My Business Story

Switching From Biochemistry To Baking Opened New Doors For Me – Entrepreneur

First Class graduate of biochemistry shares story of how she’s building a successful career from baking

Oyindamola Adeoluwa always wanted to have her own business, but she wasn’t quite sure what that business would be. It took an accidental conversation with a fellow corps member at the Abuja orientation camp of National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) in 2013 for her to decide.
“I met someone in my Abuja NYSC camp very randomly and we developed a friendship,” Oyindamola recalled. “She told me that she had been baking cakes casually for a while and I talked her into making a business out of it with me being the business manager. We carried on in a partnership for just under a year before we went our separate ways and I continued in the business.”
She is a First Class graduate of Medical Biochemistry from the University of Leicester, United Kingdom. Her parents wanted her to pursue a career in the medical field, thus it was no surprise that her decision to go into confectionaries was met with some resistance from family and friends.
She explained how they received the news of her going into baking: “I had always maintained good grades; I have a first class honours degree in Medical Biochemistry so everybody expected me to go on to study medicine or at least pursue a career in the medical field.  But I was absolutely uninterested; I wanted to run a business. I admire the medical profession and all it entails but it’s just not my calling. So yeah, friends and family were not initially thrilled and probably thought and hoped cakes would be a short-term dalliance.”

Business brief:
Started 2016
Instagram: @decadenttreats_ng

Oyindamola’s father was particularly bent on securing a medical-related placement for her during her youth service. However, fate had other plans. When the medical placement was not forthcoming, she happily switched her Place of Primary Assignment to an events company. She went on to work there for almost two years, post-NYSC, and was able to run her confectionary business along with the job.
She registered Decadent Treats as a Private Limited Liability Company in May 2016 and it was the same family and friends who helped her to secure her early clients. “NYSC was my first time in Abuja so I didn’t really know anybody. A colleague at the events company introduced my cakes to her circle of friends and then there were more referrals. Other friends and family also helped in word-of-mouth marketing.”
Because she didn’t plan on being a baker from the onset, it was difficult to initially decide if it was what she wanted to do when she started in 2013. However, it neither took long nor much convincing for Oyindamola to metaphorically see the writing on the wall.
She recalled how. “I would work at my day job all day and then have to bake and decorate cakes till late in the night. And in the beginning, we were baking in my partner’s kitchen in Asokoro. I would finish work in Wuse II, drive to Asokoro to bake and then back home to Gwarinpa in the wee hours of the morning. It was mental but it was also my moment of truth.”
These days, Decadent Treats has three full-time staff, a part-time accountant and various contract staff. With a “handsome” turnover, we asked Oyindamola what she does differently to stand her out in the crowded confectionary business.

In the beginning, we were baking in my partner’s kitchen in Asokoro. I would finish work in Wuse II, drive to Asokoro to bake and then back home to Gwarinpa in the wee hours of the morning. It was mental but it was also my moment of truth.

Her response: “We manage to stand out because of two things; quality ingredients and show-stopping designs. We are constantly researching new recipes, ingredients and techniques to keep in step with international counterparts. Each product we send out is a marketing tool so we put in a 100 per cent and we don’t compromise. We hope that this consistency results in a larger customer base that will in turn help us grow and increase capacity.”
Some 30 per cent of Oyindamola’s baking ingredients are sourced from overseas. This means price fluctuation due to exchange rate. She also faces the challenge of poor electricity supply. But by far, her biggest constant challenge is how to stay relevant in an ever-changing business.
She said, “Being a creative field, there is a requirement to keep things fluid and current in order not to run the risk of becoming irrelevant and losing your customer base. This is where constant research and upgrading of skills become critical.  Anytime I feel stagnant  , I take a step back from work and focus on learning new things for the business.”
This has led Oyindamola to undertake various training courses outside the country, including at the prestigious Savour Chocolate and Patisserie School in Melbourne, Australia.
She is also already thinking about diversifying her business. “We are in the process of floating a specialty bakery company called, dedicated to crafting delicious varieties of the French pastry, Éclair. We also run a food and drinks display rental company called Abuja Props Rental.”
Oyindamola is working hard to ensure that her business becomes bigger and better with pop-up stores all over Nigeria. She has come a long way from that first cake she baked in 2013. “It was the ugliest cake yet we were so proud of ourselves,” she said smiling, “I shudder to think about that cake now!”

