My Business Story

How I Defeated Stereotypes To Achieve Business Success – Entrepreneur’s Moving Story

This week, we bring the remarkable story of a persistent entrepreneur who had to surmount negative mindsets and stereotypes to become one of the most sought-after high-end confectioners in Abuja

Shoppers in Abuja who frequent the Dunes Centre, an upmarket shopping mall at the highbrow Maitama District of the city, can’t but notice Waffle Stop, a confectionery outlet, which was opened in March 2017. Its founder, 26-year-old Aisha Shuaibu, narrated how the establishment of Waffle Stop came to be, against all odds. 

Aisha fetched a chair from the corner of her shop and sat down to tell her story: “The idea for the business came in 2015, but at that point we were still trying to figure out the execution process. It came from when I was doing my postgraduate studies in Turkey. The programme was not engaging me enough because I had classes only on weekends. I thought about this business but wondered if it would work in Nigeria. It took some time to convert the idea to business.”

When it was time to start the business proper, Aisha, who also holds a degree in Business Studies from a United Kingdom university, was confronted with a peculiar kind of challenge – her upper middle-class background and social stereotypes. 

Business brief:
Started 2016
Instagram: wafflestopabuja

She recalled how those factors came to play: “I come from the North, from a conservative background. To come back home after a long time in school and start talking about business was not an easy thing at all.”

She smiled: “Between 2015 and 2016 when Waffle Stop started, I was attending events to promote it. It was a trial and error period; I used to invite my friends over to tell me what they thought. I converted my dining area at home to a workspace and started out as a home delivery business. My plan was to leave the house for a befitting location by 2017, and that is exactly what happened.”
Judging by her fairly well-off background, one could wrongly assume that funding wouldn’t constitute a challenge for Aisha. But it did, no thanks to people around her who tried to talk her out of her idea. 

After working as a research analyst for a Swiss energy company and as an assistant manager for an Asian fusion restaurant, a few of her friends wondered why Aisha wanted to start making waffles. It didn’t look – or sound – like a bankable business.

She narrated her dilemma: “I struggled to raise the funds for my business because people told me what I was doing was not likely to sell. This almost created self-doubt along the line, and I wasted a lot of time before starting.  I later realised that it was my responsibility to sell the dream and when it is sold, the support would come. And it came.”

Registered in 2016, Waffle Stop moved from Aisha’s dining area to a small place offered to her by friends as an interim intervention before finally moving to its current location at Dunes Centre, a mall Aisha had provided media consultancy services for. 

“I struggled to raise the funds for my business because people told me what I was doing was not likely to sell. I later realized that it was my responsibility to sell the dream and when it is sold, the support would come. And it came”

According to her, she broke even in a matter of months by adopting a marketing strategy almost unique to Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory.

“In Abuja, there is no marketing tool more powerful than word of mouth. In fact, one of our strongest assets is our network. I have been in Abuja since 1999 and know a lot of people here, including those I went to school with. Your network is your most important asset especially when you are starting out; they will be the ones to support you and give you feedback. We believe that by satisfying our closest friends and associates, we encourage them to promote what we do.”

Aisha goes the extra mile to satisfy her customers, even if it takes importing some exotic fruits needed to keep her confections delightful and unbeatable. “Most of our ingredients are sourced from local suppliers. However, exotic fruits such as kiwi fruit and blueberries are not available locally so we order them from abroad, as well as other rare ingredients,” she said.