In 2012, Kasope Ladipo-Ajai, a computer science graduate from Babcock University started OmoAlata, a Nigerian food service and packaging company focused on producing hygienically processed and packaged local Nigerian soups, spices, and peppers. We had a chat with her on how she started her business.
Tell us about your business
OmoAlata Food Services desires 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. The company aspires to use its strong local brand identity to position an international product range that will sit in stores all over the world for Nigerians and other customers present in these markets.
From having an idea to starting your business, share your journey with us
I had always planned to start my own company. I told my first job interviewers that I would probably be working for myself in five years (I was young and too cheeky I guess). I got the job and resigned four years later to become an entrepreneur. When I decided to finally take the big leap, I registered the business name to make my decision concrete.
Why do you love what you do? There are so many other businesses you could have explored, why this?
Some businesses start from a passion or calling. Others are solution opportunities to turned business. OmoAlata was birthed from a urge to solve the cooking needs of a Nigerian woman.
At what point did you know beyond all doubt that this is going to work?
…to be honest, from the very beginning. I knew it would not be a smooth sail but it was a real need that had to be met.
How did you raise the capital to start your business, especially with the high cost of running businesses in Nigeria?
From personal savings
How soon did you start making profits?
Not until very recently.
Brilliant ideas don’t always mean great sales, how has it been marketing your services?
It has been and is still a lot of hard work and creative thinking
As a small business owner you can’t do everything, what has been your experience hiring staff and building your team.
That has been a roller coaster ride. Even bigger and more successful businesses cannot boast of totally defeating this issue.
Your greatest skill/strength that has particularly been of help in starting and running your business?
Refusal to give up and throw in the towel when the going gets rough
Did you have to get a formal training or qualification to be able to do this?
Not in food related subjects but in project/process management. I have also attended a number of business/entrepreneurial trainings along the way.
You have been running your business for some time now, what did you know now that you wished you had known before you started?
There is a lot of help/guidance out there if only keep your ears to the ground.
Any life experience that has particularly prepared you directly or indirectly for what you do now?
Well, I am a first-born child and only girl and have learnt to grow a thick skin and pave my own way to get what I want no matter the obstacles.
The greatest challenge you have ever had to overcome to get to where you are now?
Not going back to paid employment when living from hand to mouth became unbearable.
The greatest business advice you have ever received and by who?
A business idea is new not because no one has thought about it but because it is hard work. Brace up and stay focused. My mentor
What do you think are the most essential skills for women entrepreneurs especially in Nigeria?
Grow a thick skin. Being a woman doesn’t mean you are weak.
Read and educate yourself extensively especially on your business area. When you are well versed, you feel confident and your audience will believe what you are selling.
Socialize/network especially with fellow women entrepreneurs. You will be surprised at knowledge and information you will gain