My Business Story

Turning Hidden Passion Into An Enterprise

A casual encounter with an old friend turns out to be the Eureka moment for entrepreneur whose career needed a fresh start.

There is something different about how Temitope Ali-Agboola became a baker. It neither happened by design nor by accident, and Temitope does not pretend she was destined to be an entrepreneur.

The mother-of-two is the chief executive officer of Temi Bakes, a “distinctive baking company with a vision to become the foremost cake brand in Africa”. So how did she end up in a bakery churning out delicious cakes, desserts and sweet treats?

Difficult turnaround

Becoming an entrepreneur, let alone a baker, was not on Temitope’s to-do list. She was gainfully employed and things were going on smoothly at nine-to-five job.

The University of Lagos Mass Communication graduate narrated how the unexpected happened and changed everything.

Business brief:
Started 2012

Social media contact:
Facebook - @temmiebakes
Instagram - @temmiebakes

“I was made redundant when I returned from maternity leave at a major telecommunications company, where I used to work,” she said. “I thought about what to do and I had a new-born baby and I was also battling a broken relationship. I thought everything was finished. I didn’t know where to start. A voice told me to run away from it all, so I went abroad because my family lives in the UK.”

Temitope thought she would find respite by running away from her challenges. However, it didn’t take long before she realised that fleeing didn’t solve her problem. According to her, “I needed to return home and make myself useful.” How? She had no idea.

Encounter

Sometimes, adversity stimulates creativity. This was exactly the case of Temitope, whose encounter with an old friend in the UK suddenly gave her life a new purpose.

“I met an old friend one day and she told me of another friend who had gone to Dublin to learn baking. She was like, ‘Do you remember Rita? She’s gone to Dublin to learn baking.’ That struck me. That moment, I said, ‘baking is it then!’ It was like hitting the nail on the head, it was my Eureka moment!” Temitope recalled.

There was a tone of nostalgia in the voice of the CEO of Temi Bakes when she talked about baking and she was eager to share it: “I remember back in secondary school, I used to try baking cake with my mum’s blender. It was mostly improvisation but family and friends ate and loved my amateur cakes. Sometimes, they would ask me to bake for occasions such as Christmas, birthdays, and so on. That was back in secondary school.”


"I returned home, knowing that I wouldn’t have to be looking for a job; but rather, I would become an employer of labour"


So when her friend mentioned someone learning to bake cake in Dublin all the way from Nigeria, Temitope thought to herself, “Someone travelled that far while I am already here in the UK wasting away, sort of…”

She descended on her computer and started searching where to learn baking in London. “I found Fair Cake. Their cakes looked like something that was photo-shopped, like out of this world. So I went for training there,” she said.

Her first training was a cupcake class from 10am to 4 pm. After that she went to Lambert College for further baking knowledge and training on types of treats. Then she went to a Nigeria baker in London and Cakes for Fun to learn some other things about the trade. She was now very equipped to return to Nigeria.

The return

Temitope thought about staying back in the UK to start her business, but she didn’t have a work permit. “I returned home, knowing that I wouldn’t have to be looking for a job; but rather, I would become an employer of labour,” she enthused.

She bought some of the utensils and ingredients she needed from the UK and was categorical about what she bought. “Just the basic ones that could be difficult or expensive to get in Nigeria,” she emphasised. 

Temitope registered Temi Bakes in 2012 upon her return and went further to acquire more training from Mix & Bake on baking and decorations.

“I started with baking cupcakes for family and friends, selling cupcakes to them,” she smiled. “They eat and come back and help refer me to their friends, colleagues at work, neighbours, etc. That was how Temi Bakes started.”

Starting small

Temitope didn’t feel she had to start with much in terms of capital. “I started with a small mixer. I bought bowls and spatula and some other items from the UK for around £20 (about N20,000 then).”

In all, she estimated her starting capital to be around N100,000, which was from her personal savings.

However, it wasn’t that simple with other challenges, especially staffing and expansion process.

“As our customer base expanded, I needed funds from time to time to keep up with the additional expenses. If you don’t have the capacity to deliver you need to look for a way to do it,” she lamented. “Also, absenteeism and inefficiency are not good for the baking business. Finding committed staff who won’t call in sick at crucial times is a challenge we face from time to time.”

Six years down the line, Temi Bakes has witnessed significant growth, thanks to referrals and the use of social media advertising tools. Temitope also relies on freebies and promos, which have helped increase her sales and kept her business profitable.

