Business in the Time of Ebola: the Case of Comfort Wuozenneh
As the World Health Organisation says the Ebola outbreak is unparalleled in modern times, and the World Bank declares that the West African economies could be shattered by the epidemic, this blog series looks at how Peace Child International’s Be the Change Academy participants in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia are seeing their lives and livelihoods profoundly affected. We need your support to assist these women and our staff on the ground – help us provide the Ebola prevention materials they need. Even the smallest amount will make a difference. Thank you.
Comfort was one of the students who was very excited to learn about a niche market. After this lesson, she went and conducted her market research in her community and successfully discovered a gap in the market:
Comfort lives by University of Liberia Fendell Campus, where many people sell baked goods to the students and faculty. Comfort discovered that those who make and sell the baked goods travel all the way to Red Light Market (about a 25 minute taxi ride) to get the ingredients they needed to bake. She thought that if she brought those ingredients to Fendell Campus, people can buy the flour and sugar from her instead of traveling to Red Light. As no one else was selling the goods needed for baking, Comfort discovered her niche Market.
She was very proud of her idea, and excited to begin her business when she received the loan. With this money, she went out and bought the ingredients at wholesale prices, which are cheaper. From her market research, she already knew several people who said they would buy from her.
When the Ebola epidemic hit and the President of Liberia declared a state of emergency, all schools and universities were shut down. This is seriously affecting Comfort’s business. With the Fendell campus closed, there are no students or staff on the campus, and thus no one selling baked goods. This means no one is buying flour and sugar from Comfort. She has tried to make up for this by going door to door in the community to the people who bake and sell in the community. However, they aren’t baking nearly as much as they would be if the campus was up and running. Comfort is disappointed with the lack of business, but even more disappointed that she does not get to apply the idea she came up with from the trainings into real life.
Comfort continues to sell door-to-door and bring in the small amount of money she can – she does not want the goods she purchased with the loan money to spoil. Her biggest disappointment is that she was so proud of her idea and her business, and she successfully got the loan to make it happen, but then a situation out of her control has prevented her from seeing her dream become a reality.