My name is Ayodeji Megbope. I am a trained Confidential Secretary with twenty years work experience. My last place of work was Corona Primary school Ikoyi, where I worked for nine years. I left Corona School with the intention of starting a Playgroup. To actualize this, I enrolled in a six-month Montessori programme with Heritage Montessori in Lagos. At the end of the programme however I realized much as I liked working with children, I was not so passionate about it.
In September 2007, things became quite challenging for me and I was almost getting to the point of frustration as a result of my inability to identify what I really wanted for myself. The turnaround actually started when with my last One thousand Naira. I went to the market and bought ingredients for moinmoin with the intent of preparing my family a meal.
Co-incidentally, my sister in-law paid my family a visit that night and had a taste. Immediately, she insisted that I must include moin-moin in her menu, and from there, friends, colleagues and other family members began to place orders and the requests just became endless! I was amazed at how things began to take a turn though I really did not have any idea on how I could make my services available to the general public, especially bearing in mind that I had no financial weight at all.
Expectedly as mentioned earlier, my initial buyers were family members, close relatives, friends, colleagues and neighbours. Business was by way of referral and word of mouth. Then it occurred to me to go back to my former place of employment to increase my customer base. I would show up in my Peugeot car with warps of moin-moin in a cooler, stand at the gate and call old parents I knew by name in an attempt to sell them moin-moin. It was indeed an experience. Having an initial network of familiar people was a factor in helping to at least sustain the business. I hyped on the fact that most eateries sold moinmoin in tins, plastics or foils, and so I would let people know mine came in leaves, by this, the taste is preserved and more nutritious. I was also able to insist on selling in dozens so this really helped my turnover.
No sooner had people started patronizing my moin-moin than they also began to request that I make other delicacies, such as variety of soups, stews, meals, etc, especially the very traditional ones. I never turned down any order even though I didn’t really know how to make some of them. For those I never knew how to make, I would go to the market with a pen and notebook and ask the sellers of the ingredients to teach me how to make the delicacy. Then I would prepare a little portion of it, return to the same sellers who would taste it and award me marks. Not until I receive a thumbs-up for my effort would I fill the customer’s order.
At this stage, I had gotten a name for my outfit and was in the process of registering with the Corporate Affairs Commission. THE INITIAL N1000 HAD GROWN TO HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF NAIRA! I knew I needed to acquire business skills at this time to enable me take the business to the next level. I was fortunate enough to be admitted for a scholarship programme at the Lagos Business School under the Certificate in Entreprenural Management programme, sponsored by Goldman Sachs Inc. under the umbrella of the 10,000 Women Programme. I went on the programme for a period of six months. I could see from the first day I walked into class that I was surrounded by women just like me. We all had the drive and the ambition, but had never had the opportunity to learn about business. Through our courses, we learned the practical skills we needed, skills like accounting, people management and planning.
After completing the course, I saw the importance of having a formal accounting system, I established relationships with my suppliers and started having them deliever our supplies. This helped us better manage our cash flow. Now we can cater for hundreds of people at the same time.
As a result of the profound success of the business, regardless of the unlikely beginning I had, the Goldman Sachs Group invited me to New York to share my success story at the Annual General Meeting on the 14th of April 2009. Again in September 2009, I was invited by President Bill Clinton for the Clinton Global Initiative 2009. This was because the initiative was as part of its programme for the year focusing attention on empowering women in developing countries. I therefore had the rare privilege of sharing my success story with participants at the programme.
Thank God for the story so far! By the special grace of God, we have two outlets, one in Gbagada and the other in Ikoyi. We place emphasis on the nutritional value of the meals we serve especially with the numerous health challenges people are faced with today. We know that this is just the beginning and that is why we are committed to quality and excellent customer service.
#Walking in the footsteps of Giants with Gbenga Asaolu~Eagleolu# Ayodeji Mebope_ May 24
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