She has go on to study Entrepreneurial Management at the Lagos Business School and believes that it is only a matter of time before Temi Bakes will become the foremost cake brand in Africa.

Entrepreneur Builds Thriving Fashion Business From Side Hustle

An entrepreneur who wanted to be a broadcaster or nothing, is saved by a venture she started as part-time job

Marylinda Alinor had her career options figured out even before she was called up for the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) in Calabar, Cross River State. 

She wanted to be a radio presenter or TV broadcaster. Luckily, the 2011 Theatre Arts and Mass Communication graduate from the University of Benin was posted to the Cross River Broadcasting Corporation (CRBC).

She was on the verge of living her dream.

As a backup plan, however, Marylinda decided to hone her makeup skills. She recalled, “I finished in 2011 as a costume and makeup major from school. After graduation from the university, I took a diploma course in makeup and beauty at an institute in Lagos. Somehow, I thought I needed to hone my skills, just in case.”

After youth service, she declined the opportunity to be retained as a TV presenter and an on-air personality.  

She smiled: “I just thought that Calabar was not for me. It was too quiet, too peaceful. I lived in Lagos all my life, so I am used to the fast life.”


Business brief:
Started 2014

Social media contact:
Twitter - @capitalDIVA
Instagram - @capitalDIVA
Facebook - fb.com/capitaldiva

Switching to Plan B

For Marylinda, it was either she worked as a broadcaster or nothing. When that opportunity was not forthcoming, she decided to activate her Plan B.

She recalled: “I said to myself, ‘You have this skill already, you are a makeup artist, you are a bead maker, so why not just make something out of it?’ That was how I started making beads. I was trying to earn a living, to avoid depleting my NYSC savings.”

Once Marylinda set her eyes on entrepreneurship, there was no looking back. From bead making, she went into other ventures, including shoe making, tailoring and designing costumes.  

“I learnt how to make footwear from leather, from fabrics and all of that. In two weeks, I had learnt what I wanted. And then this age when YouTube has everything, you can learn how to do virtually anything from YouTube. I went on YouTube a lot. I saw a lot of videos.  So, YouTube was my regular class,” she smiled.

Interestingly, she said that unlike bead making, which took a while to catch on, her leatherwork quickly gained acceptance.



"I learnt how to make footwear from leather, from fabrics and all of that. In two weeks, I had learnt what I wanted. And then this age when YouTube has everything, you can learn how to do virtually anything from YouTube"


Raising start-up capital

If Marylinda’s venture into business was fascinating, the way she raised capital for the business was no less thrilling.

“It was basically from my service year savings,” she said. “Throughout my service year, the Federal Government was paying us N19,800, the state (government) pays you, and sometimes, the place of primary assignment also pays you. So, I knew I wasn’t touching my federal ‘alawi’. It was sacred.” 

She continued: “I was living on N7,000 per month during my (youth) service year. I only spent my state ‘alawi’ and my stipend of N4,000 from my place of primary assignment. At the time, the state (government) was giving us N3, 000 every month. Whatever I had to do was within that N7,000.”

Marylinda’s mother and sister also offered financial support, and remarkably, she found a landlord willing to accept rent in instalments.

Challenges

When Marylinda decided to become a fulltime entrepreneur in 2014, her initial challenge was location. She lived in Ijesha (a Lagos-suburb), where clients were not willing to spend much on accessories. 

“Because of my location,” she said, “my profit margin was very low. The few who actually wanted to look good to parties didn’t feel they should pay much to look good.” 

Gradually, however, people got to value her work.  Marylinda hugely credited her event-decorator neighbour for the referrals, which improved her fortune.

On December 26, 2017, Marylinda suffered a major setback – her store was burgled and her goods were carted away.

She narrated her ordeal: “I remember I came in, and I was like, ‘What a Christmas gift!’ I was broken. My parents and family were scared. My friends knew how hard I had struggled to build my business to this level… I made a lot of slippers. We made bags, dresses and so on. We stocked up with everything. And then I came to the store, it was open and empty!”

What does the future hold?

With the help of family, friends and even strangers who were sympathetic to Marylinda’s story when she shared it on social media, she bounced back. She now values the power of her social media platforms as a marketing tool.

Marylinda believes, against popular notion that the fashion industry is saturated, that it will keep growing and she wants to be part of that growth.