Self-Taught Entrepreneur Excites Tough Beauty Market

Young makeup artist takes on a crowded market and finds a profitable niche

Some think it only takes a lipstick and an eye pencil to become a makeup artist. So saturated is the industry that standing shoulders above other so-called makeup artists might be a tall order, especially if you initially didn’t enjoy the support of those who should be your first set of clients – family and friends.

Titilayo Yussuff decided to take makeup art seriously after graduation not only because she enjoyed it, but also because she had a point to prove. 

She recalled: “It started initially as a hobby five years ago while I was in the university. I became fond of makeup and started acquiring some products, watched a couple of videos and blogs, which I got fascinated over the transformations. So I decided to take a bold step and started practicing which led to my first makeup gig in my church back then and that was how Hermosaa evolved.”

Business Brief:
Started: 2015
Social Media Contact:
Instagram: @hermosaa_ng
Facebook: fb/Hermosaamakeupstudio

Hermosaa is the name of Titilayo’s makeup art parlour located at Kampala Street, Off Adetokunbo Ademola, Wuse II, Abuja. 

Although Titilayo was an undergraduate when she started as an amateur makeup artist, the Business Management graduate from the University of Wales did not think she would stick with her hobby for long, much less make a career out of it. 

“To be honest, I seriously considered a 9-5 job after NYSC, as my aunty felt that securing a job would be safer,” she admitted. “But deep down inside I knew that life was not for me. I wanted to be in control and I had plans of running a business someday. Being an entrepreneur was something I always dreamt about so I decided to take that risk.” 

Although Titilayo wanted to be taken seriously from the start and sought the support of family and friends who, naturally, are the first set of clients in her line of business, it took some effort to get convince them.

She said: “My family and close friends persuaded me to get a job but I was able to convince them to give me a chance to prove myself.  To be honest it was never easy. I had to secure a little space, market my brand, register my business, source for products and build my clientele base all at the same time and by myself. It took a while but eventually I got referrals from friends and family.”

This may sound cheesy, but there’s a huge difference between DIY and when makeup is professionally done

Titilayo registered Hermosaa Make Up Studios Ltd in March 2015 and has experienced a lot of changes in the makeup business in the years she’s been around. But what was that big break and when did it happen?

She recalled, “I used to wake up early on Sundays especially to put on make up to church just to get people’s opinions. It eventually got me my first big job, which was a bridal gig. I was so scared and excited at the same time as I didn’t believe someone could trust me to do their make up knowing full well I was just an amateur. It went very well and from there I got referrals.”

She also prides herself on being a self-taught make-up artist. “I remember back when I was in the university, I was able to save up some money from my part-time job. I bought few products, stayed up watching videos and reading blogs as I couldn’t afford a makeup school so the only option I had was to sit down and teach myself. Yes I am a self-taught makeup artist, it took a lot of practice, patience, passion and criticism but I got there.”

What sets her service apart? Her response was simple, “At Hermosaa, it is all about simplicity and class. We aim to enhance and not alter our client’s appearance.” 

In a world of DIY, who really needs a makeup artist? Titilayo smiled: “This may sound cheesy, but there’s a huge difference between DIY and when makeup is professionally done. The application, longevity and very importantly, what suites each individual, only come with the professional touch.”

Judging by her clientele base, this strategy can be said to be working for Titilayo. She has worked for former President Gooodluck Jonathan, Ondo State First Lady and TY Bello among other high profile clients. 

She has also been featured on fashion programmes on MTV Base and Spice TV. 

She must have made it big and does it mean she charges a fortune for a make-up gig? Titilayo replied: “I charge based on the type of event they’re having or attending. For example, a wedding guest will be charged differently from a bride. Our turnover varies on the season and type of services, but I can tell you at Hermosaa we make it a priority that we are profitable every month.”

