The art of balancing a 9-5 job, side business and managing a family cannot be underrated, it is the work of a superhero! Taiwo describes herself as industrious, ambitious and a go-getter not just because she has her way with words but it is a description of who she truly is.
She started her business, Ejire Onigarri, to fill in a gap in her community. Repeatedly, people had complained bitterly to her about the dirt-filled Garri they buy at the local market. They would always ask her to buy Garri for them from her hometown. This she turned into a business, added a unique twist and has since then been evolving.
Her success story is one filled with challenges, successes and lessons learned to help other female entrepreneurs map out their way in the business world.
How did you become an entrepreneur, where did the idea of your business come from?
My mum used to work in UBA, and that always excited me. I dreamt of working there or any other bank of my choice. Everything was going well for my mum until there was an overturn in the banking industry that made banks lay off their staff. This was a major struggle for my mum because she only knew about the 9-5 life. It was difficult for her to get another job or enter into the business world. This hit me deep and ever since then I made the decision that I wouldn’t rely on a 9-5 job. The urge to start a business sparked in me.
I personally don’t buy Garri from Lagos, it always has stones, dirt and other impurities. For those who do not know what Garri is, it is cassava grained into dry edible granules. Anytime, I travel home, my colleagues and friends would always tell me to bring Garri for them. This demand kept on increasing and I thought to myself why not start a business out of it. Garri is a fast-moving product that people can affordably buy. No matter what is going on in the economy, people will always eat, food will always be a priority.
What's the biggest factor that has helped you become successful?
I won’t say I am there yet, I'm on the path to success! I see feedback as an opportunity to do better. Customer service is key! I don’t do transactional relationships with my customers, I go beyond that and invest in building a long-lasting relationship with them.
What significant struggle have you faced running your business and how did you solve it?
- Financial: Funds are usually needed to scale up an enterprise from being a hobby to growing into a profitable business. To achieve this upscale, I began monthly contributions.
- Having to get equipment for the business: At inception, my Garri bags were handmade by me. However, as I interacted with colleagues in the industry, I learnt there were machines available that will save time, manage resources and maximise profit.
- Social media: Social media can be a hard nut to crack sometimes. My degree in English couldn't save me as the terrain spans beyond that. To succeed, I enrolled in digital marketing courses as well as conducted research.
What has been the most rewarding part of being an entrepreneur?
Having something to call my own and building my dream. I am building something that generations behind me can take over! As a mother, I want to leave a worthy legacy for my daughter.
Beyond Garri I am preserving the Nigerian heritage, providing crunchy nourishment and creating customer satisfaction and happiness.
What are some lessons you have learned?
Being an entrepreneur is not a walk in the park, it is definitely not a bed of roses. There is a lot of struggle behind the smiling face, behind that exciting post you see on social media. As a 9-5er, I have to balance the orders, package the Garri, prepare for work, get the kids ready for school and put the home in order, I’m still learning, I learn new things every day.
What valuable advice would you give to a small business owner that is just starting out?
- Provide a solution: Don’t just wake up one morning and pick a business at random. Search for the gap, look for your target market. I evaluated my surroundings before I made the final decision to start my business. Be a solution to a particular set of people
- Avoid excuses: You need to say no to that doubting voice at the back of your head. I remember when I saw the form for a food festival, I was weary about it because I just started my business at the time. Surprisingly, I was selected. Trust me when I say I was scared of the competitors out there! I was still using Ziploc bags as packaging. I went over my fears and attended. The kind of visibility I experienced was astounding! The customers I met are still loyal to my business to date. Don’t let excuses or procrastination affect your business.
- Speak out about your business: Never be ashamed to speak about your business no matter where you are. Tell people what you do. Ignore what people say. Ask them to tell you what you can do to improve in your business.
If you could start all over again, what would you do differently?
Nothing! My experience during the process has been a major learning curve for me, it has helped me become who I am today.
FCMB is passionate about empowering female entrepreneurs, helping them build their businesses, and improving the overall success rate of businesses owned or run by women. To find out how FCMB can support you as a woman-in-business, please click https://fcmb.com/she-ventures.