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Interview With Doja Culinary Company CEO, Onaopemipo Dara

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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…

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Also Read Co-founders Should Avoid This Legal Mistake

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.

 

Afripreneur

6 Reasons Why Culture Is Important For Startup Growth (Case Study: SmartCodes)

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When I was in Harvard Business School, I learnt a lot regarding how to operate profitable businesses by not only making just a business grow and expand in different markets but also to make an impact to your clients and customers. Being in the US as Harvard student for couple of weeks was major shift on my perception about what growth is, and how we Africans are not taking advantage of what we have.

Hence fast forward, I would like to share with the startup community on why culture should be most important part for the growth of your business and why it’s important to let everyone involve on the process.

 

1. Conduct a proper SWOT analysis within your Industry

I am not a huge fan of questions like “who are your competitors” as I believe everyone has a purpose. If you know whereyou’re going and take an important challenge to venture in new opportunities, you will find yourself focusing more on delivering solutions to your customers and less looking on what others are doing. For us, we have different competitors in different category as our company structured to implement solutions for tech, advertising, products and venture in helping startups and collaborate with other corporate, hence SWOT is important as it will make you see all sort of weakness and threats and use your strength as a checklist to combat them and grow faster.

 

2. Use your SWOT results to review your company vision

After sitting with your team and review all the SWOT results, it’s very important now to strategically review your vision, mission and purpose that will inspire everyone to deliver and know why they should workup in the morning and execute their task. This was one of the great exercises we did at Smart Codes and we involved everyone from our top managers to the supporting teams’ even drivers to security team, and collectively we awesomely re-define our purpose. The major key question to everyone was on defining our WHY which was the light to our PURPOSE. As a result, we find our main purpose was to make a mark in their project we touch and help our client’s grow.

 

3. Train your dragons

During the SWOT process, you must measure the culture from strength to weakness and immediately invest more on your weak holes so as to train the team to be better than themselves. There is no better investment than training and empowering your existing team vs trying to hire the new one which they won’t really understand your purpose at one place unless your growth need new wings and hence add one to grow faster.

Even at SC, after strategically knowing our focus was to expand in other African markets, we immediately started collaborating with top talented experts in different African markets. We inspired our teamthat, with this digital age of transformation, you can do anything it’s just you need to plan and have courage to execute it. I remember we once invited Stanbic’s CIO, Mussa Ally to come and we did amazing workshop with our team on how they can grow their career. This was not just for Smart Codes but most importantly was for their own career growth. This was done to train them to think BIG by eating an elephant in bit by bit instead of thinking or eating chips-mayai which no-one will get a wow factor from you as a person.

We have also worked closely with great minds like Max Ngari – one of the top creative people in Africa who won many awards such as the Cannes Lions awards.

 

4. Break your Vision into objective goals

The major learning here is, knowing how to eat an Elephant. You need to break down this elephant goal into small tasks and assign each team member to deal with a few tasks. For example, at Smart Codes we don’t have KPIs but we have objective goals plan at which each team members knows what part are they executing, hence it has helped to have smooth execution and objectives which define timelines. That has been a success for us, as it works better that, just calling them KPIs.

 

5. Show your client and partners your vision and purpose

Showing it’s not an easy task, but I remember one of my Professors who was teaching us about the implementation of “Diffusion of innovations”. This shows the baby steps of implementing anything new, you would 1st need to know your “Innovators” – People who will be willing to listen and then “Early Adopters” – which are more of opinion leaders, which are those around your Industry ecosystem. Surprisingly when we implemented our new VISION at Smart Codes, everyone got it and mostly we have seen people starting to add our key purpose “Making a Mark” in their hashtags, and “UNTIL ITS DONE” which is our infinity journey.

Also Read: Startups: The Ideal Partnership Agreement

6. Share your small wins with everyone

The major thing most people have is selfishness, most of people are fearing to share their ideas and success because of competitors will know theirs moves, rather than looking at the mirror of sharing skills and opinions to help other grow the same way they did. Sharing most of the things we do at Smart Codes have been a major key growth from our team, as we know, only by sharing and open doors for outsiders to comment it’s a two way learning, and it has been an incredible growth within our team and we have even seen it via our Innovation wing at SmartLab.