She said, “We hope to be a brand big enough to be called the one-stop store for Nigerian made fashion items. The idea is to push the Buy-Made-In-Nigeria initiative. We are trying to produce things that can equal the standard of what we import from China, US and the rest of the world.”

From Banking to Baking, Food Scientist turns Flour to Gold

It took Beatrice four years of trying out everything from jobs in banking to manufacturing before she finally dug deep into herself to discover that her happiness and business success lay in an old family tradition: baking

Beatrice Oghuma is from a family of bakers. She and her siblings grew up watching what their parents did both as leisure and full-time jobs.

“My mum was a teacher but she sold baked goods on the side to support the family. She also made birthday and wedding cakes on request,” Beatrice recalled. 

She also said that her father started a food manufacturing company, which produced baked goods and baking ingredients such as tortilla chips, icing sugar, brown sugar, and baking powder, to name a few.

Although the 2008 Food Science and Technology graduate from Bowen University, Iwo, Osun State knew all about baking and felt she had a passion for it, she only recently decided to make a living out of it after people advised her to turn it into a business.

“It's funny that I wasn't particularly interested in baking or food as a child. I guess it was imprinted in my subconscious though,” she said.

From banking to baking

Beatrice had a four-year cumulative work experience in various sectors, including banking, food manufacturing, healthcare and catering. After bagging a postgraduate degree in Nutrition and Food Sciences from the University of Huddersfield, United Kingdom, she clinched a £175-per-day banking job.



Business brief:
Started 2013.
Social media contact:
Instagram: helens_cakes_originale

“After a whole day of tapping my fingers on my work table waiting for the shift to be over, I'll get home at about 8pm, go straight into the kitchen, bake till say 10:30pm, then frost and finish the cake till say 1:30am. I go to bed at about 2:00am and I'm up at 5:30am,” she mused.

As her clientele base grew, Beatrice was faced with making a tough decision: to commit herself to her well-paid banking job or resign to concentrate on baking. She chose the latter.

Family and friends

Family and friends were the first to patronize Beatrice when she was baking cakes part-time. In fact, her first baking was a N7,000 cake ordered by a friend. “It looked like a brick layer and a carpenter did a duo,” she joked.



"We currently have 30 different flavours, some of which I personally invented. I haven't found another bakery with that many cake flavours in Nigeria and just in case there are, I would say we are one of the very few bakeries with that many flavours"



However, the idea of resigning from her job to follow her passion was initially worrisome.

“The massive difference in income was a hard pill to swallow. It affected my mood and appearance,” she recalled. “Family and friends were worried and some felt I had bitten way more than I could chew. Regardless, they were supportive of me and the business.”

The silver lining for Beatrice was that she didn’t have to persuade people around her that she was passionate about baking. It was evident, and thus easier for her to earn their support.

Challenges in baking

Named after her mother, Beatrice’s Helen’s Cakes was registered in September 2013 and has had its fair share of challenges associated with the business. Her biggest day-to-day operational challenge is the risk of damage en route delivery due to delicate and intricate nature of cakes.

How does she reduce such risk? “We outsource our deliveries to a trusted company. Their vehicles have satisfactory shock absorbers and are air-conditioned. This helps ensure that the cakes arrive at their destination in one piece,” Beatrice responded. 

Also, increased awareness about healthy eating has dominated discussions around confectioneries. Beatrice had two things to say about it: “First, I'm a believer in moderation over elimination. Also, at Helen's Cakes we have cakes for specific diets.”

Lessons and fresh perspectives

With a good quarterly turnover, Helen’s Cakes has her slice of the Lagos confectionery market. Beatrice attributed this steady growth to her wide range of bespoke flavours.
 
“We currently have 30 different flavours, some of which I personally invented. I haven't found another bakery with that many cake flavours in Nigeria and just in case there are, I would say we are one of the very few bakeries with that many flavours,” she said.

Beatrice has learnt many lessons in the course of starting her business. “Passion is one thing, turning that passion into a business is something else entirely. Becoming an entrepreneur doesn't necessarily mean you get to rest more, and one plus two isn't always three,” she said.

She is learning to train and delegate responsibilities as well as how to keep better records of her inventory. She also follows trends on social media, to stay abreast of developments in the baking world. 

Strategy for growth

So far, Beatrice has relied on her personal savings and support from family to nurture her business, although she hasn’t ruled out the possibility of obtaining a bank loan. Currently with one staff, Beatrice intends to employ more staff as part of her expansion plan.  

