Onaopemipo ‘Pepo’ Dara is the CEO at Doja Culinary, a catering, training and food delivery company and Lux Gifts and Crafts, a personalized gifting service. She has an MBA from Lagos Business School (LBS) and recently concluded the African Women Entrepreneurship Cooperative with the Center for Global Enterprise. In this interview with Alaba Ayinuola of Business Africa Online, Pepo talks about her brand Doja Culinary, how it’s filling the skills gaps through trainings and creating employment and her plans to have up to 3 physical locations in Nigeria. Excerpt.
Alaba: Kindly tell us about Doja Culinary and the role you play?
Onaopemipo: Doja Culinary Company is a Catering, Food delivery and Training company that specializes in Finger foods, African and Continental dishes, Barbecue and Cocktails.
We love creating dishes with hand-selected ingredients, beautiful interpretations of indigenous and continental dishes and beverages, custom made to your taste, event, guests, company and preferences.
We are also into social venture #OneByOne that partners with existing NGOs to raise awareness, donations and volunteers for causes and projects especially in Youth Empowerment, Girl Child Education and Poverty Alleviation.
Alaba: What was your startup capital and how were you able to raise it?
Onaopemipo: I had no startup capital. My savings were tied in another business and the timing was right to start the business. I started in my home kitchen, so that helped save on utilities and equipment. My first order was worth N10,000, after delivery I saved whatever was left over after each order. When I saved enough, I would buy the things we needed according to priority. I had to be very frugal and didn’t pay myself a salary for the first year and a half.
Alaba: What are the challenges and how are you overcoming them?
Onaopemipo: Challenges come in different shapes and forms and you have to roll with the punches. I can categorize the challenges into 2 major categories: Staffing and Logistics.
Staffing: The food industry globally has relatively high employee turnover rates as high as 60% and culinary jobs are typically deemed as transitional jobs that you do for a short while as a means to an end – the end being another job. The case in Nigeria in particular is dire as there are not many culinary professionals for hire. You have to hire blue collar workers and train them yourselves. Professional Chefs’ remuneration is way above the budget of an SME.
We try our best to have pools of temp staffing options and often use ad-hoc staff. There are informal temp staffing agencies with staff that are experienced in the food service industry. We also depend on referrals of former and current staff with satisfactory records to recommend potential staff. We then train the staff to our quality levels. Even if they do not work with us for long or full time, it is one more person with basic food, health and safety training in circulation.
Logistics: This we can blame on the lack of infrastructure in Nigeria, so seemingly basic tasks like transportation, courier/delivery services, telephone and internet communication as well as any tasks involving basic amenities like electricity or water can put a lot of strain, require a lot of planning and contingency budgets.
We deal with this by planning, planning, planning. You have to have plans A to Z and foresee several scenarios and ways in which your plans might fall through. For example if you are going to be cooking at a venue for a client, even if the venue claims to have water, we often would take our water along just in case. For logistics we have multiple dispatch companies in our contacts, as well as local cab and bike drivers, our staff might also need to step in and make deliveries in person sometimes. You just have to anticipate and be ready to make last minute decisions to solve issues as they come.
Alaba: What advice would you give prospecting entrepreneurs who intend to start a business or invest in Africa?
Onaopemipo: Two things come to mind…
- You have to know your market and industry intimately. The Nigerian market is very peculiar and is often not as straightforward as global markets or business textbooks. So don’t be surprised if a middle income target market exhibit buying preferences like high income earners and vice versa in your particular sector.
- Never make the same mistake twice. Failures and set backs are opportunities to grow, and they will occur in their numbers. Reputation is important, make sure that even in event of setbacks, you are known for coming up with resolutions as best as you can, going above and beyond for clients.
Alaba: What’s the future for your business and what steps are you taking in achieving them?
Onaopemipo: One of our 5 year goals is that we hope to have up to 3 physical locations in Nigeria. We are doing a lot of planning and research to find the best way to create value in this space. We are also training and in discuss with industry mentors to see where our skill gaps lie and the best way to fill them.
Alaba: How is your business contributing to the development of Africa?
Onaopemipo: We are contributing by filling skills gaps through trainings and creating employment. We hope to contribute more by creating competitive concepts that add to the existing food value chain. We also contribute through our social venture #OneByOne: we have partnered with 3 NGOs since 2016, 7 projects with over 2,700 beneficiaries since inception.
Alaba: What’s your view on the development of Africa’s business ecosystem?
Onaopemipo: The African Business Ecosystem is so dynamic and has so much potential. It has grown a lot in recent times but we have barely scratched the surface. We have grown from focus on creating businesses out of necessity for survival to creating businesses to solve problems and create value.