I remember one of or my classmate was inspiring using a phone brand called “ONE-PLUS” and when we asked, She says that brand helped to push her dreams because all the time she switch the phone-on its pop a message says “NEVER SETTLE” then I get that this A1 culture have been a major shift of growth at OnePlus’ fanbase. Let’s share our success and failures so others can learn and also collect opinions from outsiders that will only impacting our growth.

I never thought culture was a very big thing, but as Strive Masiyiwa says “believe you me” until you practice it,its when you will see the results. And it’s important to impact your life with adding more books in your reading list and try to implement those learnings in your real life to measure growth results.Lastly, reading is the only way you can get a chance to learn new skills, as we all know “you can only give the output of what you know” and knowledge is collectively inputs and output of your interest.

I am looking forward to share more and please also share your growth list via the comment section below, so we can all learn from you as well and collectively we can MAKE A MARK across our African ecosystem.

 

Author

Edwin Bruno is the Founder and CEO at SmartCodes

 

 

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Afripreneur

Coverdor: An insurtech providing digital insurance experience targeted at millennial and emerging generation

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Seun Ayegbusi is the Founder and CEO at Coverdor, a Lagos based and Nigeria’s first fully digital insurance platform, providing insurance when you need it the most, entirely online. Seun and his team believe insurance is not just a fancy product, but A FUNDAMENTAL HUMAN RIGHT everyone deserves, especially in Nigeria and Africa where the level of risks and uncertainties we face is really high.  In this interview with  Alaba Ayinuola  of Business Africa Online, Seun shed more light on his brand tend to simplify the insurance experience and create easy accessibility to social benefiting insurance products in every emerging market they serve. Excerpt.

 

 

Alaba: Kindly tell us about Coverdor and the gap it’s filling.

Seun: Coverdor is an AI-powered digital insurance distribution platform focused on insurance coverage for everyday items like smartphone, laptops etc against mechanical, liquid, accidental damages and theft. Coverdor also enables service providers (retail stores and ecommerce websites) cross-sell add-on gadget insurance on every consumer gadgets sold at their online or offline point of sale.

We discovered that although insurance was created for the fundamental good of society in indemnifying against risks and uncertainties, however the industry lacks the technology and innovation to connect to the retail market segment (the millennial demographic) who are more risk-prone and expects to interact with insurers and insurance products the exact way they interact with any online business who offers them convenience when shopping online.

Hence, Coverdor is filling the gap of complex, paper-based, delayed and manual processes experienced in the conventional insurance system to deliver a completely digital insurance experience for the average upward-mobile millennial offering innovative insurance products that fit their lifestyle.

 

Alaba: What was your startup capital and how were you able to raise it?

Seun: Our startup capital was in excess of $20,000 and was sourced through savings committed from founders and funds raised from family and friends.

 

Alaba: What are the challenges, competition and how are you overcoming them?

Seun: Talking about challenges we encountered while innovating within the insurance industry can’t be over stretched, one of which is compliance with NAICOM’s regulation, which I must say is the biggest challenge we have faced however, working closely with our partner insurance company has helped us and is constantly helping us to navigate this issue.

 

Alaba: How is your startup different from other financial startups?

Seun: Coverdor is a lot different from any other fintech startup as the category of financial services sector we operate in differs from the categories other fintech startups operate within, especially within the payment, lending, asset management categories. However, Coverdor on the other hand is an insurance technology startup focused on insurance digitization, direct-to-customer  distribution and cross-selling distribution. We also differ from other insurtech categories that focus on insurance price comparison.

 

Alaba: What’s the future for your startup and what steps are you taking in achieving them?