“I see an empire that would attract both local and foreign investors as well as partners because of its vision. I see people wanting to own Helen's Cakes franchises in Africa and the world at large.”

Entrepreneur's Leap Of Faith Produces Breath-taking Results

An entrepreneur determined to chart his own course and succeed, chases his dream from Kaduna to Lagos

Steve Baba Eko's journey to advertising and entertainment began as a leap of faith. The story of his rise to the position of chief executive officer of X3MGroup - a conglomerate of media, entertainment and advertising concerns including X3M Ideas, Media 100, Zero Degree and X3M Music - is a study in courage.

How did Steve grow from a young boy trying to break the shackles of poverty in Kaduna to having some of the most financially attractive clients in Lagos including a leading telecoms company, a bank and pay TV provider?

A humble beginning

He recalled how it all started: “It started at 16. My parents were so poor and I said to myself, ‘If I stay with these people my destiny is sealed as a poor person’. I knew I won’t go too far in life if I stuck around. So I thought I should pack my bag and leave for a place where I could increase my odds.”



Business brief: Started August, 2012
Social Media: Instagram - @stevebabaeko; Twitter
- @steve_eko; Facebook - @steve Babaeko

He moved to join his uncle, who was an engineer at a hotel and started working for him as a personal assistant, handling his secretarial duties. “It was from there," he said, "that I got money to attend the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria.”

The 1994 graduate of Theatre Arts went to the Nigeria Television Authority Kano for his National Youth Service Corps before making the crucial decisionwhich has made him one of the most sought-after creative persons in Nigeria today.  

Steve weighed his options. For two weeks, he was researching at the Kaduna Library on what aspect of creativity he could go into and finally settled for advertising.

“I read an interview Lolu Akinwunmi granted Vanguard newspaper in April 1995 and he spoke about how cool advertising was. I was already a member of the Creative Writers’ Club at ABU. I discovered that advertising might be the thing for me. But in the entire northern region then there were very few advertising companies.”

No guts no glory

Knowing his strength was in creativity and copyrighting, he made a list of the advertising companies in Lagos where he would love to work. On June 8, 1995, he said goodbye to Kaduna and moved to Lagos.



"It occurred to me why they were offering me that little: the proposal looked good on paper but I did not have the track record. The following morning, I called my lawyer and got Extreme Music registered."



He narrated the nostalgia that followed his sojourn to an uncharted territory: “To be frank until I got to Ojota I didn’t know what I was doing. I just felt advertising was my calling  and the hub was in Lagos. My uncle had contacts in Lagos because he had worked at a hotel in Lagos. So I went there and met the general manager and claimed I had an interview in Lagos and my uncle said I should come to him (which was not exactly true). The man just called the chef and told him to take me in. I ended up staying there for two years.”

Steve wanted to work at Prima Garnet but secured employment at MC&A as a trainee copyrighter. He spent five years honing his skills at MC&A before the big break came.

Dream come true 

Steve finally got the opportunity to work at his dream company when he moved from MC&A to Prima Garnet. He explained how in 1998 he veered into entertainment: “Fela had just passed on and Dede was so depressed that we had to step in as his support system.I started managing him when he fell out with his manager. That was how my interest in music was awakened. I didn’t stop managing Dede until 2000. In those times, I realised that there was a gap in the music industry.”

Steve’s opportunity in the music industry came in disguise. His boss at Prima Garnet who had a stake in a music label asked him to do a proposal on how to reposition the label for profitability. He felt he did a good job and requested N5m as consultancy fee to implement his plan over a three-year period. However, he was offered N250,000.

“It occurred to me why they were offering me that little: the proposal looked good on paper but I did not have the track record. The following morning, I called my lawyer and got Extreme Music registered.”

Today, X3M Music is one of the top music labels in the industry, boasting of artists such as Simi, Praiz and Sammy.

Raising capital and other challenges

After five years at Prima Garnet, Steve served as creative director for another advertising agency, One-for-One, for seven years before summoning the courage to stand on his own.

“I was in my 40s and the fear of the unknown was my greatest challenge. I remember telling people that I had left One-for-One and was running my own ad agency called X3M Ideas. Whenever they wished  me good luck it just felt like they were mocking me.” he said.

Steve started X3M Ideas with the money he borrowed from his wife and the N8m he saved with the aim of buying a second-hand Range Rover Sport. “My wife advised that people who buy N8m cars should have N80m in their account. I listened to her and the money came handy.”