I think as we lean into fostering co-creation and collaborations, breaking gender, ethnic, and geographical boundaries, we will tap into a new level of growth for the ecosystem.
Alaba: What inspires you and keeps you going?
Onaopemipo: Inspiration comes from various sources and from the little things – family, experiences, memories, people you meet, other businesses, books, television etc.
My faith as a Christian is also a big source of inspiration and a way to meditate and recharge.
When I find myself low on inspiration or motivation, I turn taking a break to recharge, spending time with friends and family, spending time with fellow entrepreneurs or entrepreneurs who have achieved what you plan to in the short or long term, my social media – I follow a lot of business publications and influencers, inspirational people and accounts based on my hobbies, interest and aspirations.
Alaba: How do you relax and what books do you read?
Onaopemipo: I love hanging out with family or catching up with friends over foods and drinks at home. Once in a while I find something new and adventurous to do, a break from my normal routine from traveling or hiking to attending social events. I also love a good book or movie. Sleep! I love a good nap. Business can be physically and mentally draining and sometimes you trade off on nights of sleep to meet up with deadlines, so when its time to recharge, nothing better than sleeping and waking up refreshed.
I try to read wide and I am often curious about an array of topics. I read fiction and non-fiction. I particularly like Christian fiction, I recently read Ted Dekker’s Adam and Francine River’s Masterpiece.
My favourite non-fiction of 2019 is Steven Levitt’s Freaknomics. It was an amazing read I plan to read again. I also recommend Gbolahan Fagbure’s Working on a Dream and Ibukun Awosika’s Girl Entrepreneurs for the African Entrepreneur.
Her Short Bio:
Onaopemipo ‘Pepo’ Dara has worked in different sectors including fashion, management consulting, culinary, public service and NGOs. Pepo currently runs Doja Culinary (@dojaculinary), a catering, training and food delivery company and Lux Gifts and Crafts (@luxgiftsncrafts), a personalized gifting service. She has an MBA from Lagos Business School (LBS) and recently concluded the African Women Entrepreneurship Cooperative with the Center for Global Enterprise. When she takes time off, you can find her deep inside a book, spending time with loved ones or ‘pretending’ to be an adventurer.
How this student entrepreneur is bridging the gap between law study and the labour market
Cheeka M. Onyeka is a student entrepreneur, the CEO and founder of Cosmo legal Africa based in Enugu, Nigeria. A virtual career development hub for law students and with a global outreach that equip law students with industry information by bridging the gap between an average law student and career opportunities. In this interview with Alaba Ayinuola of Business Africa Online, he shared is passion for the study of law, why he founded Cosmo Legal Africa and his entrepreneurship journey. Excerpt.
Alaba: Can you tell us about Cosmos Legal and the gap its filling?
Cheeka: Cosmo Legal Africa largely leverage on technology to make the study of law easier and credible in Africa. As a virtual firm we equip law students with industry trends, career opportunities and a first hand insight into emerging areas of law like sports law,space Law, fintech etc.
Alaba: What’s the inspiration behind setting up this startup?
Cheeka: l feel glad to speak on this, l birthed Cosmo legal Africa (CLA) out of my passion for the study of law. I came with CLA to bridge the gap between Law study and the labour market. If we are to embrace the truth. Simply acquiring an LLB is not the key to wealth. Various faculties of law churns out thousand of law graduates every year but then you find out that most of them are not employable or cannot maneuver their way through the labour market. This is because they are at sea with the realities of the labour market. CLA is here to bridge that gap!
Alaba: How do you fund your startup?
Cheeka: Fund has been a big issue for my team and I. But I have the firm belief that as days goes by we will surmount that.
Alaba: What are the challenges, competition and how are you overcoming them?
Cheeka: The world is changing. How we live. Interact. This is as result of technology. I have equally accepted the fact that my role as an individual is increasing and the only option available is to subscribe to the trends. The key challenge we are encountering at CLA is lack of commitment from our Associates and then having people underestimate your vision.
Alaba: As a student, how are you running this startup effectively?
Cheeka: Well, it has not been easy. But I always try my best at maintaining a good time management schedule.
Alaba: How are you supporting law students in line with their career path?
Cheeka: I have been able to connect with colleagues from other schools in Nigeria and Ghana . We also have campus Ambassadors in various schools. They mobilize students for our monthly webinars and career sessions.
Alaba: How does your firm measure its impact?
Cheeka: Since we just started out not quite long. We intend to carry out feedback survey from time to time through the use of google forms and any other available means. We would also be asking for immediate feedbacks from participants of our Webinars and also from our beneficiaries in the future.
