Despite being the boss, his rugged, “hands on” exterior leaves one with the impression that he would be only too willing to work alongside his employees, doing manual tasks, if the situation demands. This is the impression I got of the C.E.O, Yakoyo.com, when I visited his fully equipped kitchen in the heart of Mushin, Lagos.
Please tell us a little about Yakoyo.com.
Yokoyo.com as the name implies, is a food services company which started as far back as 2003. We do outdoor catering for weddings, Birthday parties, Burial ceremonies, basically all types of events. We cook local dishes, Chinese dishes, small chops, food…we cook food.
Do you cook?
Oh yes. I have always been passionate about food. I learned to cook when I was a kid. My mother never believed it was necessary to have domestic staff. She preferred to put her own children to work. I had to learn to go to the market, cook and clean. I actually love to cook. I enjoy it.
Do you have any kind of formal training in cooking?
Yes I do. After I completed my first degree at the Obafemi Awolowo University, where I had studied Engineering, I relocated to the UK where I worked as a cook at a Chinese Restaurant. When I returned home, I studied under Funmi Adeoye at Avery Cooking school.
So why did you leave your employment abroad to return home and brave entrepreneurship?
I am a born entrepreneur. Even as far back as year 2000, I was running my own dry-cleaning business, “Alagbafo” at the Obafemi Awolowo University. I had a washing machine and a couple of boys working with me. It was a successful business and it worked well for me during my school days. Also, I’ve watched family and friends and I noticed that the entrepreneurs usually have it rough at the beginning, but over time, they reach a phase where they are more relaxed and where their lives are calm and paced. On the other hand, I noticed that the employees keep on moving from job to job trying to get better pay even till they are almost due for retirement. Most of all, I assume I was inspired by my father. He has always been an entrepreneur.
You spoke of a rough phase. Have you experienced yours? What is it like?
Yes I have. I have had periods where I wasn’t making profit. There have also been times when it was difficult to pay salaries. Just challenges really.
Can you enlighten us on the challenges that you have faced in this type of business?
As the visionary, there is a certain standard that you are trying to maintain. Finding people who will run with your vision is another issue. Despite training staff, some will still tell you that they prefer to do things the way they were doing them where they came from.
Initially, Yakoyo.com was doing daily food distribution to offices. We had to stop that arm of the business because of stiff competition from unskilled people who sell at cheaper prices. There is Iya Basirat who sells “Dundun” down the street, the cleaner who brings food to sell to the staff, etc.
Also. There are fluctuations in market prices. Tomatoes that sold for a hundred Naira last month could be selling for four hundred Naira this month. This is not an ideal situation for business to thrive.
Dubious customers also pay an advance and look for reasons not to pay the balance.
How has the government helped to cope with some of these challenges that you have mentioned?
The government hasn’t helped much because an entrepreneur needs funding, there is no government funding. Every business needs power. Food business especially as we deal with perishables. It also makes more sense to buy in bulk and store food items. How does one do this when there is no power? Also, there is no water and transportation is difficult.
Even adverts are difficult because of the state governments hassles. Even putting a small sign on your car, advertising your business, attracts stress from the assortment of officials that we have in the state.
Since help doesn’t seem to be coming by way of the government, how do you think we can help ourselves?
People who have money should invest in the dreams of other people. It is really simple. Find someone who has a workable idea, fund the business and take a share of the profits. That is money working for you. In fact it could be a short term thing where the investor puts in the funds and get the profit until the business owner is able to earn enough to buy his shares back from the investor., Either way, it is a win win situation.
What advice would you give someone who wants to quit his job in order to start a small business such as this one?
I wouldn’t advice the person to quit his job before starting the business. I would advice him to start the business alongside his job. When he has started making money, he can quit and face the business full-time.
This might be discouraging for some aspiring entrepreneurs.
If one is easily discouraged, he has no business being an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurship takes faith. It takes faith to step out everyday knowing that your success or failure is solely a function of God’s grace and mercy. Why I propose that the aspiring entrepreneur keeps his job is so that he treads carefully. He should also get a mentor and do a thorough feasibility study of the business he intends to go into.
There is a lot of noise about mentorship. Would you say it is absolutely necessary?
I can only speak based on what I have experienced and I will be the first to say that mentorship is extremely important. I met my mentor through the mentorship programme at fate foundation. Yes.. I took an entrepreneurship course there as well. My mentor shows me the real situation of things in our environment. There is the textbook knowledge and there is the real life situation. The mentor gives one the real life situation. A good mentor also studies you and tells you your strengths and weakness. My mentor has also opened doors for me and opened doors into places I wouldn’t have been able to enter on my own. He even gives me jobs from time to time.
So if you had the opportunity to choose again, would you choose entrepreneurship again?
Yes. Most definitely. I see it as a gift. A sort of calling for me. Besides that, Entrepreneurship is the way. There are no jobs. It only makes sense to take the bull by the horns and create jobs in the process.
“Call Yakoyo.com 4all ur outdoor events @ 08025196491, 08191188303…..we vend ASUN,CHAPMAN,CHICKEN BBQ,CHINESE DISHES,CHICKEN KEBAB,FANTAIL PRAWNS,FISH IN BATTER,FRENCH DISHES,GRILLED FISH,GOAT BBQ,ITALIAN DISHES,PEPPERED GIZZARD,PEPPERED SNAIL,RAM BBQ SAMOSA,SMOKED CHICKEN,SPRING ROLLS & CHOCOLATE CAKES.”