With Mother’s Day just around the corner, let’s explore one mum’s journey to make the world a better place! Meet Chika Russell, the woman who brought the bold flavours of West Africa to our member’s March Gin of the Month box.
Chika’s career began a world away from her true passion – the creation of fresh and vibrant snacks – in the finance sector. “It was interesting, but the learning curve stops, so it’s not the most rewarding job,” she says.
It was when she had her first child that her perspective changed. She realised she wanted to be more present. “I’m a big believer in education, and wanted to be at home much more,” Chika continues.
But she couldn’t resist the excitement of a new challenge for long. She says, “Chika’s was inspired by my love of the food I grew up with, especially Nigerian street food.” She had fond memories of sharing hand-roasted peanuts and cashews with friends and family during long summer days in Nigeria.
Chika says: “They’re absolute staples. There is no Nigerian, or even West African, who hasn’t experienced them. They’re important to how women raise their children, because not only are they a food, but a source of income.”
Once the business took off she started heading back to Nigeria once a month to bring more people on board and motivate producers. “On one trip, I had a moment that made me ask myself how I could do more,” says Chika.
Mama Effe is one of Chika’s producers, who shells and toasts nuts. Chika says: “Mama Effe invited me over to her house, and in Nigeria to show people warmth and kindness you cook them a meal.” Whilst at dinner, Chika was overwhelmed by the gratitude expressed by Mama Effe and her three children, who she is able to put through school with her income from Chika’s. “It felt uncomfortable, because we are just paying a fair wage,” says Chika.
Seeing the practical difference it made in people’s lives made her realise she had to expand and employ more women. This is especially as in Nigerian households, women are often the sole breadwinners, supporting three or four children. Chika says, “When you give Nigerian woman an inch they make it a mile.”
The product of all these women’s hard work and dedication? Nibbles that truly stand apart from the crowd that our member’s have been able to enjoy this month. Chika smiles, “We allow our flavours to speak, as much as possible, for themselves.”