Kasope Ladipo-Ajai ventured into entrepreneurship because she had the urge to do something more meaningful than the traditional 9-to-5 job. So, in 2012, she started OmoAlata, a Nigerian food service and packaging company that is focused on producing hygienically processed and packaged local Nigerian soups, spices and peppers.
OmoAlata Food Services desires to be Nigeria’s pioneer food packaging company providing easy to use pepper mix to the general public with operations in key markets across the country. The company aspires to use its strong local brand identity to position an international product range that will sit in stores all over the world for Nigerians and other customers present in these markets.
A computer science graduate from Babcock University, Kasope loves cooking, travelling and old architecture. In her past life, she worked as team lead in Air Nigeria where her responsibilities included information technology (IT) related service, business analysis and project management. She also worked with Taytom Group where she handled core IT project implementation.
At what point did you decide it was time to start your own company, and what was the first thing you did when you decided?
I had always planned to start my own company. I told my first job interviewers that I would probably be working for myself in five years. I got the job and resigned four years later to become an entrepreneur. When I decided to finally take the big leap, I registered the business name to make my decision concrete.
When you started out, did you get any resistance from family and friends?
Yes I did. Many people thought I should not quit my job until my business was up and running efficiently. I stayed resolute to my decision even when it seemed it was best to go back to paid employment. Those days are still not over but are further in between now. I keep telling myself that in ten years, I would look back and laugh at my hustle escapades.
Was there any point when you felt like giving up on your business?
Many times. Any entrepreneur who says otherwise is not being truthful. If one sets out with realistic expectations and enough passion, one will weather those times. It also helps to socialize with fellow entrepreneurs to stay motivated and know your situation is not peculiar
Knowing what you know now, what would you tell yourself when you just started your company?
There’s light at the end of the LONG tunnel. Slowly but surely is the key.
What does success mean to you, both in business and personally?
In business, it means OmoAlata products being used in most households. The success of my business is my pride and joy. Our dream is not only to sell products but to affect people’s lives through this business; employees, mentees, less privileged etc. We have a number of offshoot programs planned as we grow. This would give me personal fulfillment and success.
If you win the She Leads Africa competition, what’s the first thing you’d do? How would the prize money impact your business?
There is an expansion plan already drawn up. The prize money will go into purchasing machinery to increase capacity.
If you could give one piece of advice/encouragement to a large group of aspiring entrepreneurs, what would it be?
Entrepreneurship is not for the lily-liver person. Business plans act as guides and are not cast in stone. Be ready to adapt to suit your environment.
Every day this week, we will be profiling the six finalists of the She Leads Africa 2015 Entrepreneur Showcase. Follow the series HERE.