Finally, we asked where she sees Hermosaa in the foreseeable future. “I see Hermosaa expanding with branches all over the country,” she said. “Our products being sold in up class retail stores around the world and I see a brand recognized for only quality products and services.”

Graphic Designer Turns Hobby Into Thriving Business

A creative artist who took graphic design as a hobby has turned his passion into a successful venture enlisting the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, amongst others, as clients.

Nothing gets Harry Bassey animated as a conversation about graphic design: “I’ve always had a love for art and design, so even in my spare time I would constantly study and research about it. I was job-hunting and things were not going my way, so I decided instead of sitting idle I could use this opportunity to chase a passion of mine,” he told us.

For some, graphic design and art may be just a hobby or side hustle, but for Harry, it means a lot more.

Sharing his passion for the profession, Harry said, “I’ve never viewed the profession as just a hobby. It’s something that I have been interested in most of my life I knew there were opportunities in this field with lots of room for growth if done the right way. I knew that if I dedicated myself to constant growth, acquisition of skills and adaptability, the sky was the limit. It’s more than graphic design; its art, it’s marketing. It’s being able to convey a message to an audience through the mediums I choose to work in.”

Business brief:
Business started: 2014
Instagram: @hebconcepts

Harry was so convinced that he could stand out in the overcrowded field of graphic design that he started HEB Concepts from personal savings and help from family and friends.

His first job was not encouraging, but he was not deterred by the experience.

Going down memory lane, he recalled, “My first paid job was creating a logo for a friend’s clothing company. The pay was almost nothing but when you want people to take a chance on you sometimes you have to pay your dues, and that sometimes involves not really focusing on the pay but instead the opportunity.”

As an entrepreneur, he understands and has mastered the benefit of starting with the people closest to one. According to him, they are the ones who initially believe and invest in you.

Harry said once family and friends endorse you, you are in business. “The projects just start coming in and once the projects started coming in for me with more consistency, and I could see based on my past work that clients really trusted me with the growth of their business, I knew I was in business. Being entrusted with that responsibility really made me understand that I had something valuable to offer and I shouldn’t take it for granted.”

When you are a creative there are no defined work hours; you don’t just clock out at 5pm as long as there’s work to be done. Every project is different. You have to treat each client uniquely and tailor the experience to suit them, making sure they leave satisfied

Although Harry works alone most of the time, his company, HEB Concepts, has a network of designers, artists, printers and creative people whom he draws from whenever he wants to realize a client’s vision.
Does he think that technology and graphic arts software have diminished the human touch in creative work?

Harry said, “Technology and software are just tools; it is the individual behind them that makes the difference. A computer programme does not give you the creativity, vision or foresight to determine how to best communicate the client’s message. Everybody has access to a camera but still it’s those with the innate talent and that have dedicated time to honing that skill that stand out. Technology and software constantly improve a graphic artist but at the end of the day it is the ingenuity of the people behind it that makes the difference.”

He shared some of the challenges of starting HEB Concepts: “Building awareness of my services and communicating to people the value of those services were a challenge. Art is subjective, people place different value on what a design or advertisement means to them or their business. When you see a company as successful and has been existing as long as Coca-Cola, yet you still see the investment they make in marketing and promotions and that’s because you can never become complacent relaying your value to your customer base.”

Harry has designed for Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, CBS Group, Silverbird, Jolene Hair and Cosmetics, Dunes Center and many other high-profile clients relying on three creeds: adaptability, evolution and collaboration.

“When you are a creative there are no defined work hours; you don’t just clock out at 5pm as long as there’s work to be done. Every project is different. You have to treat each work uniquely and tailor the experience to suit them, making sure they leave satisfied. You can never know enough; no one person possesses all the skills and talent to meet every need.”

Harry hinges HEB Concepts’ continual growth and increasing capacity on these principles.

