Ayo Alonge, [email protected]
Tope Awelewa is the Chief Executive Officer of Justfoodyng, one of the fastest growing startups with the vision for seamless online food sales and delivery in Nigeria.
Awelewa said the business has continued to grow due to his unwavering passion and innovative skills in digital marketing and technology, despite the mitigating financial challenges that greeted it.
He spoke to Daily Sun on issues bordering on the effective management of the business, patronage, risks and government’s role in resuscitating dying startups. Excerpts:
My name is Temitope Awelewa. I hail from Ilawe-Ekiti in Ekiti South West Local Government Area of Ekiti State. I graduated from the Department of Geology, Ekiti State University, Ado-Ekiti. I was born into a very poor family of six children which really inspired me to be the best at whatever I do and to stand up and make a difference. I have tasted poverty and I know what it feels like for someone to go to bed on an empty stomach. My first year school fees of N101,750 was paid in three instalments, after an extended family meeting. It was not so funny with me. Hence, I could feel what others go through when they wish they were in school but do not have access to finance. This propelled me to start a campaign tagged “Let’s Feed a Market Child” aimed at helping street and market children get back to school by advocating for their basic needs and helping them stay in classes. In 2018, my team was able to help 142children get back to school in 6 communities of Ekiti State and recently, one of those girls became the Senior Girl of her school. It was my biggest achievement. I work with MindThe_gap as a Google Digital Skill trainer and I am the CEO of Justfoodyng, a fast growing online food delivery brand in Nigeria.
The idea of Justfoodyng came through my passion to affect lives and create jobs while I was also looking for a means to solve my cooking challenge. I discussed this idea with a friend of mine, by the name Ayo Olagbende, who is now my partner in progress and he saw the vision for us to pursue. I usually don’t have time for cooking which has made me so lazy when it comes to anything related to kitchen and I must eat daily regardless of my busy schedules. To worsen the matter, eateries are far to my house, so, most times, I resolved to junk or eat whatever was available. Amazingly, I thought of the fact that there are many people out there that are just like me. Therefore, with my expertise in Digital Marketing and Technology, I thought of putting all the eateries in Ado-Ekiti on a portal where people can get their foods at a click and also help them manage their times while they still have access to whatever meals they are craving for. So, I started Justfoodyng, a company which delivers food from eateries and cafeterias to people in their houses and offices.
Through my community engagement and love for street and market children over time, I was able to attract some distant persons who decided to bring me together to themselves and mentor me into opportunities. One of these amazing opportunities is a campaign called Own Your Life Campaign in Nigeria that has helped me to generate amazing income to help children on the street and to also help myself. My business has been very interesting because of the support I get from the campaign that has helped me and also given me the privilege to help more other people to also start their own new businesses or expand their existing businesses, without having to take any bank loan. I was able to start branding, get an apartment as an office space, acquire a bike and to also start paying salaries even when the business hasn’t grown to the point that could pay salaries of the people working in the company.
The second day we launched the business in Ado-Ekiti and opened our branch office, thieves busted the apartment and carted away all our workstations and other valuables worth of N600,000. It took our dogged decision for us to get back on track.
Other challenges are trying to break into the heart of Ekiti people that they can leverage on our kind of business for their convenience and productivity. People don’t believe in a business like ours in Ekiti before now; therefore, trying to make them believe that they can trust us with their food and money was a challenge that took us a while to tackle. Now, we are happy because we’ve been able to break that blockage and people now believe in us and can trust us absolutely with their money.
Dedication to success and our commitment to excellence made us overcome the challenge.
We adopted digital marketing as a tool to selling out our idea. I bought a radio airtime for weeks to tell people about the new idea. We did a lot of publicity before we got to where we are today.
Competition is everywhere in business. One’s ability to be innovative would reduce the pressure of competition and put him or her ahead of every other persons. Our innovative ideas and creativities in this line of business doesn’t make us to even notice any competition in our line of business.
Comparison with international standards
The only difference is that people’s belief in this kind of business in the developed countries far surpasses our people’s belief here. Convenience is a way of life of most people abroad. They will pay anything for convenience. But here, people are over calculative due to poverty. Only the people who are a bit financially fit seek convenience. When we were about to launch out, many discouragements came from many places. Friends and families were raising concerns that Ekiti Ekiti people will never pay for food they have not received but Glory be to God. We were able to break into the market and it has become a way of life of many. Many don’t go to eateries anymore. They will only order whatever they want through their phones from wherever they are and it will be delivered to them by us.
Loan for business expansion
We have brilliant ideas to innovate more on the present concept. Getting a grant or an investor would greatly help us to push the beautiful ideas to the world. Governments at all levels should be more responsible to growing entrepreneurs because entrepreneurs are more effective in providing jobs in any environment, if the environment is viable for their growth.
Risks and losses
Risks involved in the business and maybe all other businesses in Nigeria are quite enormous. Starting from the conception of the business idea, the office set up, staff recruitment and equipment acquisition. All these things are huge risks business such that it takes a bold mind to pass over and eventually begin the business. Also, risk of innovating more and investing on marketing are risks that entrepreneurs face most times in the first six months of the business start-up.
Our goal is to build a big brand of food delivery business in Nigeria that can compete anywhere in the world and make life easy for people. We also aim at building a sustainable business that can provide jobs for unemployed youths in Nigeria.
Government’s role in SMEs’¡ growth
No country can become great beyond the level of empowerment they give to the entrepreneurs in the country. Government can promote and encourage small and medium businesses, like mine, by providing loans and financial supports and ensuring an enabling environment for entrepreneurs to thrive. Government should ensure they solve the challenge of electricity in Nigeria. This alone would help a lot of startups in Nigeria whose businesses rely solely on power to thrive. Also, government should be considerate of the kind of tax they put on young businesses in their states, in order to reduce numbers of unemployed youths in Nigeria. Many businesses have packed off because of government taxes levied on them. These are businesses that have graduates working and surviving under them.