Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Henry Ngale Foretia is the founder and owner of Ets Henry & Freres, the only poultry farming management business in his home country of Cameroon, Africa. Henry grew up with four siblings. While his mother was involved in farming poultry and grains, he saw firsthand just how hard it can be for a farmer to provide for their family.

After finishing school, Henry moved to Senegal where he started Afrika Business Group, a business that produces fish meal for animal feed. Although this company provided a great experience for Henry, he soon realized that making feed for farmers was not going to help them solve the many additional issues they faced on a daily basis. The stronger his relationships got with farmers, the better Henry understood their challenges. The average farmer in his country has no access to training, no regular supply of imports to care for their poultry such as vaccines, and no knowledge of how to manage the entire process from start to finish to ensure their farm would stay sustainable.

After moving back to Cameroon, Henry founded Ets Henry & Freres in March of 2008. His company helps farmers manage the entirety of the farming process. From helping with training and leadership, to educating on how to maintain the best hygiene conditions for your birds, to providing raw materials directly to the farmers, Ets Henry & Freres helps local farms master the entire process of farming.

One unique approach Henry’s company takes is helping the farmers to establish credit to ensure they have a minimum of 1,000 chickens – which has been deemed as the number to help them remain sustainable. So how does someone help a farmer earn credit to get to this point? Many of the local farmers are now using natural farm waste as fertilizer and even using their chickens’ feathers to create pillows that can help cover some of the costs to run the farm.

Although chicken might be an everyday dish in Iowa, it is considered a delicacy in Cameroon. Chicken is typically served on special occasions and holidays – which is one of the challenges that Henry and his business face. Another is technology. Currently, their training methods use whiteboards, while their goal is to have a mobile platform that farmers can access from anywhere, at any time from their smartphones. With all the resources at their fingertips through a mobile app, Henry would have a clear communication channel with farmers regardless of their location.

Over 2,200 individuals in Cameroon applied to be a part of the Mandela Washington Fellowship program. Henry was one of the 24 individuals selected from his country. So far, Henry has been pleasantly surprised with the intensity and the quality of the Fellowship program. According to him, the lecturers and program leaders have made a point to make sure each Fellow fully understands the material. Another thing that stood out to him was the local focus on giving back to community in Iowa. Henry was surprised at the amount of individuals who donate, volunteer, and give back in other ways just to help the Iowa City community succeed. This is something he is dedicated to practicing himself after he returns home.

What is Henry’s advice for other entrepreneurs? “Work on your business model canvas.” The Fellows learned about this business method while participating in the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center’s Venture School program. “You have to know your customer segment, value proposition, and key partners in order to be successful,” he said.

The Mandela Washington Fellowship program is run by the Institute for International Business, a partnership between Tippie College of Business and the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center at the University of Iowa. Click here to find out more about this program.