Akinwumi Adesina, president of the African Development Bank (ADB), recently echoed the sentiment of other agriculture experts that Africa will feed the world by 2050. By the virtue of its geography, climatic conditions, arid land and availability of crops of competitive advantage, Nigeria is expected to play a significant role in this respect.
The country has a crop of young entrepreneurs in the food chain who are making money from feeding the populace. Start-Up Digest looks at two female entrepreneurs that are increasingly finding their feet in food business in the country.
She is the founder and head chef of Regalo Kitchen and Confectionery.
A graduate of Sociology from Bowen University Iwo, Osun State, Oluwatomisin started this business in December 2015.
Regalo Kitchen is a fully Nigerian company with a goal to help clients eat right in line with their health needs.
The firm’s vision is different from any other. This is because it does not just bake, cook and train, but it does these as part of its contribution towards Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 1, 2, 3 and 8.
The United Nations’ SDG 1 focuses on ‘No Poverty’, while SDG 2 targets ‘Zero Hunger’. More so, SDG 3 is targeted at ‘Good Health and Wellbeing’, whereas SDG 8 is all about ‘Decent Work and Economic Growth’.
These are Oluwatomisin’s vision. She has trained about 100 young graduates and undergraduates since inception.
The entrepreneur says she is also empowering others with 21st century skills.
“The training part came from a mind-shift to empower people around me to be self-reliant and independent in line with Sustainable Development Goal 8. I believe we all have a role to play towards nation -building, especially if we intend to achieve the SDGs by year 2030,” she states.
“My line of business only needs you to get someone who trusts you to deliver,” she explains, adding that “you get part payment and on delivery get your balance.”
She is not underestimating the importance of capital, but believes that one can always start little and grow big.
For her, food is a necessity and not a luxury, which is why the industry is thriving.
“If we should look at Abraham Maslow’s Theory of Need/Want, we would find out that food forms the basic need of man. “Apart from the fact that you can see the direct impact of your activity, you get instant feedback from your clients and build sustainable relationships over time. Food business is highly lucrative and can never be over saturated as different food vendors have different target markets,” she says.
The entrepreneur says she has been privileged to serve individuals and corporate organisations at various levels ranging from Guaranty Trust Bank and Stanbic IBTC Bank to Stanbic IBTC Asset Management Limited , Stanbic IBTC Pensions Mangers, Fidelity Bank and many others.
She says the market has been good, especially in Lagos, where people have a problem of having time to cook.
“We also offer families and homes ready-made pot of soups and stew in different sizes and combinations,” she reveals.
How did Regalo Kitchen kick off? Oluwatomisin provides an explanation.
“I noticed that cooking wasn’t just another chore but a passion. I started cooking as early as when I was eight and have since developed capacity to upscale by attending various trainings to ensure I am at the top of my game.
She processes baby foods and exports them. Toyin, as she is fondly called, is the founder and head cook of August Secrets, which produces baby foods such as Veggie Beans, Nutty Meal, Fish Powder and Crayfish Powder.
Toyin is a journalist, but her achievement shows that men (no ‘woman’ in journalism) of the pen profession can do well in other areas of endeavour.
Toyin exports packaged baby foods to Ghana; New York and Atlanta in the United States, and other countries, making her money in hard currency.
Like all entrepreneurs, Oluwatoyin’s story is unique. After having a baby abroad, she returned to Nigeria only to notice that the child was reluctant to eat the locally available food.
She started sharing her experience with neighbours and church members who offered different pieces of advice. But a matron in one of the hospitals suggested two local foods she could give the child, and this worked.
At the end of the day, she realised that a lot of children were allergic to certain types of food. For her, this was not a problem but an opportunity.
“I said to myself, ‘Why not package all of these foods and give them to Nigerian children?’ In the process of doing that, I realised that a lot of mothers also had the same problem. A lot of them wanted foods that were natural and from the African soil. That was a lot of motivation for me,” she explains to Start-Up Digest.
Toyin started this business officially in July 2016 and it has been a rewarding experience. The first raw materials she bought cost her N20, 000. She then spent between N200, 000 and N500, 000 on purchasing the next set of raw materials and setting up the factory. Two years plus down the line, this revenue of this firm (in the last 12 months) has exceeded $100,000.
“We are selling in about 24 Nigerian cities and states of the country now. We sell in Ghana; we sell in Atlanta, and we sell in New York. We sell outside Nigeria. It is amazing that we now take our foods to places where we bring our foods from,” she says.
Oluwatoyin has 24 direct and indirect staff members and 24 distributors across the country.
“We decided to fill in the gap when we realised that about 90 percent of what the Nigerian children ate were imported and were foreign goods. We are producing Nigerian foods, nutritious foods that are attractive and also nourish the Nigerian children across Africa,” she states.
The entrepreneur has always been a good cook and loves children. In fact, before Oluwatoyin set up the food processing factory, she had established a kids’ store.
“The interesting part for me is that I love coking and I love food. This is something I am passionate about, and right from time, I have always run a kids’ store. Even as a journalist, I run a children’s store for children that are malnourished. It is one thing to have a passion and another thing to do the right thing,” she explains.
For her, there are more grounds to cover. According to her, a lot of produce from farmers is wasting away and need off-takers and people who will market them.
“The link between the farmers and the market is very weak. There are still a lot of issues in logistics. We also have a lot of market gap, and there is a gap in warehousing.”
Being a journalist, Oluwatoyin believes in the power of the digital media. Through various platforms made available by technology, she reaches 100,000 mothers at the moment. She is a strong believer in the made-in-Nigeria brands and wants the citizens to appreciate and buy locally made goods.
She says cost of production is high, but her firm has adopted a strategy to cut it.
Oluwatoyin says moving from journalism to manufacturing is not easy, adding that she needs funding to acquire more machines.
She has some pieces of advice for the upcoming entrepreneurs.
“I was not cut out to be an entrepreneur. I would rather be in my house and string stories together as a journalist. But I realised that people needed my services. If you know how to cook, cook it. Put it together and give it those who need it. Don’t just stay in your house. If anybody told me that I would be going out to speak in conferences and talk to people about entrepreneurship, I would not believe that,” she advises.