50. Chika’s

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Founder: Chika Russell
June 2014

Chika Russell only launched her African-inspired snack food business Chika’s in 2014 but her determination and enterprising drive has been evident for some time.

Holding down her first job at 14 ironing shirts, Russell went on to continue to work while studying and at age 22 she graduated from the University of Westminster with an economics degree.

Spending the next eight years working for BT, Russell took maternity leave to have her second child and it was during this time that she decided she didn’t want to work for anyone else ever again.

Drawing on her African roots and love of cooking – but with no previous experience in the food industry – Russell decided to launch her eponymous business Chika’s and she is now enjoying the fruits of her labour.

A range of West African gluten-free and vegan-friendly snacks, including plantain and chickpea crisps and hand toasted peanuts, Chika’s is now stocked with Waitrose, Sainsbury’s, Holland & Barrett, and Whole Foods.

The business also boasts an impressive list of commercial clients; sold to the likes of Google, Bloomberg, JetStar and CityJet.

Having raised £800,000 worth of external finance, Chika’s list of investors is almost as impressive as its customers and includes United Biscuits CEO Jeff van der Eems, Lastminute.com CEO Marco Corradini, and former SOHO House chairman Robert Devereux.

In fact, the snacks have proved so popular that a Dragons’ Den appearance in 2015 saw all five Dragon investors put offers on the table.

With projections to hit £10m revenue by the end of 2019, and eight more products being rolled out in 1,200 Sainsbury’s store, the inspiring story of Chika’s has only just begun.

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