Seun: The future of Coverdor is to become a full fledged digital insurance company, providing new and innovative insurance products that fits the lifestyle and meet the needs of Nigerian millennials. Also in the next 2-3 years we plan to launch a dedicated technology arm of Coverdor that will focus on core insurance solutions using emerging technologies to redefine core operational areas of insurance business, while advancing the digital transformation of the insurance industry in Nigeria.

 

Alaba: How can governments provide the best support for startups in Africa?

Seun: The government can do a lot in supporting startups in Africa, however, top on the list will be creating enabling policies to foster growth for startup across all sectors of the economy.

 

Alaba: What’s your view on the development of Africa InsurTech ecosystem?

Seun: The insurtech ecosystem in Africa is beginning to gain momentum as we witnessing different startups innovating across different points of the insurance value chain, however, to speed up the development, ecosystem players must become deliberate and intentional about fast-tracking development. Incumbent Insurers should set up digital transformation units that will foster partnerships with insurtechs looking to innovate alongside incumbent insurers. Furthermore, we need insurtech-focused accelerators to bolster insurtech startup growth, when these things are done, then the African Insurtech ecosystem will experience similar growth as seen in the US, Europe and Asia.

 

Also Read SMEs: Legal Tips For Office Space Acquisition | Morenike Okebu

 

Alaba: How do you feel as an African entrepreneur?

Seun: I feel proud to be an African entrepreneur, being part of the people bringing solutions to the many problems Africans are facing in Africa. Also being able to team up with other entrepreneurs to create jobs and contribute to the economy is a great way to live one’s life.

 

Alaba: What advice would you give prospecting entrepreneurs who intend to start a business or invest in Africa.

Seun: I will like to tell them that “nothing moves until you move”. There is never a better time to push yourself and kickstart that idea or pet project of yours, work hard to turn it into a great product or service. Three things I think will pull you through are “passion” for what you do or build, “tenacity” to see it succeed and “hope” that you will succeed as well.

 

Alaba: How do you and partners relax and what books do you read?

Seun: All work and no play makes Seun a dull boy, however when I need to relax I hang out with my family, family happy hour does it for me. Then as for books, I read lots of business and personal development books. Top on my list is “My Vision: challenges in the race for excellence” by Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

 

Alaba: Please teach us one word in your home language and your favorite local dish?

Seun: Has a Yoruba man, I will like to teach you a Yoruba word that says “elubo” translated in English as yam flour.

My favourite local dish as a proud Ondo man is “iyan and efo elegusi with eja kika” translated as pounded yam with melon and vegetable soup with stock fish.

 

Short Bio:

Seun Ayegbusi is a Nigerian-born tech entrepreneur, business development and digital product development expert, and a serial innovator with extensive knowledge of the African emerging markets. A graduate of Olabisi Onabanjo University, and an alumnus of London Academy Business School. With over six years of experience in the private sector and the tech startup scene and a passion to tackle one of Africa’s most stubborn social development issues birthed the startup – Coverdor.

 

Visit Coverdor today!

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Afripreneur

Interview With The Founder And Textile Designer At The Adirelounge, Cynthia Asije

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Cynthia Asije is the founder and textile designer at The Adirelounge, a Nigeria based textile company with a premium textile brand that creates unique designs using the “Adire” skill that has been passed from generations to generations. At AdireLounge they have modernized the technical grain textile by integrating technology, design, and empowerment to strengthen financial inclusion in rural Nigeria. In this interview with  Alaba Ayinuola  of Business Africa OnlineCynthia talked about her entrepreneurship journey, how Adirelounge is creating prosperity for African women, youths and their families and her plans to make her brand the number one Textile Hub with different experience outlets in major cities in Nigeria and Africa. Excerpt.

Alaba: Kindly tell us about Adirelounge and the inspiration behind it?

