This week on the LadyBoss series, we chat with Lawyer and self taught gourmet cook, Nkem Odewunmi- CEO, Food Fashion Fusion, who is making waves in the food industry with her creativity and artistic expressions. She shares how she has managed to turn her passion into an enterprise and among other things the principles that have worked for her.
Can you briefly describe yourself and your business?
I am a passionate, multi-skilled human who seeks to be the truest version of herself. I am on a journey of discovery and my evolution has been intriguing. I love to create and seek to learn and absorb new experiences daily. I am a woman who is also fortunate enough to have been trained as a lawyer, worked as a lecturer and social development practitioner. I am now a wife, mother, business owner, lover of life and explorer of God’s creations.
Food Fashion Fusion is a gourmet food company and our primary goal is to deliver positive, wholesome food memories and experiences.
What is it like being a female entrepreneur, and why did you choose to be one?
I am a business person and have never really dwelt on my gender as regards being a business owner. Having said that, I will say that, sometimes, I am underestimated perhaps because of my gender or maybe because of the industry I operate in. I find that some people expect that since I am in the food and drinks industry, I probably don’t have opinions or any knowledge outside of that; which really couldn’t be further from the truth. I enjoy engaging people and watching them as their misconceived opinion changes.
My foray into this business was more of an organic evolution that a conscious decision but the journey has been fulfilling.
What new innovation have you introduced to your business?
I don’t think that you can reinvent the wheel in the food industry. However, I know that Food Fashion Fusion has redefined how meals are presented and packaged. When we present our meals, beyond the aesthetics a lot of thought has gone into how the meals have been put together, how they are packaged and transported etc.
Also we infuse local ingredients into our meal preparations giving them a modern makeover and evoking feelings of nostalgia for those who are familiar with the flavours and also introducing them (in an approachable way) to anyone who may not know them.
What will you say is responsible for your success so far?
I think that the consistency in the quality of our delivery, our professionalism and massive doses of God’s favour have all worked in unison to keep us on the upward swing.
In your opinion, would you say that there are any unique challenges that female entrepreneurs face?
Again, I hesitate to use my gender as a crutch. It is true that there might be some bias towards women in business but my view is that if you know what you’re doing and have the confidence to pursue your goals then no one can stand in your way. We feed this bias if we give in to it or give it more attention than it deserves.
What values and principles have helped you so far?
I am unflinching in the standards that the company upholds. We treat our clients respectfully, we source our products carefully, prepare and package our meals thoughtfully.
The ethos that underpins our operations at Food Fashion Fusion is delivering an extraordinary gastronomic experience using everyday ingredients. But there’s a process that drives this; to achieve this objective, we have internal procedures which ensure that all staff understand our mission and vision and receive training in customer relations, health and safety as well as meal preparation and storage etc. We also source our produce (whenever possible) directly from organic farmers. We understand that for food to look and taste good; it must be of the best quality, prepared respectfully and thoughtfully and presented in an aesthetically pleasing manner.
Finally, Food Fashion Fusion is here for the long haul, so we are hurrying slowly or as it is said in latin, “festina lente”. We realise that to build a brand with long lasting legacy we must, first of all, build a strong foundation.
Why did you decide to go into this particular line of business?
To be frank, I wouldn’t say that it was a direct “decision” it was more of a natural evolution. The process of establishing the company was organic and I trusted the process and ran with it. Basically, about 6 years ago, I had started by blogging about my kitchen escapades and then I noticed that, at the time I started the business, there was a shortage of well prepared, packaged meals that one could truly enjoy. I also found that a lot of takeout meals were packaged very sloppily but were being sold at premium rates. I knew immediately that I could offer something different and better. I also wanted to share my food passion and point of view with the world.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced, and what’s kept you going?
Every venture has challenges or puzzles that needs to be solved and my case is not different. For me, building the right team has been an uphill task. It has not been easy to establish a team that is willing to imbibe the values and high standards that the company upholds. I find that generally, people, consider it faster to cut corners without realising that in the long term it is a costly way to conduct business.
The other challenges that I have encountered are the usual matters that most businesses in Nigeria have encountered in this present economic climate. For example, coping in an unstable economy and price fluctuations etc. Despite all these, I have persevered because I know that we offer value and unique perspective on food.
What’s your five-year plan for your business?
By 2023, we would have established franchises in Sub Saharan Africa, started fully exporting our baked goods as well have established a knowledge transfer institution.
What do upcoming female entrepreneurs need to do to be successful in this path?
First and foremost, “To thyself be true” It is only when you are truly connected to your purpose and passion that you can find the drive to plough on especially when things get tough.
Also, she needs to be disciplined; plan and write out your plans. Give room for those plans to evolve (because they must). Also be kind to yourself and give yourself time to come into the full fruition of your labour and dedication.
Finally, your business venture should offer a solution; it should solve a problem and connect with your target audience.
The LLA Lady Boss Series is a weekly interview series that highlights the achievements and entrepreneurial journeys of African female entrepreneurs. The idea is to showcase the Leading Ladies who are transforming Africa and the African narrative through enterprise and business.
It is an off-shoot of Leading Ladies Africa, a non-profit that promotes leadership, inclusion and diversity for women of African descent.
If you know any kick-ass women of African Descent doing phenomenal things in enterprise, email firstname.lastname@example.org, and she could possibly be featured.