Young Entrepreneur Shares Exciting Story Of Greenhouse Farming

A young entrepreneur who started out helping a neighbour on his farm has ended up creating a modern farm that would leave many green with envy

Feyisayo Fatodu has always considered himself a hands-on person, and farming is not new to him. Growing up, he used to help out on their neighbour’s farm.
Although he looked forward to a white-collar job when he was in school, he knew it wasn’t what he wanted to do all his life. After working in Brussels and the UK, Feyi moved back home to pursue his many business interests.  
Feyi said, “I visited the Netherlands last year and saw the number of greenhouses that littered the sides of the highways. This increased my interest in greenhouse farming, so I started reading up extensively on the topic and also spoke with farmers who were accustomed to the more traditional methods to compare both methods. With greenhouses, I am able to produce tomatoes and fresh vegetables all year round with minimal acreage.”

Business brief
Started: April 2017
Instagram: @kijani_farmsng

Greenhouse farming is an all-year-round, space-managed high-yield cultivation under regulated climatic conditions. To put greenhouse farming into perspective: it yields up to 4 tonnes of tomatoes in a six-month season from a single 8m x 24m or 192m2 greenhouse, compared to the traditional open-field tomato cultivation which, with best agricultural practices, yields a maximum of 7 tonnes per hectare (10,000m2).
Greenhouse cultivation of tomatoes replicated over one hectare yields 19 times more than the traditional open-field method. “The numbers don’t lie if you get the processes right” he said.

However, the practice is associated with high cost, making it difficult to compete in the market.
But Feyi said he devised a method to stay competitive. “I have zeroed down my market and focused on a specific clientele for the short term. As the business expands, we can then expand our target market to supermarket chains and foreign off takers. For us to compete with our bigger rivals and ensure quick sales, we need to focus on our main customers.”
By “specific clientele” Feyi means the mid-level to upscale restaurants in Abuja, which can afford to pay a premium above what traditional farm produce commands for fresh tomatoes and vegetables with a longer shelf life.
Logically, more greenhouses mean more farm produce for Feyi. However, the peculiarity of his method of farming has affected his expansion plan. He narrated how he was technically disqualified from the Bank of Industry loan scheme during his farm set up: “I was told they didn’t give loans for structures (greenhouses). In my line of business, greenhouses are the needed equipment, which I tried to explain to them, but I was still ineligible for the loan. I have just heard about a CBN fund for SMEs and the Tony Elumelu Foundation grant, which I plan to apply for in the near future.”
Another challenge Feyi expectedly faced in starting a greenhouse farm was finding the right staff. “Getting the right workers with the technical know how wasn’t easy,” he confessed. “I had to go through a few people before getting the staff I have now. In my opinion, as a startup in the agricultural sector, it is important you hire knowledgeable workers to stay in the game as this usually translates to higher profits". 

The off-takers love fresh tomatoes and vegetables because they have a longer shelf life. In fact, the off-takers are the reason we exist.

Luckily, he received support from international agro-business companies such as Dizengoff Nigeria, which provide training and other technical support for greenhouse farmers and attendants.
The public's perception of Feyi’s farming method has been encouraging so far, and this excites him. “Everyone I have spoken to about my business has shown interest. A few even want to visit the farm to see things for themselves. Also, the off-takers love the taste and look of the fresh tomatoes and vegetables and the fact that they have a longer shelf life compared to open field produce. In fact, the off-takers are the reason we exist.”
Feyi, who holds a master’s degree in Renewable Energy Management from Newcastle University, United Kingdom, received tremendous support from family and friends when he started out, but now he needs more funding to increase productivity and explore the use of advanced technology.

An optimistic Feyi said: “I’m in this long term, so I want to see the business increasing its number of greenhouses, increasing the number and quantity of its produce. Increasing the number and varieties of crops we grow is part of the plan.” 

Looking to the future, he added, “Kenya is the lead exporter of Rose cut flowers to the EU, there’s no reason why Kijani Farms can’t explore that market in the future. There are also plans to develop a website showing our stock levels, making it easier for registered off-takers to place orders at the click of a button. Automating certain aspects of the greenhouses as is done in countries like Kenya is also in our plan.”

Feyi’s greenhouse farm, tended by two full-time and an additional part-time staff, could be modest for now, but its owner has big dreams including venturing into processing and packaging of its produce, exports and even floriculture.