Cynthia: The Adirelounge is a hand dyed Textile Company that creates unique designs on non-conventional fabrics like chiffon, t-shirts,scarves and silk. We also train rural women, widows, vulnerable and out of school youth in this Adire skill. Thereby preserving culture and traditions, rich heritage and the textile making skills of Nigeria. And also curbing unemployment and creating job opportunities for these women and youth. After school I went for the mandatory National Youth Service Corps in Ogun State and I was posted to Abeokuta. After service I bought some adire fabrics to sell when I get back to Benin. I sold out but my customers had complains like, why are the colors dull? Why is it strong? The colors run, why? etc. so I knew there was a problem. I had to learn how to dye this fabric and make it well. I went back to Abeokuta stayed for some time and learnt Adire making properly. I even tried dying several fabrics like Chiffon, Cotton, Jersey, Silk, Linen, Lace, Denim, T-shirts and Scarves and it came out well and was able to tackle all the questions my clients were asking.

 

Alaba: What was your startup capital and how did you raise it?

Cynthia: My start up capital was N20,000 gotten from my savings.

 

Alaba: What are the challenges and how are you overcoming them?

Cynthia: Our top three Challenges are;

  • Design Theft: Most of our marketing is done online so our designs are available, people take them and use them as theirs, and we had to watermark our images before it goes online.
  • Finance to expand: There are no readily available finance option for small business owners with a single digit to grow their business, so at Adirelounge we overcame that by bootstrapping. But now we are open to investment options.
  • Regulation: We overcame this by understanding the meaning of regulation in our industry and its implications for my business and to develop the skills necessary to deal with it.
  • Finding the right Staff: we had to get our recruitment right and train them to the company’s standards, and carry out training where it is necessary following identification of staff strength.

 

Alaba: How is your brand unique and different from other Adire brands?

Cynthia: The Adirelounge brand is a premium brand that creates unique patterns on different fabric mediums like Silk, Chiffon, Tshirts, an ecommerce platform where customers can shop at their own convenience. We also train and empower rural women and youths in the adire skill.

Alaba: How are you promoting the Adire brand beyond the shores of Africa?

Cynthia: We are promoting the Adire brand beyond the shores of Africa via our partnerships with international ecommerce sites, partnering with fashion brands outside Africa has helped with promoting the Adire brand.

Alaba: How can African government support Startups and SMEs?

Cynthia: African government can support entrepreneurs by creating state loans or grants for entrepreneurs, reduce small business tax and hiring requirements, Create a policy framework that is pro-business and pro-employment, Co-ordinate with industry associations and business entities to advance innovation, ensure compliance, balance profits with employee focused social benefits, and encourage competition by effectively checking monopolies.

Also Read 5 important features to make your contract legal and valid | Tosin Omotosho

Alaba: What’s the future of your brand and what steps are you taking towards achieving them?

Cynthia: To be the number one Textile Hub in Nigeria with different experience outlets in major cities in the country. Exporting our fabrics to major stores in Europe, USA and other African countries. Establish our textile art institute in major communities in the country to teach women, youths the art of adire making so they can create sustainable income for themselves.

Alaba: How do you feel as an African entrepreneur?

Cynthia: I feel so elated to be an African entrepreneur in these times. The world is watching, we have great talents and brands emerging from Africa. There is no better time to be an African entrepreneur.

 

Alaba: How do you relax and what books do you read?

Cynthia: I used to be a hermit, but part of my 2019 personal development goal is to go out more often, visit friends, attend networking meetings, and I read a lot of business and self-care books and blogs.

 

Alaba: Please teach us one word in your home language? What’s your favourite local dish?

Cynthia: I’m from ‘Ora’ in Edo State, Nigeria. My best local dish is ‘Black soup and starch’and ‘Oboshan’ which means ‘Welcome’.

 

Her Short Bio:

Cynthia Asije is a multi-award winning textile designer at The Adirelounge, a hand dyed Textile Company that trains women in rural communities and create job opportunities for them.She has a Certificate in Entrepreneurship from EDC Lagos, and a Non Profit Leadership certificate from Lagos Business School.She was on the Ynaija Power list 2018 for Fashion and Style and 100 Africa’s Next Start up by IFC-World Bank Group 2018.

 

Kindly click to visit Adirelounge

 

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