“We run a chain of farm shops by working with local farmers, collecting produce like tomatoes, peppers, we are basically off takers of these things from farmers and we sell to customers. And also to reduce the post harvest loss of produce, we turn the ones that are not able to get to the market to ready to cook soup products and sell to customers” – Tale of Soupah Kitchen
I started while I was in my secondary and in the University. Before I got into the University, I realized that I have natural entrepreneurial instinct. Basically as an entrepreneur, you’ll need to discover yourself at first. I knew that entrepreneurship is about solving a problem and I knew I was going to solve a problem even if I had a Ph. D, I would still be running a business. When I got into campus, in my first year, I had started looking out for problems. Sometimes I’m at the bus-stop and I’m thinking what we can do differently here, what I can initiate to make means of a problem to make people pay for it and also create solution for social impact. Through that, I had an experience in my second year in Queen Elizabeth Hall where I realized students do not like going to the market. When I got the idea, I jumped into it and I failed. The first point is when you have an idea that you get passionate about and you think it’s going to work, first research into the entire market using a questionnaire or having a chitchat with people, asking if they would want to pay for such service, or if they would want to buy such product and how much would they want to buy it. Until I did a research, I was able to establish that people really wanted this product and this exactly how they wanted it. Until I was able to establish that relationship with them to know exactly what they wanted and I created it. We continue to talk to them and bring out solutions they are able to pay for.
Eight months into my business, initially, there was no capital for me to start. I also got the research that students want all food stuffs on campus but I was cashless. I talked to my parents but they couldn’t help. I was left with a thing – a laptop. I developed a business plan on the laptop and approached a bank. I was just 19 years old. Who is going to invest in a 19-year old to start a business? So I was rejected from banks and individuals as well. A lot of turn downs I got, but instead of me giving up, I sold the laptop and I bought a bicycle. Because of good support system that we have in University of Ibadan, that I would also encourage you to take good use of it, I spoke with the former sub-dean of faculty of Art, he gave me a very small space, so during weekends, I would go to Bodija Market and spoke with a woman who happens to be a relative who gave me the produce on credit and I kept them in the space in faculty of Art, under a staircase. Whenever I got a text messages or calls during the day, I would deliver using the bicycle in the evenings to various hostels. That was how I started with little. The good thing about it is that the entrepreneurial relationship in University of Ibadan is beginning to get higher and you’re getting support from the authorities now. With that, I was able to show that this is what I could deliver. The first shop I got was from my Dean. Through the Vice Chancellor, Professor Idowu Olayinka, we just got a space in Queen Elizabeth II hall which made my January.
Your ideas may be very brilliant, you will approach a lot of people. Even your father might not believe in your idea. A lot may not be able to stake their cash for you to start. Even if you are calling on the team members to join, some might not even want to stake their time to be a part of an enterprise that they are not even sure would ever fly. Eight months into business, I had a gas accident. It was life threatening and I was in UCH for a month but the business was operational. The accident is just a symbol to everything you are going to face in this journey. It is going to be a rough one. Each day has different surprises. I woke up that morning and came to class and received my lectures. I never knew I was going to land in UCH, only for me to go into the production facility, I never knew the gas was leaking and I struck the matches and it exploded. I could have lost my life in the process, I lost a lot of properties, but I still picked myself up. That is what the journey is all about: a lot of downs, but you trying to pick yourself up. Trust me, you’re to enjoy yourself.
Ifeoluwa Olatayo is the C. E. O, Soupah Kitchen. She is a graduate of English from University of Ibadan and she has won awards in Lagos, Kenya, India and Dubai. She gave an insight to the journey of entrepreneurship at the inauguration day of Students Entrepreneurship and Innovation Hub (S. E. I. H), University of Ibadan on January 31, 2019.