Sisters Turn Childhood Baking Passion Into Big Business

Two sisters who grew up enjoying a TV show on food have turned the pastime into a goldmine

Kachi and Chizzy Amajor were born and raised in the United States of America and grew up in Texas. According to Kachi, their favourite TV show growing up was "Sweet Dreams", a baking show anchored by Gale Gand and aired on FoodNetwork. It was a show Kachi and Chizzy rarely missed and which became the foundation of their love for baking.

Kachi reminisced on how their interest in baking gradually transformed into a business idea: “I started taking baking more seriously at high school. By the time I was in college, my sister and I started our own business by selling wedding cakes, birthday cakes and so much more.”
Kachi, a graduate of the University of Texas, Arlington, and Chizzy, who graduated from Howard University and Georgetown University, both in the U.S., moved to Nigeria in 2013 for the very first time in their lives.

Business brief:
Started: April 2017
Social media contact
Instagram: @Stelladulcebakery

Kachi recalled: “Nigeria has so much to offer and we just had to come and experience it for ourselves. We left our comfort zone and jumped out on blind faith knowing that success was the only option once backed with determination and perseverance.”

However, their relocation was of mutual benefit, as they brought with them a Western confectionery idea blended with local convention.
“Being born and raised in the US has definitely had an influence on our baking styles,” Kachi told us. “We like to incorporate American southern flavours from Texas, Georgia, Mississippi, etc., and tastes that are nostalgic to our experiences. We are bringing our childhood favourites to the Nigerian market. We arealso developing recipes that truly showcase all the amazing flavours that Nigeria has to offer.”

Stella Dulce Bakery, named after the Amajor sisters’ mother, has been setup in Abuja as a place where the two sisters are taking confectionaries to the next level with exceptional passion for baking. However, Abuja and other major cities already have many bakeries. So what is Stella Dulce doing differently?

Kachi was excited by the question. She said: "We incorporate different international flavour profiles that represent the countries that we have travelled to. Stella Dulce only uses high-quality ingredients and we spend extra time on the intricate details to ensure that each product we make is as unique as the people who order them from us. We use international baking techniques from Swiss and French approaches to Texas tried and true best practices."
The Amajor sisters are using the lessons learned from their flourishing careers in public and global health to build their bakery brand with the goal of bringing international standards and quality to their customers’ doorsteps.

We are bringing our childhood favourites from the United States to the Nigerian market. We are also developing recipes that truly showcase all the amazing flavours that Nigeria has to offer

Kachi vividly remembered the first sale, which persuaded them that they were on the right track and deepened their interest: “It has to be a Ben10 car cake that we made for a little boy’s birthday. He absolutely loved it! He probably wanted to play with it more than he wanted to eat it. As is common to many start-ups, our first sales came from family and friends. Then it grew from there with recommendations. We are finding that the way we started in the United States is the same trend that we’re seeing in Nigeria.”

With growing health concerns worldwide, healthy-eating enthusiasts often criticise the confectionary industry for the growing obesity, especially among children.

We asked Kachi if Stella Dulce Bakery makes healthy desserts. She said: “Honestly, you’d be surprised how fruit and veggies can be incorporated into desserts. Mother Nature has given us so many natural sweeteners and healthy fats that can be used rather than butter and sugar. We are developing a vegan line of recipes that are just as rich and flavourful as our guilty pleasures. No sugar, no eggs, no dairy, all natural flavours that are derived from healthy sources like nuts and natural oils.

Learning how to produce on a large scale was an initial challenge when Stella Dulce started. Also, obtaining quality ingredients in Nigeria has been a constant challenge, according to Kachi.

“We ensure that our ingredients are the best and we are ready to go above and beyond even if it means importing the best ingredients to guarantee superior products for our customers,” she said.

In spite of the crowded confectionary space, Kachi said Stella Dulce a high-end bakery with a bright future. She said, “Our priority is delivering excellence in everything we create. All of our customers are high profile, no matter how big or small. We treat every customer like a super star. Whether you are ordering a single cupcake or hosting a star-studded event, you are going to be treated like the king or queen that you are!”

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