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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.

 

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Defendis, a Moroccan startup launches its cyber threat intelligence platform at GITEX Africa

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Defendis Co-Founders (Image: Supplied).

Defendis, a Moroccan cybersecurity startup with an innovative approach to Threat Intelligence, emerges from stealth with the launch of its AI-powered platform, enabling organisations to proactively contain data leaks and neutralise cyberattacks.

Defendis’s approach goes beyond traditional IOCs by providing Banks, Government Agencies, and Businesses the capability to understand what cybercriminals are doing before an attack. The platform taps into AI to identify credentials and payment Cards leaks, asset vulnerabilities, phishing attacks, fraudulent domains, and online brand impersonation attempts.

“Our mission is to provide organisations, especially those with limited resources and capabilities, with advanced cybersecurity solutions to adapt to the ever-changing threat landscape and regulatory requirements,” says Amine Bajeddi, co-founder and CEO of Defendis.

Defendis is founded and led by a team of talented young Moroccan entrepreneurs passionate about cybersecurity:

Amine Bajeddi, Co-founder and CEO: A graduate of Al Akhawayn University in Morocco and the University of Sussex in the UK, Amine Bajeddi has extensive experience in product development and business strategy. He is now dedicated to Defendis to develop cutting-edge cybersecurity solutions.

Charafeddine Nassiri, Co-founder and CTO: Passionate about cybersecurity since the age of 15, Charafeddine Nassiri is a brilliant self-taught individual. Having identified and fixed over 1,114 vulnerabilities through bug bounty programs, he was able to launch his career as a cybersecurity consultant in 2019. Today, as CTO of Defendis, he leads the development of new solutions capable of transforming the cybersecurity landscape.

Marouane Sabri, Co-founder and CMO: A graduate in communication from Al Akhawayn University in Morocco and a master’s degree in digital marketing from the University of Southampton, Marouane Sabri has extensive experience in marketing and business development. He has held key positions at Avito and Garena before joining Defendis to lead marketing and communication efforts.

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RevUp Women Initiative Awards $100,000 In Grants to 10 Female Entrepreneurs

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The RevUp Women Initiative hosted its highly anticipated Business Showcase, themed “Investing in Women, Inspiring Futures.” The event, organized by AfriLabs and Visa Foundation, brought together a diverse array of stakeholders committed to fostering inclusive economic growth through the empowerment of women entrepreneurs.

The Opening Ceremony, guided by Nanko Madu, Director of Programmes at AfriLabs, commenced with a warm welcome address, setting the tone for the day’s proceedings. Attendees were treated to a visual journey through the accomplishments of RevUp Women’s First Cohort, showcased in captivating highlights.

A highlight of the event was the Keynote Address delivered by Mrs. Ifeyinwa Ighodalo, Co-founder at WIMBIZ, who passionately spoke about the importance of investing in women and the transformative impact it can have on communities and economies.

‘It is my distinct honor and privilege to stand before you today as we gather to celebrate the remarkable achievements of women entrepreneurs and to rally behind the RevUp Women Initiative. This initiative not only celebrates the indomitable spirit, resilience, and determination of women in general but also highlights the importance of investing in women and women-owned businesses as a means of building and inspiring a future that is inclusive, diverse, and prosperous for all,’ stated Mrs. Ifeyinwa Ighodalo, Co-founder at WIMBIZ.

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Following the keynote, a thought-provoking Panel Discussion ensued, moderated by Nanko Madu, focusing on “Fostering Inclusive Growth Through Women’s Economic Participation.” The panel featured esteemed personalities including Ms. Lilian Olubi, Judge at The Next Titan Nigeria; Ms. Hajara Pitan, Wealth Coach & Business Strategist at Audacity to Soar; Sherifah Balogun, Director of Strategy, Funding, and Stakeholder Management at LSETF; and Annabel Angwenyi, Founder at Ziada. Their insights illuminated pathways for enhancing women’s economic empowerment across the continent.

Engagement continued with a lively Question & Answer session, allowing attendees to interact directly with the panelists and delve deeper into key issues surrounding women’s economic participation. The pinnacle of the event was the much-anticipated Award Ceremony, where the top ten finalists of a comprehensive selection process were announced as winners each receiving a grant of 10,000 USD:

  • Baby Grubz (Lagos, Nigeria).
  • Queen Amina Medical Integration (Abuja, Nigeria).
  • Ecokud Limited (Kisumu, Kenya).
  • Ziada, Kele Makgale (Pty) Ltd (Nairobi Kenya).
  • Ndiqala (PTY) Ltd (Johannesburg, South Africa).
  • WaziEats (Douala, Cameroon).
  • V’s VitaLife (Yaounde, Cameroon).
  • Mali Food (Lubumbashi, DRC).
  • P.aktion (Kinshasa, DRC).

The awards celebrated the resilience, innovation, and dedication of these trailblazing entrepreneurs.

“Investing in women isn’t just a moral imperative; it’s a strategic decision with far-reaching economic benefits.  As we strive for inclusive growth, it’s imperative that we recognize and harness the potential of women as drivers of economic development,” emphasized Nanko Madu, Director of Programmes at AfriLabs.

“Despite the challenges women entrepreneurs face, they demonstrate an unparalleled tenacity and determination to succeed,” said Najada Kumbuli, Head of Investments, Visa Foundation. “Supporting the growth of women-owned businesses is crucial for fostering an economy that works for everyone, everywhere.”

The RevUp Women Initiative Business Showcase not only celebrated the achievements of women entrepreneurs but also served as a catalyst for driving meaningful change and fostering a more inclusive and prosperous future for all.

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Link Me: Revolutionising Ride-Sharing for Gen Z In South Africa

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Link Me Founder, Sean Murefu.

In today’s fast-paced world, convenience is key, but consumers are also seeking more value from the services they use. Enter Link Me, a ride-sharing app tailored specifically for Gen Z in South Africa. Founded by 21-year-old entrepreneur Sean Murefu, Link Me is not just another ride-sharing app but a lifestyle brand on a mission to redefine urban mobility and offer an unparalleled experience to its users.

Link Me recognises that we are in an era where people expect more in return for the services they use. With a focus on providing value-added services and fostering a sense of community, Link Me aims to go beyond simply getting users from point A to point B but it’s about delivering an experience.

“At Link Me, we understand that consumers want more than just a ride,” explains Sean Murefu, the driving force behind the app. “They want value, they want convenience, and they want to feel connected. That’s why we’ve designed Link Me to offer more than just transportation. We’re offering an experience.”

One of the key features that sets Link Me apart is its user-friendly interface, making booking a ride quick and easy. With just a few taps on their smartphones, users will soon be able to access a network of reliable drivers and track their journey in real-time. Safety is also a top priority, with thorough background checks for all drivers and in-app safety features ensuring peace of mind for both riders and drivers.

But Link Me doesn’t stop at transportation. As part of its mission to become a lifestyle brand, the app will host public and private events for its users, fostering a sense of community and belonging. Additionally, Link Me will provide its drivers with a bimonthly lottery as a bonus on top of the money they earned, offering them the chance to win exciting prizes and incentives.

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“We want to give our users more than just a ride—we want to give them an unforgettable experience,” says Murefu. As Link Me prepares for its official launch, anticipation is building among prospective users eager to experience its unique blend of convenience, community, and value. With a commitment to providing exceptional service and fostering a sense of belonging, The app is poised to revolutionise urban mobility for Gen Z in South Africa and beyond.

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