“Do not leave your 9-5 because you want to have time for yourself” #LLA Meets, Bukola Obafunso- Founder, Freesia Foodies Services

Freesia Foodies Services is a full fledged catering and food delivery company capable of supplying mouth watering dishes to any event at anytime within and outside Nigeria. The company caters to all types of events and also service individual customers that do not demand large amounts of dishes.

Freesia Foodies was established in 2015 with the sole aim of meeting the demands of the world popluation for African Centric meals at affordable prices. Since then, Freesia Foodies has grown to become a well known brand in the catering and food delivery business.The company has supplied to over 44,000 customers and counting. 

Founded by Project Manager and Chef- Bukola Obafunso, Freesia Foodies is dedicated to improving Nigerian home made cooking and using innovation to solve problems in the Nigerian food industry.

Can you briefly tell us about yourself and your business?

My name is Bukola Obafunso, I’m an economist and a project manager and the Founder/CEO of Freesia foodies Services. Freesia foodies services basically deals with individuals.We run a cooking school for people who want to improve their cooking schools, either for home use or you want to go into the food business to cater for people or events. We also have a segment where we cater for individuals who are busy and don’t have time to cook. We package meals in bowls and we deliver across Lagos and some parts of Nigeria. We also train people on how to run the food business. This is because when a lot of people start up the food business, they make so many rookie mistakes, in order to avoid that, you enroll in our academy to navigate the food industry.

We also have an exporting segment where we provide Nigerians in the Diaspora fine foods (Foods Nigerians crave for or miss) e.g. snails, goat meats, spices, palm oil, bush meat, gala etc basically everywhere in the world.

We also have a segment where we make available gadgets to people nationwide with smart kitchen gadgets. We understand that a lot of people need fun and exciting ways to cook. We ensure that these gadgets which are usually considered expensive are made affordable for everyone to shop. E.g. You don’t have to chop Garlic’s, Onions, Pound Yams etc. We have gadgets like mini choppers for Garlic, Onions, Yam pounders, food processors, we have lots of gadgets for different purposes and for individuals across Nigeria.

Can you share the story behind your business? What inspired Freesia Foodies?

“Passion”. It may sound cliché but that’s it. I’ve been cooking before University days, when I was growing up; I would be in the kitchen with my grandmother. It grew on me, in the University days; I’d volunteer to cook for my roomies. I loved going to the market. Then after school, I started working and doing events planning on the side. Eventually, I left the employment sector for events management and it wasn’t even food. It wasn’t until 2015 when food took the driver’s wheel. It started when I catered for my younger sister’s birthday and people started asking who made the food and orders came in, but I declined the orders because I didn’t see myself as a caterer. Not until a cousin of mine walked up to me and asked why I wasn’t taking the orders, and convinced me that since I was good with people that I could go into the teaching aspect of it. Then I started teaching people how to cook. Next thing I went into corporate events and that’s how it started.

When you launched your business, did you have prior knowledge on how you could run one? How did you make it work?

I didn’t have any business knowledge before running Freesia Foodie, or Food itself but, I did have a certain knowledge about business back in the University. I was into the clothing business with my best friend, so I learnt how to do pricing, how to relate with people, how to sell, I learnt that from running the clothing business. Even as an events planner, I gathered a lot of knowledge from events. As an events manager, I was handling the bride, caterer, decorator, family etc. There was a lot of responsibility from the events planner. So going into food was a bit smooth and I basically learnt on the job.

Did you always know you’d be an entrepreneur and what’s the biggest misconception about entrepreneurship that you’ve heard?

I never really knew I was going to be an entrepreneur, what I’ve always known was that I would have a side hustle besides my corporate job. I used to always say “I’m a corporate girl“. I knew I was good with/in business but always saw myself doing it behind my desk. I never really gave full time entrepreneurship a thought, until I dealt with events in 2011/12 that I felt entrepreneurship was growing on me and that was how the journey started

One misconception about entrepreneurship is that a lot of people think when you work for yourself, you have nothing to worry about, you can take vacations when you want, you can decide to sleep in and not come to work. I think people just have this inkling that being an entrepreneur just means you are a lazy bone. I would say that’s a big big fat lie because as an entrepreneur, you do mostly the work. I still hear people say ‘I want to be an entrepreneur so I won’t be doing too much work, they are stressing me at work’ and I just look at them and say, that’s the major misconception. When you’re an entrepreneur, it’s not like you are working for someone, you are working for yourself and multitudes, because the company is on your shoulders, opposed to you working when there are so many people doing certain tasks.

If you’re an entrepreneur, you must have a certain level of knowledge of everyone’s tasks. You would delegate, even if you have an operations manager, you will let the person know that this what I want you to do, what can you bring to the table? I think that, the misconception has run really deep. I would say people need to wake up and smell the coffee and just know that as an entrepreneur, you have a lot of work to do, you should be focused, well driven, dedication. In fact, the dedication you need is a far cry from what I see out there, you need a 200% level of dedication  if you’d pardon that, so it is a lot of work to it.

The Food Business sector in this part of the world comes with challenges, What would you consider your greatest challenge in managing your business and how do you navigate these challenges?

