produced jewellery beads. I really learned everything on the job, had no idea what I was doing at the time. I was running the business from my bedroom at first, but when people started buying my packaging I realised how good a business this really was. After the lockdown, businesses started asking for branded bags. So I employed two people, moved from my bedroom to a rented space at a prime location and we started to produce at a much larger scale. So far it’s been an amazing journey and I don’t regret it one bit. And when it comes to green Ghana: if you type eco-friendly on Facebook, a lot of people will refer you to The Planet shop GH.
When it comes to green Ghana: a lot of people will refer you to The Planet shop GH for eco-friendly productsNaiden Ewuradjoa Kutubebi, The Planet shop GH
Why do you do what you do? Why does fighting plastic waste matter to you?
If you go to our beaches, it’s an eyesore. I was born in a fishing community in the western region. And now when I go back home and I go to the seashore, all I see is plastics. A lots and lots of it. But who am I to go and question people? So in my own small way, this is what I do to help alleviate this plastics problem.
We’re here today at the West Africa Deal Summit with our delegation of ambitious entrepreneurs ready to scale. Can you share a little bit about why you’re here personally and what were you hoping to achieve?
Actually, I’ve really enjoyed the summit, because it has really taught me a lot and I’ve been able to make a few business contacts already. Meeting lots of people motivates me to be in their shoes. The speakers have also really given me more courage to forge ahead.
The summit has also been an eye opener in terms of funding, realising we’ll be able to access funds to scale up our business, how to go about that. At the end of the day, I want to be a go-to person when it comes to sustainable food packaging in Ghana. So I’m looking at acquiring an ultramodern press, where I can produce 10,000 pieces an hour, maybe even 100,000 pieces. While my team in the office is taking care of the production, I’m here pitching to get the funds for that.
I want to be a go-to person when it comes to sustainable food packaging in GhanaNaiden
This particular press is a relatively short-term goal, which hopefully you’ll be able to achieve in the very near future. How do you see the future in the longer term?
Luckily for me, Orange Corners picked me, changed me, coached me and gave me funds. So what we’re doing now is set the pace in terms of food packaging. I’m not able to produce a lot to export right now, but in a few weeks we’ll have our factory up and running. And in the next year or two, you’ll hear our name everywhere!
So far we’ve been able to penetrate the Liberian market and we’re also in Gabon. What I’m doing is highly competitive in Nigeria as well, so once the factory is up and running I’d like to see whether we’d be able to survive in that environment as well. I’m also looking at employing a Francophone employee, so can serve French-speaking markets better. I speak a little French, but this would help me understand their needs a bit better. And we’ve had people reach out from a few other African countries too, so I think we’re on the verge of a breakthrough here.
So your first aspiration is to expand to other West African countries?
For now, yes. But a big challenge for us is that we don’t have the access to raw materials here. We import our raw materials from China. We currently buy from a third party, a Chinese company in Ghana. As we want to scale our production, we’re looking at importing the materials ourselves. And we’re also in talks with some students, see whether we can use plantain husks as an alternative material to do some of the things we want. This is a leftover product, so if it works out this would be perfect for us. We’d be able to make some of the things in our own country.
You’re one of four women entrepreneurs on our delegation. Do you think it’s particularly challenging to be a women entrepreneur in Ghana?
It’s challenging, yes. As a mother, every day before setting to go out there’s a lot to do, which is quite challenging. And then sometimes I walk into a meeting and they’re like “she’s a lady, so we can bully her around”. Until I bullied them around! We still have a long way to go as a country. In our part of the world, there’s a certain kind of mentality, how people see things. The respect for women entrepreneurship is yet to be there. They really feel like you’re too aggressive as a woman. You shouldn’t be here, you should be in the kitchen! But I think with time we’re embracing women in business. And I believe I should also set an example for other people to follow. At The Planet shop GH, we only have one man. The rest of the production team, all 8 of them are ladies.
I think with time we’re embracing women in business in Ghana. And I believe I should also set an example for other people to follow.Naiden
So what would you say to this next generation of women entrepreneurs who are maybe still considering to become an entrepreneur?
I’d tell them to go for it. Taking risks is part of life. You fail some, you win some. I think we have the zeal as women to be able to conquer the world. I think the world would be a better place if even 30% women controlled the world. So we should go forward!
You’re here as part of the Orange Corners delegation. How has your experience with Orange Corners been?
It’s been a wonderful journey for me. A friend of mine who works at USAID encouraged me to apply. Getting into the programme really changed my whole perception about business. It has moulded me into better businesswoman, helped me to keep proper books. We get audited. Now if you come to The Planet shop GH and ask for our books, you’ll be so impressed! The OCIF funding is a plus, but the training was exceptional. They for example also taught us how to relate to our workers, know the kind of workers we have, their mentality, our differences. This was just a blessing for my business!
Orange Corners moulded me into better businesswomanNaiden
So happy to hear this, Naiden. Any final remarks from your side?
I want the world to know there’s a company coming up that’s going to change the whole narrative. We’re here to stay and we’re here to make life better in terms of eco-friendly packaging!
Follow Naiden’s The Planet shop GH online: