Nkoli Uzoka was an executive secretary at the international oil and energy corporation TotalEnergies in Abuja, Nigeria, when she left in 2015 after working there for nearly 20 years. “Even though the salary was good, I wasn’t fulfilled,” says Uzoka. “One of my major reasons for leaving was to have time with my twin girls, who were 11 years old at the time.”
Knowing all too well the workweek struggle of clocking out at the office and then clocking right back in at home in the kitchen, Uzoka had an idea to make things a little bit easier for working women and mothers like herself: market and sell a ready-to-use product that would make nightly meal prep simpler. The budding entrepreneur pegged her target: tomatoes. Nigeria is one of the largest producers in sub-Saharan Africa.
“The tomato is so abundant here, you don’t even know what to do with them,” she says, noting that in many households it’s common to freeze them for later use. But if a home cook forgets to set them out to thaw before heading to work, or one of the country’s frequent electricity outages sweeps through, that night’s plans for making national staples such as jollof rice, yam pottage, or egusi soup with tomatoes go right out the window. Thus Kuki Tomatoes, Uzoka’s brand of shelf-stable purée, was born.