Message for young entrepreneurs

From seven staff in 2012, Baba Eko’s X3M Group presently boasts over 100 staff. He attributes his success to dedication and discipline. “I worked for my former boss for 12 straight years and the greatest thing he did for me was that I was able to learn everything I needed for my business to thrive today. That passion for service has to be rekindled among young people.”

Serial Entrepreneur Defies Odds, Keeps Taking New Territory

In a rare display of can-do spirit, Bunmi disproves the saying that a rolling stone gathers no moss by creating a string of prosperous small businesses along his growth path.

Bunmi Shola Adeniyi is the textbook definition of a serial entrepreneur. Rather than wallow in self-pity after a setback, he would pick himself up, dust himself and move on to the next thing. While his mates were preparing to enter the university immediately after secondary school, he made a deliberate decision to defer his ambition.

In the beginning…

A pensive Bunmi reminisced: “I lost my Dad when I was young, and I am the first son. After secondary school, I had to start doing different menial jobs. I found myself in Bwari, Abuja where the Nigerian Law School is located, washing clothes and cars for law students. I saved some money and it took another four years after secondary school before I could go to the university.”

Unknown to the 39-year-old graduate of Business Administration and Management from the Ekiti State University, Ado Ekiti, it was his Abuja experience that prepared him for the difficult road ahead.



Social media contact:
Started 2007
Instagram: @adeniyisolabunmi
Facebook: Don Adeniyi Sola Bunmi

After venturing from laundry business into fashion and entertainment, with Public Relations to the bargain, Bunmi has proved an exception to the saying that a rolling stone gathers no moss. 

He recalled, “I had a laundry outfit, a video club and a business centre. From there I opened a fashion shop because I noticed that many people loved tie-and-dye fabrics from Ogun Stateand it was profitable .I also had apprentices who were working for me.” 

Bunmi has not forgotten that the laundry outfit was his flagship and it was revenue from it that he used to establish other businesses. At a time, he had up to 25 staff, working for him in his ‘chain of businesses’.

Change of plan

If friends thought that finally, after graduating, Bunmi would continue with business as usual, they were mistaken. He simply packed up, gathered his capital, registered a company and relocated to Lagos.




"I got a piece of land and started cultivating moringa. I paid for the land three times. I was duped twice. It was the third time that I met the real owner. Today, I have almost 90 per cent of the property around the area where my business is located."


He explained the rationale behind his decision: “Coming to Lagos, I had to start MQ Global Limited, because I had a better understanding of business based on the different seminars that I had attended. MQ Global Limited does general businesses; anything that comes my way I do, I just needed a company with a bank account and a standard letter-head paper to run business.”

In Lagos, he went into commodity importation, wholesale and retail of agro-allied products and – wait for this – visa assistance, as well! When he travelled on a short trip to India, he discovered yet another business.

“I travelled to India for a course and moringa was everywhere. They were doing a lot with moringa. On getting back to Nigeria, I got a piece of land and started cultivating moringa. I paid for the land three times. I was duped twice. It was the third time I met the real owner. Today, I have almost 90 per cent of the property at my current location.”

The big break…

The moringa business was so successful that Bunmi had dozens of accredited distributors in and around Lagos selling various moringa products that he produced.

However, during another business trip, this time to Israel, yet another business idea struck him: helping people to set up farms and agricultural  estates. Through aggressive marketing and special offers to buyers Bunmi has expanded his own land holding, creating the High Hill Farmers’ Hub, a private agricultural estate located at Ahaba village in Wasimi, Ewekoro Local Government, Ogun State.

Not without its challenges

In spite of his ruggedness and spirit of adventure, Bunmi had his peculiar challenges. His family didn’t approve of his choice of occupation. He recalled: “The people around me have always been civil servants. When I left school my mum said, ‘You need to get a job in the civil service.’  I replied, ‘I am not getting a job. I know what I want to do.’ Then I started getting calls from everywhere, relations and friends asking, ‘Is this how you’re going to live?’” The story changed when his businesses started looking up. Bunmi also said he had difficulties hiring the right staff, people who shared his vision, and regretted not having a mentor. In fact, the latter was the main reason he relocated to Lagos.

More empires to conquer?

Bunmi plans to go into agro-processing and farm mechanisation businesses. In addition, he wants to produce organic fertilizer, process fruits, import farm equipment and train the next generation of smart farmers.


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