Alaba: What’s the future for Cosmo Legal and what steps are you taking in achieving them?
Cheeka: In the long run, l hope to align with reputable law firms in Africa, Government agencies and key players in the labour market to fully adapt the legal profession to this changing times. Because to really adapt the legal profession to the best standard. The grassroots must be involved and that grassroots are law students.
Alaba: How do you feel as an Africa student entrepreneur?
Cheeka: It has been tough. However it has given me the opportunity to work in a team space. I find it worthwhile working with my Co-Founders Imonikhe Wilson and Akinwade Zainab. Emmanuel ikedinobi and oforbuike who are my course mates and also Associates at CLA have always pushed me to be best l can. Nevertheless, setting up CLA has made me realize that whatever beautiful ideas we have, can not be fully appreciated until we take steps to actualize them.
Alaba: How do you relax and what books do you read?
Cheeka: I love the digital space. It has given me the opportunity to be aware. To know more. I enjoy the works of John Grisham, Yuval Noah , Shakespeare and Joel osteen.
B I O G R A P H Y:
Cheeka M. Onyeka is the CEO and founder of Cosmo legal Africa. He is an intern of Justistia chambers Unizik. Calm and possesses a ‘lawyerly’ composure. He exudes a witty exuberance that can only come from consistent study of the law.He has a unique skill in both writing and oral advocacy and is an excellent team player with eye for details. He is innovative and strongly dedicated to demanding duties. He has keen interest in corporate and commercial law, and the role it plays in modern day transactions.
He has worked as an executive member of the law students electoral commission Unizik from 2017-2018. He serves as the Chief bailiff of the Students’ union Government Unizik. Also, he is currently the public relation officer of the International law students Association, Unizik and an aspiring contestant of the Phillip Jessup international moot court competition in Washington DC.
Cheeka M. Onyeka is also law tutor under the academic board of Christian law students fellowship of Nigeria.
Looking Back, Moving On: My little entrepreneurship journey in Africa
Zoussi Ley (Entrepreneur & Marketer)
When I concluded my Masters from IE Business School in Spain, I flirted with the thought of moving back to Africa. I wanted to work in an impactful and growing sector. I was drawn to the Tech industry, mostly because its impact is felt across other sectors. I truly believed technology held the keys to the continent’s economic development. I truly believed technology held the keys to the continent’s economic development. Hence, when I was offered a position at an Ivorian AgTech company, WeFly Agri, I packed my bags and moved to Abidjan.
My time in Ivory Coast came to an end when I had gathered enough to begin the entrepreneurship journey. While researching the African AgTech ecosystem, I found out about Complete Farmer, a crowd-farming platform based in Ghana. I was mesmerized by the concept of involving everyday people in African agriculture.
Coincidentally, I met one of the co-founders at DEMO Africa in October last year, where I got to learn more about the company and the team. I wanted to be part of that journey and contribute to the vision. Joining this venture felt right so within a few days of meeting the co-founder, I moved to Accra, Ghana to assume the role of Chief Marketing Officer at Complete Farmer.
During my time in Ghana, I got to meet and build a strong network of players across the food industry/agricultural value chain — from commercial farmers to commodities traders, supermarkets and agro-processing firms. A major new player I got to deal with is the Ghana Commodities Exchange (GCX), the first ever regulated market linking buyers and sellers of agricultural products in West Africa.
After passing the certification, I was able to start trading at the GCX. This move allowed Complete Farmer to gain access to a wide range of market actors, thereby creating opportunities for the company to increase its revenue streams.
Ghana taught me that a conducive ecosystem can make the tough entrepreneurship journey an enjoyable one. In fact, Complete Farmer was incubated by Pan-African incubator MEST, meaning my team and I were working out of the incubator’s office space alongside other entrepreneurs. I loved the MEST environment. As entrepreneurs, we received practical advice, got introduced to ecosystem partners and most importantly, I truly valued the guidance I got from the fellows and entrepreneurs.
My time at Complete Farmer illustrated the not-so-obvious benefits to having competitors. Of course, every entrepreneur should pay some attention to their competitors, as they’re an important part of business. Understanding how our competitors operate allows us to avoid making their own mistakes while giving us ideas to expand our market.
Being an entrepreneur in Africa also means collaborating with other startups. With Complete Farmer, I got to partner with Jetstream for logistics services, Qualitrace for agro chemicals and Stanbest for irrigation systems and this was exciting working with other stakeholders in the agriculture sector.
On a personal note, I have also learned from many challenging and enlightening experiences through my journey. The first lesson has been to master my thoughts and emotions. Most lessons come from failures and setbacks. Although painful experiences, they develop the self-awareness to grow. They forced me to spend time on mastering my thoughts and emotions. As entrepreneurs, our cool is often tested.
