Meet Toyin Onigbanjo (August Secrets). Read how she is changing the Baby food industry in Nigeria.
Mrsceonaija (MCN): Can we meet you please?
Toyin: I am Toyin Onigbanjo, I am a mum, wife and food entrepreneur.
MCN: Nice, We are curious! Why food? Did you study catering or something?
Toyin: Laughs, Well, I am currently taking a Nutrition course at Stanford University. However, I studied English and Literacy from Kogi State University. I also have a Masters degree in Public and International affairs.
MCN: Interesting. you didn’t start off as a ‘foodie’. What led you to the food industry, especially baby/toddler food affairs?
Toyin: Personally, I love food. I mean really good food. I am an unapologetic foodie. How much more kids? So when my son wasn’t eating well, I determined to find ways to make him eat well. I started by trying out different recipes for him, he fell in love with them. I also love to share so I started sharing on social media. Before I knew it, I started getting lots of requests on ‘how to’ share recipes and even special orders. That is how we started unofficially in 2015. I have loved sharing my unique discoveries since then. I guess my love for sharing comes from the 2 years teaching experience I have.
MCN: So when did you start officially.
Toyin: We will be 1 in July 2017. Let’s say we kicked off operations fully in July 2016.
MCN: You make it seem so easy but we know it cannot be. What were the steps you took.
Toyin: First, a lot of research informally. I took time to study the needs of the mums and the kids. I registered the business. I partnered with Nutritionists to understand the nutritional needs of kids. Most kids lack iron globally so a lot of our recipes are designed to address that: a lot of beans and crayfish.
MCN: How do you manage preservation with erratic power supply in Nigeria?
Toyin: Most of our meals are preserved by drying. We don’t add chemicals. Since they are mostly dry products, we don’t have issues with preservation. We also have a shelf life range.
MCN: Food processing is quite an intricate process so NAFDAC must be interested in this. Many SMEs complain about the tedious NAFDAC registration. How are you coping with this?
Toyin: Well, we are clear on the requirements from NAFDAC and we have submitted all our registration documentation. It is still being reviewed. Having said this, we operate with high standards.
MCN: What are the key challenges you are facing? Is funding one of them?
Toyin: Funding is not my issue right now. Wait! Don’t get me wrong. Funding is important but it is not always the biggest issue. I have other issues like consistent sourcing of materials and distribution/logistics. These are the complex issues we are adjusting daily. Most of our ingredients and materials are locally sourced.
MCN: For an SME, I think you have done a good job. You have 8 distributors in Nigeria across key cities. You also have presence in UK and Canada!
Toyin: Thanks a lot. (Smiles). It is our dream to do more but we are taking it one step at a time.
MCN: Let us zoom a bit on funding. Many SMEs will love to know how you handle this.
Toyin: Truth is I started small. I started with what I had; my personal savings. Really. That is the truth. I will consider other sources once we want to expand further.
MCN: What counsel do you have for entrepreneurs in Nigeria? Infact, anyone reading this.
Toyin: From my observations, many are pressured to start businesses. The band wagon effect is one of the key issues SMEs have. ‘Ah, they say coconut oil is reigning now o’.. Then they jump into coconut business. Or ‘Make up is what is making money now’… then they jump into makeup business. It shouldn’t be. First tip to SMEs is not to join the band wagon. Second tip is to be clear on purpose- what need is your business meeting? You must have clarity of purpose. Lastly is have excellent customer service. I am very open to feedback from my clients. Infact, I get ideas from clients and I try my best to serve clients as much as I can. One extra tip- ensure your business model is profitable.
MCN: Who inspires you?
Toyin: Many people inspire me. I’ll mention just a few like Mrs Ibukun Awosika, Mrs Tara Fela Durotoye, Mrs Ini Onuks and more. I also have a lot of support from my husband. He is amazing.
MCN: Can we know your products and how customers can reach you?
Toyin: We have 5 main products for kids-Mixagrain, A combination of Guinea corn, yellow corn, brown rice and potatoes. We also have Nutty meal, Veggie Beans,Crayfish and Fish. Our foods are priced about N1,300 for the 450g can. They are yummy, nutritious and hundreds of mums use us regularly.