Making Bissap Juice – a blog by Mikaela Ramdial
Most of the day at NVOC is spent in class sewing away or studying Math and French. But there are breaks and during those breaks girls will often bring out buckets of homemade chocolate, hard candies, spiced crickets or other treats to sell to their classmates and make a bit of extra cash. This entrepreneurial attitude is the catalyst to taking the vocational skills they learn at the school and generating the income they need for their families. What’s more, a micro-business can be sustainable because it allows a girl to work independently without additional help from a richer contributor. As soon as they know how to make a product, they can sell it themselves from their own home in their own communities. The trick is finding products that they can make themselves, that will make a good profit and that sell well.
To encourage their enthusiasm to sell goodies we asked Hassi, the Nigerien lady who cooks for the hot lunch program, to teach the girls how to make Bissap juice. Bissap is made from stewed hibiscus flowers that are then strained to produce a dark red juice. Then sugar, mint, ginger and pineapple flavoring is added to make a strong but tasty drink that they love here. Hassi says she makes hers without watering it down so that people will come to buy her juice knowing that it is of the utmost quality. So she took the afternoon to show them how to pick out the bad parts of the hibiscus leaves, how to keep everything clean while cooking and how to package the juice into different quantities for sale. Hassi knows exactly what she is doing from experience and the students listen attentively when she gives instructions. Not only is she skilled but she is very respected by the girls and she lives out her faith in patience and in love. The school is blessed to have her there.
Knowing how to make the product is important but it is also important that the girls have the information to set their prices and make a profit. It sounds obvious but oftentimes people here will buy all the materials (including the taxi money it requires to get to the market), then they sell it and think that all the monies they take in is their profit. Yet, they forget to take into consideration all of the money they spent on materials. As a result, they think they made a lot but in reality, they didn’t make nearly the amount they could have. So Chantelle took the time to explain to them the math required to add up all of the costs and how to decide on a fair price that will still give them a decent profit. It is planning and calculating the costs that will help the girls know whether the making a specific product will be worth it. Hopefully then they can choose the best products to sell.
It turns out that the time and costs of the bissap are definitely worth the time!! Making one batch of juice could yield 150% profit for one afternoons hard work! Micro-businesses are feasible as a Moms and wives and they are lucrative if planned out right. Helping these girls with vocational skills means that they can leave the nest and really have a means to take their entrepreneurial spirits and earn some income. Woo! Go NVOC girls!