Bunmi Arinbola is the founder of Elewa Foods, a semi-foods processing company. Her desire was to become a barrister at Law but she ended up being an entrepreneur making the process of cooking easier.
Elewa Foods produces skinned and pureed beans for easy preparation of Nigerian meals such as moin-moin, akara, gbegiri and other meals made from beans.
In an interview with woman.ng, she tells us how she started her business.
FROM HAVING AN IDEA TO STARTING YOUR BUSINESS, SHARE YOUR JOURNEY WITH US.
Having a business idea is only what it is- an idea until you let it pass through the various stages of evolution. The best way to get anything done really is to start NOW. The ability to strike out on one’s own is the most dynamic means of building a brand. The idea came to me on a Sunday and by Tuesday, I had implemented my first production and initiated my first sales. Your creative juices must keep flowing and you have to feed/fuel them else they run dry.
WHY DO YOU LOVE WHAT YOU DO? THERE ARE SO MANY OTHER BUSINESSES YOU COULD HAVE EXPLORED, WHY THIS?
People intuitively understand that a good business enhances the lives of all who work within it, and enriches the lives of all who are touched by it. I am passionate about finding a human need and filing. Elewa Foods takes away stress from people, we help encourage Healthy eating and show redefined ways of making traditional meals. I didn’t choose the business, it chose me, my passion for cooking and food has always been raging. I would say the time for it to manifest has finally come.
AT WHAT POINT DID YOU KNOW BEYOND ALL DOUBT THAT THIS IS GOING TO WORK?
This business was brought to me from an inspiration for the Holy Spirit. You cannot know Him and think failure. This business was started to make lives easier- pure and simple. That is an operation vital to me. Likewise, the business you can succeed with is distinctly and utterly you and yours. It is unlike any other business in the world. Being in business is not about making money, it is a way to become who you are.
HOW DID YOU RAISE THE CAPITAL TO START YOUR BUSINESS, ESPECIALLY WITH THE HIGH COST OF RUNNING BUSINESSES IN NIGERIA?
I started my business with just about N1000 as that was all I needed and could afford as at then. The mistake a lot of people make is that they think they need a huge capital to begin. Funding is not always easily accessible but you must not let money stop you from pursuing your dreams. How about you start small, grow and the opportunities for funding ‘would slide into you Dm’ (Lol)
HOW SOON DID YOU START MAKING PROFITS?
Profit is relative. The business makes a profit on each sale with the fixed margins but we cannot lay claim to that yet. Each time an extra money is made, it is plowed back into the business as a reinvestment. That is one of the cross start-up business bears.
BRILLIANT IDEAS DON’T ALWAYS MEAN GREAT SALES, HOW HAS IT BEEN MARKETING YOUR SERVICES?
The market is as much a part of your company as you are. For a business to thrive, you need to earn the permission of the market place. The customer must give your business permission to sell to him (which is only done after a thorough assessment of you, your products/services and your operation). In order for this to happen, you must BE the market- which means you should be able to shop at the store you run or receive the services you offer. I do word-of-mouth marketing. Your brand is you, no one would advertise it for you like you would do. I also use the social media a lot and equally gave out samples to people to try for review. These people come back with positive testimonies of my products and help me with free referrals.
AS A SMALL BUSINESS OWNER YOU CAN’T DO EVERYTHING, WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR EXPERIENCE HIRING STAFF AND BUILDING YOUR TEAM?
No man is an island. We always need help and wisdom in knowing when to reach out for it. The team you get is a reflection of how you value your business. A start-up business can manage without a team until you know there is a need for expansion.
Building a team is not such a challenge for me. I have a solid HR Background, (and run an HR Consulting +Events Management outfit alongside Elewa) which means I know set criteria to look out for while filling roles. However, after hiring a good employee, you have to ensure they remain. It does no good to find the right person and then treat them so poorly they are looking for a way out within six months.
YOUR GREATEST SKILL/STRENGTHS THAT HAVE BEEN PARTICULARLY BEEN OF HELP IN STARTING AND RUNNING YOUR BUSINESS.
I have mastered the act of strong organizational skills and have a good customer
service orientation. This makes me ensure that our clients are always kept satisfied. I ask them for their honest feedback and file it for occasional use. Organization is essential in doing business, it saves you time and prevents you from unnecessary expenses which might come up last minute.
DID YOU HAVE TO GET A FORMAL TRAINING OR QUALIFICATION TO BE ABLE TO DO THIS?
Well, apart from the required education, I attend seminars and conferences. I have, over the years, built experience from working both in private and government-owned establishments. The honest truth is, where ever you find yourself now, make the best use of it. It is always a training platform for the future. I am also making plans to get more educated in the food Industry and I do occasional research on ways to make my products better. The key words are Innovation and constant knowledge acquisition.
YOU HAVE BEEN RUNNING YOUR BUSINESS FOR SOME TIME NOW, WHAT DO YOU KNOW NOW THAT YOU WISHED YOU HAD KNOWN BEFORE YOU STARTED?
The hustle is yours. Once you launch out, no one is going to lead you by hand. You have to be prepared at all times. Also, let your relationship with money determine the amount of money you use to start your business. You should begin a business with just as much capital as makes you comfortable and you should obtain it from sources you are most comfortable with.
ANY LIFE EXPERIENCE THAT HAS PARTICULARLY PREPARED YOU DIRECTLY OR INDIRECTLY FOR WHAT YOU DO NOW?
Each day of my life is involved in my evolution from the woman I used to be the woman I am now and even to the woman, I would become in years to be.
CHANGE CAN BRING OUT A PART OF US WE NEVER KNEW EXISTED, WHAT NEW THINGS HAVE YOU DISCOVERED ABOUT YOURSELF IN THE COURSE OF STARTING AND RUNNING YOUR BUSINESS?
I am still marveling at the level of resilience I demonstrate in certain situations.
People that know me could say I didn’t have a drive and I was bound to abandon ship if things were not working out is why I get tired of an employment and move to the next. However, with Elewa, I have learned that giving up is not even an option. I get a No and I am fired up to ask again, that is still surprising to myself!
THE GREATEST BUSINESS ADVICE YOU HAVE EVER RECEIVED AND BY WHO?
My Chairman: You can do it!
WHAT DO YOU THINK ARE THE MOST ESSENTIAL SKILLS FOR WOMEN ENTREPRENEURS ESPECIALLY IN NIGERIA?
Resilience; Focus; Determination to succeed; Drive; Virtue; Temperance; Patience
Be a giver: if you do not pour out to fill others, there would be no space for you to