Chika Russell is an international entrepreneur, mentor and speaker. After 10 years working in finance and banking and qualifying as a management accountant, she went on to launch CHIKA’S. Born out of three simple principles: good food, good ethos and good causes – these are snacks with soul. The CHIKA’S range of African-inspired, boldly-flavoured snacks proved mainstream consumer demand for African foods that immediately struck a chord with retailers like Wholefoods, Waitrose, Holland & Barrett’s and Ocado, establishing CHIKA’S as the leader in this space.
In 2015, Chika Russell took part in BBC’s Dragons Den and gave what Deborah Meaden described as ‘one of the best pitches ever’. The battle between the 5 Dragons for a stake in the business was the most-watched episode of the whole series. In a short period, Chika Russell has grown her business, and is now listed in an impressive 3,000 retail stockists in the UK and internationally, also including airlines and hotels. In July 2015, she launched her snacks for change programme to help send more girls to school. A supporter of girls in education since 2000, in 2019 she formalised a partnership with World Vision empowering girls with the bold aim of supporting 38,000 girls through their education by 2025.
In 2019, we recognised Chika as one of the Top 30 Inspiring UK Entrepreneurs. She has also been recognised as a ‘Consumer Business Rising Star’ by the Black British Business Awards and a future leader by She Leads Africa. CHIKA’S was ranked in the top 50 start-ups in the U.K and she has also represented female-led SMEs at 10 Downing Street’s Women in Business events.
Here’s a breakdown of what we discussed in the interview:
We’ll begin with talking about you and your journey before you took the step of creating your own brand. Can you tell us about your background in business before founding CHIKA’S Foods? (1:23)
Deciding to create your own business is a big step for any entrepreneur. Were you worried about taking that step and backing yourself? (4:15)
You then appear on Dragon’s Den and deliver a pitch that Deborah Meaden described as one of the best pitches ever. You get offers from all of the Dragons but decided back yourself and turn them down. Could you talk us through why you made that decision and the process of appearing on the show? (6:06)
2020 had been a difficult year for businesses of all sizes. Has your business been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and has it changed your outlook on the business? (11:39)
Many business leaders are talking about the lack of diversity in different sectors. Do you link more needs to be done to encourage the representation of females and minorities in the sector you operate? (15:35)
The CHIKA’S Foods brand is closely associated with World Vision. Why was that specific cause so important to you and can you tell us a little about the partnership? (19:10)
Putting 2020 behind of you and focusing on 2021, what are you looking forward to most in the next 12 months? (24:38)
What would be your advice to people watching who may be thinking of taking the same step you did and launching their own business? (25:58)
When are we going to see you on Dragon’s Den, in a chair as a Dragon? (28:05)
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