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Food business thrives because it is a necessity —Adewumi-John, CEO, Regalo Kitchen

Oluwatomisin Adewumi- John, a graduate of Sociology from Bowen University, is the Chief Executive officer (CEO) of Regalo Kitchen. In this Interview with NIYI OYEDEJI, she shares her experience as an entrepreneur in the food industry.

What is your business all about?

Regalo Kitchen and Confectionery is a fully Nigerian company with a goal to help her clients eat right according to their health needs. We bake, cook and train as our contribution towards Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 1, 2, 3 and 8. We have since inception trained over 100 young graduates and undergraduates. We kicked off in 2015 and have since built a steady client base within and outside Lagos. We have been privileged to serve individuals and corporate organisations at various levels ranging from Guaranty Trust Bank, Stanbic IBTC Bank, Stanbic IBTC Asset Management Limited, Stanbic IBTC Pensions Managers, Fidelity Bank and others too many to mention. Basically, the market has been good, especially in Lagos where people have a problem of having time to cook; we solve that problem by giving them cooked food. We also offer families and homes prepared pots of soups and stew in different sizes and combinations.


When did you start Regalo Kitchen, and what motivated you to set it up?

Regalo Kitchen kicked off from self-assessment. I noticed that cooking wasn’t just another chore but a passion. I started cooking as early as age 8, and I have since developed capacity to upscale by attending various trainings to ensure I am at the top of my game. I also believe so much in SDG 3 which talks about Healthy Wellbeing, and as such I help my clients and community eat right to stay healthy and strong for the day’s task.  I can also say I decided to convert my passion to a stream of income. The training part came from a mind shift to empower people around me to be self-reliant and independent in line with Sustainable Development Goal 8. I believe we all have a role to play towards nation-building, especially if we intend to achieve the SDGs by the year 2030.


How much did you start with, and how much growth have you seen since you started?

I started with zero naira, though using the kitchen utensils and wares of my parent. My line of business only needs you to get someone who trusts you to deliver; you get part payment and on delivery get your balance. We complain a lot about capital in this part of the world and forget to look inward to what can be achieved with the available resources.  This is not to underestimate the importance of capital, but you can always start from where you are with the resources you have. For example, I cook, bake and train from home due to the high cost of renting a dedicated space in Nigeria. This second half of the year, I would be training about 100 participants in cake baking and issue them certificates  upon completion of training. All this would be done with the available resource while we continue to apply for funding opportunities.


A lot of people are going into food business. Why do you think people find this business interesting?

Food is a necessity need and not a luxury. If we should look at Abraham Maslow theory of need/want, we would find out that food forms the basic need of man. Apart from the fact that you can see the direct impact of your activity, you get instant feedback from your clients and build sustainable relationships over time. However, not to leave out the income and profit aspect, food business is highly lucrative and can never be over saturated as different food vendors have different target markets.


There is Regalo Kitchen in India. Do you have any partnership with them? If not, how did you come about this name?

We don’t have any current partnership with them. Regalo Kitchen in India is into kitchen interior design while we are into catering services. The name was birthed from the pet name (Regalo) given to me by my husband. A future partnership, however, would not be a bad idea in order to have synergy across Nigeria and a win-win for both of us.


You are in Lagos only. Do you have plans to expand to other states or at least to other areas in Lagos?

We currently operate in Lagos majorly with various job events taking us from time to time outside Lagos. Expansion is in the pipeline and at this point, I would accept that capital is key in other to achieve the expansion goal for Regalo Kitchen. The long term goal basically is to expand to all major cities across Nigeria within the next five years and then we can start thinking of outside Nigeria once our business model has been tested and trusted to work in different geographical location.


Have you had the privilege of sourcing external funding?

For now No, perhaps because we are yet to tidy up internal logistics, we, however, recently applied for the SDG funding and we are hopeful for a positive result. We are also looking forward to future talks with the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund, once the application portal is open. Especially from the training and empowerment angle, we believe a safer and productive Lagos can only be achieved when her residence are well empowered and seriously, I must give kudos to the Lagos State Government under the current administration for the various projects being executed to make doing business easy in Lagos and also for a safer Lagos.


How do you source your raw materials, especially for the confectionery segment?

Our raw materials are majorly from Mile 12, Eko market and Ijora. You know they all have their area of specialisation. For foodstuffs, we patronise Mile 12 majorly and when it comes to chicken, turkey we patronize Ijora market. Most of our kitchen utensils and also equipment are purchased from the popular Eko market. In order to reduce cost, we order for some food products from outside Lagos like Kwara State.


Tell us about the challenges you face and what you think governments at all levels should do to help entrepreneurs like you.

It’s normal to want to ask for more, but truth is that the government of the day at all levels is working tirelessly to promote SMEs in Nigeria and ease of doing business. I would, however, like to say they need to do more and improve on public awareness to ensure people at the grassroots benefit from these initiatives.


What advice would you give to upcoming entrepreneurs?

Consistency and competence are the two major keywords. Rome was not built in a day and neither can any business be successful overnight. You need to build traction and set milestones; and while working to achieve each milestone, there is the need to also build competence through self-development along the way in order to constantly deliver top-notch service to your clients/customer base.  A satisfied customer is a potential marketer for other customers.


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