First, you decide how you want to start – small, medium or large scale. For small and medium scale, you can start anywhere, anytime with a little amount of money. You will sweat a bit, though, because of the manual nature of the work involved. This is usually not a big deal for the hardworking entrepreneur. To start big scale, some machinery is required. You can get a sense of the type of machines, and what they cost, from grain-processing.org.
Basically, there are 3 stages in bean flour production:
- Pre-Processing: This involves getting raw materials (bean seeds) to start with. Brown and white Beans which are the main raw materials for beans flour are mostly available and grown in the northern parts of Nigeria. You need to make sure that the varieties you use are strong and free from weevils infestation.
- Processing: The difference between making bean flour and preparing bean seeds for immediate use is drying. Processing involves sorting (removing the stones and chaff), dehulling (removing the outer layer), drying, milling and sifting.
- Packaging: How you package is entirely up to you. The more creative your branding and packaging, the better. Google ‘bean flour’ and see some of the ways other brands are packaged, then improve on that to create your unique brand.
BUSINESS OPPORTUNITY – WHERE TO SELL
You can package your finished product and sell to local shops, markets and local restaurants.
Alternatively, you can produce in bags and supply, wholesale, to small-scale traders who would package and sell in smaller quantities.
Exportation is a big deal presently. Apart from local demand, Nigerians living abroad also need bean flour to make their favorite foods. Exportation is a topic for another day but it is one of the major ways to make money in this business.
MAJOR CHALLENGES TO LOOK OUT FOR
- Making the flour version of any food is usually challenging. The most basic concern is the ability of the flour to go back to its original and natural form when combined with water. You also need to make sure the finished product is of the best quality with high swelling ability and long shelf life. Look, people are already skeptical enough about using flour for cooking anything. One bad product and you hear some granny somewhere in the village shouting, “I said it!”
- Another major challenge is convincing people to ditch the mortar and pestle. This is a major debate already. I had a hard time the other day convincing one woman in my street that yam flour serves just the same purpose as pounding the yam itself. She refused to believe me. I remember she said something about the extent an old woman would go in accepting technology and she would go no further. Breaking into a market where your potential customers are predominantly old school is often an uphill task. But smart entrepreneurs like Ayoola Foods are already doing that. The ground is already broken and people are beginning to give it a second thought.
- The third and arguably the most serious challenge is funding. Of course, you can start small and upscale from there.
Try it out: I hope by now you realize the massive opportunity in bean flour production. Why not give it a go? The first step is to prepare a mock sample. Use the processes outlined in this article and prepare a little sample for cooking. Have your neighbors try it out and tell you how you can improve.
Research: Do you know anyone who is already into the business? Get closer and find out everything you can.
Plan: Prepare a business plan. You will need to determine the long term feasibility of the business and a business plan comes in very handy when you need to apply for a grant or attract investors. Here is an article on how to create a business plan.