Not being able to resist these frazzled emotions can lead an individual to react the wrong way, thereby causing setbacks and more failures. I learned that being clear-headed before making a decision gives me an edge when handling challenging situations.
My experience in Ghana showed the importance of building a network. As an entrepreneur, I quickly realized the importance of building relationships with other key players of the ecosystem — entrepreneurs, influencers, media platforms, investors and international organizations. You never know when an opportunity to collaborate may come!
Being an entrepreneur in Africa also taught me to stay curious and not stick to what I know. I had to learn to do my research on other industries, companies, and business models; to always be prepared to welcome new ideas and opportunities. All in all, I learned to embrace the challenges for personal growth and to find true joy in my entrepreneurship journey.
More so, I have come to appreciate researching about the vision and values of the organizations you work with. We get excited about new ventures, the prospects of building something new and having our names on a business card that I am a Co-Founder too. However, my experience over time, has taught me that doing your due diligence on the industry and your team while having a common goal and clear vision with your colleagues will get any start-up off the ground and running at a phenomenal pace.
So, in this light, I am stepping down from my role at Complete Farmer to pursue new and exciting opportunities in Lagos, Nigeria. I am grateful for my experience, the lows, the highs, the blessings and the lessons learned.
While I will remain in AgTech, I am exploring the personal care and beauty industry, a sector I believe technology can help redefine in Africa. I look forward to bringing my creativity and experience into this industry, from the economical heart of Africa — Lagos.
By Zoussi Ley (Entrepreneur & Marketer)
Cynthia M. Wright: On Becoming A Successful Speaker, Business Mentor And Organisational Strategist
Cynthia M. Wright, author of “The Purposeful Leader- 10 Steps to success.”
Ambition and motivation are an essential driving force for success. For Australia Day Ambassador, Organisational strategist, Social Entrepreneur and Global Purpose Leader Cynthia Musafili Wright, this internal drive spearheaded her career from nursing in Aged Car to a well-known consultant in the field. Like a renaissance woman, Cynthia spread her interests and with a healthy dose of enthusiasm became a successful keynote speaker, career and business mentor, global purpose leader as well as an organizational strategist.
Alaba: Tell us about yourself and what you do?
Cynthia: Cynthia Musafili Wright is a leader. Finding a better way was always one of my qualities since I arrived in Australia. I started as an assistant in nursing in Aged Care, and in a couple of years; I became a registered nurse and then a clinical nurse manager, then a clinical consultant. I tried to broaden my areas of expertise and got familiar with healthcare management, regulation compliance, and Meditech fields. All this opened the gate for Aged Care business model consultant career.
Alaba: What sparked your interest and passion for aged care and mental health?
Cynthia: Understanding the challenges of Aged Care business from top to bottom in developed countries helped me turn-around several facilities that failed to achieve Outcomes of the Aged Care National Standards successfully. My experience in organizing clinical management teams came to fruition and helped in restructuring. In all my actions, I try to have a positive impact.
Being around Aged Care organisations naturally led me further in that direction, and as for mental health, I recognized in many ways the importance of mental wellbeing and decided to make it my cause also. I go by the motto, if we don’t feel right in the heard, we can’t function well physically. As officially defined by the World Health Organization, health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.
Alaba: How has it being as an African Diaspora based in Australia with Africa in your heart?
Cynthia: I was born in Zambia and migrated to study in Australia at age 19. Being in Australia didn’t make me forget about my African roots. That is why I founded my social enterprise – Regions International once my career took off. The organization provides mentorship and advice for startups and SME who want to scale up into the African market.
Regions International collaborates with global organisations to host meaningful events to foster dialogue and discussion about investments, capacity building and socio-economic development for the African Continent. Another vital role for Regions is fostering sustainable corporate social responsibility projects in Africa and Australia.
Alaba: How are you using your influence and connecting to attract investment to Africa?
Cynthia: I’m a Country leader for Australia for organization called Innovative Africa. In this role, my team and I connect the tissue between the two continents. We aim to help incubate and birth real success stories of innovations that will touch the lives of Africans by providing an African Market Entry Solution and growth structures that will help drive prosperity into the African continent.
The innovate Africa global team lead by Founder and Global CEO Dotun Adeoye and Paulo Mukooza – Global Commercial Director, continues to work across many countries as a support framework for entrepreneurs looking to bring their market-creating innovation to life and companies looking to expand into the African continent. More on what we do visit Innovate Africa
Alaba: Kindly share your leadership journey.
