- Pregnancy hormones pushed Otufowora into the smoothie business in Nigeria about ten years ago.
- The Pharmacist has faced several challenges in the course of her business, forcing her to re-strategise to fit into market realities
- She started Boomsky Smoothies from her kitchen with one blender, but now has an asset worth over N5 million, with a turnover of over N20 million
Nigeria's business environment is described as hostile, especially to small enterprises, due to lack of basic amenities, double taxation and over-regulation. Many have dared to swim amid the storm, but only a few have stayed afloat.
One of them is Olubunmi Otufowora, the founder of Boomsky Smoothies.
It is true that some of the best businesses started from conversations, but for Boomsky Smoothies, it began with Otufowora's pregnancy hormones in 2008.
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As a fruit addict, Otufowora feasts on varieties on a daily, but her pregnant state heightened and changed her cravings for fruit.
The entrepreneur wanted a blend of fruits, not chunky pieces, that will stress her mouth. So, she made use of her home blender to quench her taste. The former telecoms' worker was gulping the mixed liquid without knowing what it is called.
Her husband said to her:
"That's a smoothie"
Otufowora didn't understand what it means until she made her findings on Google. She realised her cravings had been a source of income for many.
Despite the realisation, she still wanted to be an employee in the corporate sector. She met her friend, who happened to be her colleague in the telecoms sector, to assist in reviewing her curriculum vitae, but she was advised to turn her habit into a business instead of chasing blue-collar jobs.
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Challenges faced by Boomsky Smoothies
With N3000, Otufowora started Boomsky Smoothies. Although sourcing for startup capital wasn't difficult due to her blue-collar job, she was faced with the challenges of purchasing raw materials and electricity.
"There are so many challenges, ranging from sourcing of raw materials, epileptic electricity and the rising cost of diesel (to power generators), staff, seasonality of some fruits, etc. The biggest challenge however is electricity."
The border closure further compounded her challenges, she told Legit.ng:
"The border closure resulted in difficulty of sourcing variants of fruits that were not widely available within the country. This meant a reduction in the production of certain flavors."
She also had to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic which impacted her revenue sources due to the shutdown of retail outlets and ban on parties.
"The lockdown resulted in the closure of most retail outlets as well as an embargo on the hosting of parties and events towards reducing the spread of the virus. This led to a huge reduction in our sales."
How Otufowora was able to overcome the challenges
Prior to the reopening of Supermarkets across the country, in a bid to limit the impact the lockdown and restriction on movements will have on her company's finances, Boomsky Smoothies switched into home delivery to stay afloat.
Boomsky Smoothies was able to mitigate these challenges by re-strategising to meet the demand of the markets. Due to unstable electricity in the country, Otufowora uses two generators in the factory, one inverter, and is now planning on acquiring solar to remain operational.
She was able to overcome these impediments and scale Boomsky Smoothies by also sourcing for capital outside her savings, seeking funds from the Federal Government and World Bank business support programmes.
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"We have been beneficiaries of the Federal Government Youwin Women grant (2014) and World Bank Growth and Employment project (2019) which both helped scale up the business to its current level."
Boomsky Smoothies: The product every supermarket want to have
Over ten years later, Otufowora has built her smoothies startup into a brand every supermarket wants to stock for a profit. Shoprite, Hubmart, Grandsquare, Prince Ebeano, The Place Restaurants, Bukkahut all shelf her products.
Her brands are also off-the-shelf at Blenco supermarket, South town restaurant lekki, Madiba Mart, Awoof berekete, Everbright supermarket, Fresh forte and Adiba supermarket.
Getting her products stocked didn't come on a platter of gold. Although in some supermarkets, it took just days, some took about two years. Rejection didn't stop her from conquering the very stores that turned her back.
Today, there's no major superstore in Nigeria that doesn't have her product on their inventory.
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"In some places, it was as quick as the day after our presentation to the management of those outlets owing to our exquisite packaging as well as certification by the relevant regulatory authorities, while with others it took as much as two years of back and forth convincing them to stock our products in their prestigious outlets."
The business that started in Otufowora's kitchen with a single blender now has a workforce that consists of fifteen employees at her factory, with a total asset worth over N5 million, and annual revenue of about N20 million.
Otufowora challenge women to take on the bull
According to the PwC MSME report, 23% of females operate formal SME businesses in Nigeria. This low number of female participation has affected the expansion of Nigeria's economy and the number of jobs available.
Otufowora, who said her gender never affected her business growth, encourage fellow ladies to take the bull by the horn, and not let challenges discourage them from chasing their dreams.
"Life itself is a challenge. No matter what you do in life either work for someone or start up a business there would always be challenges. I would always say do research and more research before you start any business of your choice."
What's next for Otufowora?
With a presence in major highway supermarkets, the Pharmacist short-term plan is to occupy neighbourhood stores, which will widen her distribution circle. She's also eyeing African markets as a long-term plan, through the use of the AfCFTA programme
Meanwhile, Legit.ng had reported how a young Nigerian founder, Babs Ogundeyi, raised $25 million from a New York-based venture capital firm, Valar Ventures.
Ogundeyi is the founder of Kuda Bank, a digital bank without a physical structure. Just five months ago, Kuda had raised $10 million to support its operation in Nigeria.
Fakoyejo Olalekan is a Business and Financial Journalist with over three years of experience in covering finance and business activities within Nigeria and offshore. Prior to joining Legit.ng, he worked at Nairametrics where he wrote financial and investment analysis articles. Olalekan is a resourceful and result-driven journalist with a track record for conducting extensive research and interviews to produce articles that provide different perspectives to market activities.