“Think big, start small and grow over time” – an interview with Balloon entrepreneur Desmond Mensah.
Through our various programmes, Balloon Ventures works with hundreds of entrepreneurs each year, helping them to innovate and grow their businesses through our groundbreaking enterprise curriculum. We’re always really proud of the results, and our entrepreneurs often go on to do great things. Here, we catch up with Desmond, one of our inspiring entrepreneurs from Ghana, and talk to him about how the Balloon programme impacted his business.
BV: Could you briefly introduce yourself – who are you, what do you do?
DM: I am Emmanuel Desmond Mensah, a 30-year-old entrepreneur who is a graduate from the University of Cape Coast. I produce an organic energy drink called Maloni, which is made with moringa, noni and fruits and does not contain added sugar, additives and preservatives.
BV: Sounds great! But how did you come up with the idea for Maloni?
DM: It was through the Balloon Ventures Programme in Cape Coast, a programme co-hosted by MDF West Africa and Balloon Ventures. I had initially wanted to start an eco-tourist resort constructed with bamboo. After discussions and analysis of my business idea with my fellow participants from abroad, we came to the realisation that starting such a resort is firstly cost-intensive and the only way to do it is to raise enough money, for which taking a loan is a bad option. Therefore, there was the need to create another business that could be tested within a month.
I first thought of having a medicinal plantation which can grow into the eco-tourist resort, but the competition in the medicinal herb market is so huge that it would take a lot of time and energy to measure the growth of the business. I therefore came up with the idea of having a drink that would be produced from the medicinal plantation (and not selling them as herbal products), which is ideal as an immune booster and good for blood stimulation. This resulted in Maloni!
BV: How did the Balloon programme benefit you? What was the biggest lesson you learned as part of the Balloon programme?
DM: Through the Balloon programme, I now have my own business, whereas I initially didn’t dream of having such a business and I even have people working under me now. Balloon has created in me the character of a real entrepreneur and the attitude of a real businessman. I don’t fear failing, because I know that each business has been tested and there is less risk of failure. Now I know how to create the market niche, what to offer consumers and where to offer them.
My biggest lesson learnt as part of the Balloon programme is that finance is not the greatest obstacle to starting a business, rather the viability of the tested business is key. Once it is tested and the prospects look bright, one has to think big, start small and grow over time.
BV: What has happened after Balloon? Where is your business now?
DM: After Balloon, I received seed money to start my business. Now Maloni has acquired its own office, has a place for production and is making sustainable growth. Currently, we are selling in some selected restaurants, hospitals and market centres as well as making deliveries across regions in Ghana.
BV: If you could give advice to other entrepreneurs, what would you tell them?
DM: To other entrepreneurs, what I would say is that they should stay true to their business values, believe in nature and not rely so much on financial constraints because it pays to believe in little beginnings.
BV: Where do see your business going in the next five years and what will you do to make it happen?
DM: In the next five years, Maloni will hopefully be a family brand producing sought-after organic and health products that are refreshing, tasty and healing. Ideally Maloni will be distributing to every corner of Ghana and will be listed on the stock exchange market.
To achieve such objectives, I am working very hard in every way possible to make sure that people get to know Maloni. I am also working hard to create different flavours and medicinal compositions that customers will prefer. From now until the longer term, Maloni will stay organic, contain no preservatives and no sugar. It’s all about giving consumers a health-free risk while enjoying our product. We seek to attend to the health needs of every Ghanaian in the coming years through the provision of a juicy, tasty organic product that is refreshing and medically recommended.