Inspiring women: Chika Russell
After investors fought over her on Dragons’ Den, Russell’s African snack business has attracted funding from the CEO of Lastminute.com and more
Name: Chika Russell
Founded: Chika’s in June 2014
Start-up elevator pitch: African-inspired range of spiced nuts and plantain and chickpea crisps, all of which are gluten-free and vegan.
Industry: Food and drink
Funding raised: £800,000
Follow her: @ChikaRussell_
Who is Chika Russell?
Nigerian-born Russell moved to the UK when she was five as the youngest of seven siblings. Watching her mother balance a hectic job in an accident and emergency hospital department with raising children inspired Russell to develop a strong work ethic, and at 14 she got her first job: ironing shirts.
From then on, she worked through her school holidays. After graduating with a degree in economics and joining BT Plc in a senior role, Russell bought her first investment property at the age of 22.
It was while on maternity leave several years later that Russell began to think about seeking greater autonomy and flexibility in her career. This helped her make the decision to launch a business based around one of her passions: Africa.
Russell had noticed that the delicious snacks to be found across food markets in West Africa were nowhere to be seen in the UK; and where she could find them, they were unappealing. Russell’s business, Chika’s, aims to bring African flavours and ingredients to the UK market with its range of gluten-free and vegan nuts and crisps.
How has she won over investors?
Russell’s impact on investors has been so great that the country was able to watch five of them fight over her on BBC’s Dragons’ Den in July 2015. Though she initially accepted Peter Jones’ offer of £30,000 for a 25% stake, she later decided to turn this down in order to reap the rewards of her hard work alone.
Since, Chika’s’ range of flavoured nuts and plantain and chickpea crisps has been stocked in Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, Ocado, Holland & Barrett and Wholefoods; which is testament to their nationwide appeal.
Also thanks to her unique products, Russell has recently closed her first external funding round, which has brought in £800,000 from eight investors including CEO of United Biscuits Jeff van der Eems, CEO of Lastminute.com Marco Corradini, and Robert Devereux of Virgin Money and Soho House.