This week on the Lady Boss series with LLA, we chat with Toyin Onigbanjo, Child Nutrition advocate, Author- AugustSecrets Meal Plan book and founder of AugustSecrets Nigeria, a growing food company manufacturing nutritious, innovative meals for babies and toddlers from African staples. In this interview, she discusses among other things the importance of resilience and support in growing a business.
Can you briefly describe yourself and your business?
I am Toyin Onigbanjo, a Child Nutrition Advocate, Author, and Founder of Augustsecrets Nigeria; a growing indigenous children food brand. I hold a Master’s Degree in Public & International Relations and a Certificate Course in Child Nutrition.
August Secrets is an award-winning children’s food and education brand I started from finding natural and nutritious food ideas for my son, Jaden. Today, from 2016, we have fed over 50,000 children through selling our traditional cereal blends and sharing our unique recipes to reach more than 150,000 families. We sell through offline outlets -supermarkets and malls; online and through an all-women distribution model across Nigeria, Ghana, and the USA. We are a recipient of the Royal DSM Prize for Nutrition.
What is it like being a female entrepreneur, and why did you chose to be one?
I never chose to be a full time entrepreneur. It was because my son had refused foreign cereals that made me resign my job to create a company out of that need for other mothers requesting for it. It has been a challenging one being a female entrepreneur, especially having to balance family and business; but it is worth it.
What new innovation have you introduced to your business?
In the past, natural foods for babies have been basically pap, but what we offer are more nutritious varieties that nourishes the African child, while making the foods fun for the child through unique recipes.
What will you say is responsible for your success so far?
Resilience, Originality and the grace of God. The field of business is not an easy one. There are lots of sleepless nights along the way and nobody will do your work for you. You just have to get up and grind, no matter the challenges. If I was not resilient, there are enough challenges such as staffing, infrastructure, building capacity that would have caused me to give up, but I refused to.
The grace of God is also another factor, because many times it’s not about what you can do. We have achieved in 2 years what can take 5 years for some. We keep our originality and we are always appreciative of what we have.
In your opinion, would you say that there are any unique challenges that female entrepreneurs face?
Yes. In my opinion, that would be keeping family and business balanced and being open to change. Not every woman is able to go far without the support of family and friends. So sometimes, when she is succeeding in business, she may be termed as unsuccessful at home, which is not always the case. Women do a lot, it just not easy.
What values and principles have helped you so far?
Integrity. Grit. Relationships. I believe that women should climb the shoulder of giants and seek support by supporting others too. Nobody succeeds alone, so I believe in the principle of keeping meaningful relationships. I also believe that smart work is overrated, sometimes you just have to bury your head and do the work, not just being artificial, as it is often said ‘fake it till you make it’. I believe in, “do the work now, keep your integrity and in the nearest future you can enjoy the glamour.”
Why did you decide to go into this particular line of business?
It is simple. I love food a lot, and I believe that food should be nutritious especially for children. I cannot stand seeing a hungry or malnourished child, so everything I do in my life must revolve around food or children. I believe I am fulfilling purpose.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced, and what’s kept you going?
The challenges that every entrepreneur faces! Capacity building, getting the right mentorship, making the right decisions per time, working with the right team, and so on.
One thing that has kept me is Originality and the grace of God. I always stay true to myself and ensure I do what I love and what our customer wants. I hate distractions; therefore, If I have a challenge, I face it squarely. I am also never shy to ask for help. Nobody knows it all.
What’s your five-year plan for your business?
In the next 5 years we hope to have expanded our distribution, working towards becoming a household name in children’s nutritious cereals across Nigeria and Africa.
What do upcoming female entrepreneurs need to do to be successful in this path?
Love what you do, never do anything because someone else is doing it. When you love what you do and you believe in God, everything else falls into place.
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.