Cynthia: One thing is sure, Cynthia Wright won’t be outspoken. I think I’m dynamic, try to be educational, and above all, inspiring in my work. My leadership journey goes beyond the titles I wear, it is quantifiable. As a leader, the main aim should always be moving forward that which has been given to you. If you are not moving things forward, then you cannot quantify your impact.
I do a lot of speaking and I am privileged to speak to crowds on topics that have been strongly influenced by my path. Topics such as Leadership and Purpose, I strive to inspire personal growth and build leadership qualities. Social issues are also part of my most inspiring speeches, where I have talked about migration, inclusion and diversity. Creating leaders is something I’m passionate about.
Alaba: What have you learned along the way that has helped shape you in your journey?
Cynthia: The key to my success both in career and business is centered on the ability to maintain partnerships and collaborations. Creating connections and understanding that it’s a give and take relationship contributed to success in so many fields. That social component, as well as constant learning and hard work, shaped me into the person that I am today.
I’m an Australia Day Ambassador, where I participate in awarding new Australian citizens, providing support in understanding civics and citizenship, active citizenship and promoting the Australian brand. On these occasions, I am honored with the role of a keynote speaker where I talk about Resilience, Skilled Migration, Leadership, Active Citizenship, and other relevant topics.
I am also work with the global brand of Tedx. I am the TEDx Perth partnership manager. This role allows me to create partnerships and collaborative approaches to achieving excellent goals and outcomes for our global viewership. I have many other roles that I am fully engaged in. more can be found on my website www.cynthiawright.org
Alaba: What are your projects for Africa and how are you engaging Africans in the continent to achieve them?
Cynthia: Through the Regions Foundations, I work with local Zambian hospitals to improve and enhance the best clinical practice. We also support rural Zambian hospitals with necessary clinical supplies and connect them with Australian clinical and hospital stakeholders. Regions also provide hospital-grade linen, wheelchairs, hospital beds and surgical supplies to rural hospitals and orphanages in Zambia.
Apart from my philanthropist projects, I have recently been engaging African talents in IT and graphic designing for all my upcoming projects and I am so excited to share this with my tribe in the next coming months. Without revealing too much information, I am also working on an infrastructure project for Ghana – where we intend to build a city for the future. More on this to come in the following months. Watch this space.
Alaba: Describe yourself in one word, and why?
Cynthia: Fearless. Most of us know what to do, but don’t take the actions to follow through on our goals. We tell ourselves that we are not smart enough, not strong enough or brave enough. What hold us back are not our capabilities – it’s the fear of failure. It’s okay to be afraid, but it is not okay to let fear stop you. I have learnt to set goals, identify what was holding me back, and learn to move past fear.
Alaba: How are you changing the negative narratives of African migrants in the Diaspora?
Cynthia: By owning my African heritage story and telling it loud and clear in my own works and through my work time and time again. We are our own best media, if we don’t tell our stories the way they should be told, no one will. That is why I founded Africa writes Australia – a platform focused on promoting positive narratives through story telling. More about Africa Writes Australia
Alaba: If you could make one remarkable change in the world by 2020, what would it is?
Cynthia: 2020 is in four months. I think the change I would make is to use my voice to speak more about Love and honour for each other as human beings. Without love, all this is meaningless.
Alaba: What’s your advice for African governments, Africans, and investors?
Cynthia: Invest in the African people. They are your best and only asset. Collaborate and engage with the African diaspora, they are a great addition to the needed skills and knowledge to foster economic development and help implement strategies for future growth. For investors, you would be crazy not to consider the African market for scaling up your business.
B I O G R A P H Y
Cynthia Musafili Wright is a Social Care Corporate Executive. She is currently the 2019 & 2020 Australia Day Ambassador and Australia Ambassador for Global Organisation Female Wave of Change and Founder/CEO of the Social Enterprise Regions International. Cynthia is currently a member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and the TedxPerth Manager of Partnerships. She is also a publisher of various articles on Resilience, Migration, International Education, and Aged Care and a recent author of books on International Education, Purpose and Mental Health.
She is an active international student alumnus in Australia. Having attended one of the best universities in the world, Cynthia describes her international student experience as an experience that helped shape her into the leader that she is today. In addition to her leadership and career success, the international exposure and opportunities that presented as a result of her studies have contributed to positioning her on a global platform for work and business.
Cynthia is passionate about creating a positive impact in the world by creating leaders. Her success in her Career and Business comes down to her ability to build and maintain partnerships and collaborations; Her success in life is attributed by the connections she creates with others and the extent to which she can give and receive. She has created success in her roles as Clinical Consultant in Corporate Australia, with thirteen years’ experience in the Aged care industry and leadership roles.
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