The challenges the food businesses are facing in Nigeria would be getting good resources e.g Oil. There’ll be times that even your best suppliers would make a slight mistake beyond your control, this affects your consistency and can affect your delivery. You would have your recipe but one slight mistake. E.g. the oil gotten from your supplier is bad and your customers complain. So yeah, resources, which is like the backend resources, not basically yours.

Staffing too is also a big problem/challenge. It just so happens that when you train people to a certain level, of course people grow in this business, but unlike every other business that people can just be replaced, the food business requires so much input, you teach them your style and then they just up and leave. Even if it’s a Chef, you have to try to train somebody else on how you run your own business.

Infrastructure is also part of it, which is basically in the hands of the government but individuals are trying to maneuver that e.g. Power, which is taking a toll on us. If you don’t have power to freeze your goods, of course it will affect your deliverables, but a lot of entrepreneurs are now putting this into consideration, getting generators etc.

We love how innovative your business is, how do you get the inspiration to keep reinventing your brand? What new innovations have you recently introduced and how have you managed to stay on top of these ideas?

Being on top of your game, you have to really dig deep, it may sound narcissistic but truth is, it basically relies on you. Also, you need to really engage your staff; it has really worked for me; I always call my staff and be like, what do you think we should do? Because you really can’t know everything, there might be things you want to introduce to your business, that may not fly. Take for instance in exporting goods, I brought up an idea on a good to export and my staff suggested a better idea for reasons I could agree with.

For my type of business, some innovations have come from clients. For example, I had a fan yoghurt on me one day and someone said, ‘look at you with yoghurt, I wish I had one in London’ and that was how I started exporting it. You need to be like a sponge, you can get ideas from anywhere and implement it. I soak up things as I go.

Also, the gadget aspect started in London, I used a gadget for beans. A lot of people complained that they had to go to the local market to blend beans, and then I thought that there should be something to solve this. I used a particular blender in London and it was really good and someone noticed that the blender blends beans, and then I thought this problem also existed in Lagos and I believe that when one person speaks it connects to ten then to hundred and that’s how we started and kept going and now we’ve brought in almost 2,000 gadgets in the space of 2 years.

You have to be on top of your game, don’t get complacent, complacency would bring you down. I take regular classes with my staff, I train them to spice and step things up.

As an entrepreneur, you must have encountered different kinds of people, what have you learnt most and what will you say has been the highlight of your journey so far?

As an entrepreneur, you will meet people that will impact your life positively and negatively. In my own case our very strong online presence which has connected us to a lot of people as far as Russia, Australia etc. has been a positive highlight. There is a certain amount of customer service (which is phenomenal) that has led to referrals and has opened doors and I’m grateful for that.

What will you say is responsible for your success?

As I always say to my class when I tutor, I go with the three (3) D which is “Dedication, Determination and Discipline”.

Dedication: I’m very dedicated to my craft, when you are dedicated, have your goals and business plans, you set out to do them. For Instance, I have business plans for a month, two months, quarter etc. I set plans for myself and ensure I’m dedicated to it. What do you do to achieve your goals? Whatever it is, put it into check and do what drives you closer to that goal.

Determination: Not everything you plan will work out. But determination makes you say, no, I’m going to do this. E.g. some weeks ago I made a business move that didn’t work out, I knew it was a big risk but I was determined and wanted it to work. So many times, this has happened, but you need to know what works for you. Sit back; be like a third party in your business and after this is done, your determination comes into play to ensure that whatever you’re putting in place you’re determined to make it fall through.

Discipline: This comes in when you start making certain amounts of money. It puts you in check. You know when to spend, invest, splurge, Discipline puts you in a certain position where you can also manage your staff properly and put things in place.

What’s your five-year plan for your business?

We are flowing into it basically, but we plan to have a full fledged restaurant, we have one currently but it’s not fully fledged. We plan to have at least 2 branches.

To entrepreneurs looking to go into your line of business, can you share some strategic tips and advice that have helped you along the way?

For people coming into the food business, it’s not all rosy. This can also work for any entrepreneur; 3 D would be very applicable in all aspects of your life. You’re going to be a thorough entrepreneur, be ready for the risks, losses, ups & downs basically. You need to learn people management, interpersonal skills etc. It goes a long way in running a business.

Always put this at the back of your mind: do not leave your 9-5 because you want to be an entrepreneur to have time for yourself. If you’re leaving your 9-5 you need to be positively sure that this is what you’re coming to do and do not put it at the back of your mind that you just want to come into it to make money. Whatever you are bringing to the table, is it solving problems? If you are solving about 40% of problems, it’s something. Then, you can grow gradually to 50, 60%.

If you’re coming into the food business you need to know your strength or weaknesses.

Ask yourself, can I handle this? Or that? And then you need to train, just don’t say “this is my passion”, you need to learn. I learnt on the job and made so many rookie mistakes. So to avoid these mistakes, you can cut yourself some slack and go to an academy to learn how to run a food business. It takes a lot, where to buy goods, how you can’t buy from certain places, how do you sell etc.  They will teach you certain dynamics

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 lead@leadingladiesafrica.org, and she could possibly be featured.


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