If you’re in the food industry, or interested of becoming a part of it soon, you should definitely keep reading! In our Entrepreneur in Focus series, we highlight entrepreneurs who are making noteworthy strides in the business world. We chose Kasope Ladipo Ajai this week because she chose a peculiar business venture by starting a Nigerian food service and packaging company.
This computer science graduate of Babcock University began her life as an entrepreneur after four years at Virgin Atlantic. During this time, she travelled to developed markets to visit retailers who stocked Nigerian foods and spices. To her surprise she discovered that a large quantity of Nigerian spices were produced in Ghana. This gave her all of the ammunition she needed to begin her business and hit the ground running. At 27, she began her business with personal savings with the intent of producing hygienically processed and packaged local Nigerian soups, spices and peppers to resolve the cooking needs of Nigerian women.
Ajai didn’t have any experience in the food processing industry, so she used the internet to gather as much information as possible. Her market research also included speaking to caterers to help put together her flavours and experimenting with different mixes until she got a perfect blend. After this, she began making samples from friends and family and used their feedback to gauge the marketability of her products.
From there, Ajai started a factory in some relative’s property to save costs, so the large sum of their personal savings went to buying industrial food-processing equipment. It also helped that her partner was still employed to help with other costs and avoid loans.
OmoAlata currently supplies 25 retailers in Lagos and produces between 500 and 700 packs of flavourants a week. Ajai’s primary goal is to be Nigeria’s pioneer food packaging company providing easy to use pepper mix to the general public with operations in key markets across the country and abroad.
The lessons we learnt from this entrepreneurial journey are;
-Use as much help as possible from family and friends to ensure you have enough working capital and avoid loans if possible
-Think big and start small
-You don’t have to start as an expert but you should strive to be knowledgeable and competent
-Ensure you do extensive market research to test your product
-Be patient as it may take tie before you begin to see returns on your investment
We hope that next time you go in a store looking for Nigerian flavouring, you’re proud when you see a product that has been created and processed in the backyard of your homeland. Always think of how you can provide a solution to the environment you’re in. It is one of the many keys to business success.