Tracy Owamagbe and Omowunmi Akande met at Bells University in Ota, Nigeria, and, even after their graduation in 2010, have been best friends ever since. Last year, the two travel buddies had planned to take a trip together, but postponed their plans when they decided to use their savings to start Smoothie Express instead.
Born and raised in Benin City, Tracy has always had a keen interest in entrepreneurship and even though she has worked with corporate firms like Hewlett Packard and Ericsson, she never gave up on her entrepreneurial dream. Her mantra is: find a solution to a problem and make a business out of it, and two women she looks up to are Hajia Bola Shagaya and Folorunsho Alakija.
I loved that women were breaking barriers in our society and I too wanted to be one of them. I started a company before Smoothie Express but it didn’t work. Despite that, I did not give up on my dream to become an entrepreneur. ~ Tracy Owamagbe
When Omowunmi was much younger, she wanted to be a doctor. That changed sometime in the middle of her university education when she realized her passion wasn’t really in medicine. After graduation, she worked in OANDO Plc and Cambridge Manufacturing Company, but she knew she wanted to be her own boss some day.
I have a passion for philanthropy. It gives me so much joy and satisfaction in my heart when I am able to help or make someone happy. I have big dreams and aspirations and I can’t wait for them to finally become a reality. ~ Omowunmi Akande
What does Smoothie Express do?
Tracy: We deliver richly blended fruit smoothies to our customers’ homes, offices, schools, and so on. One smoothie at a time, our goal is to become a daily part of our customers’ lifestyle, helping achieve their health goals by bringing our smoothies to their door steps.
Omowunmi: Smoothie Express strives to assist people to live a healthy and active lifestyle and our vision happens one smoothie at a time. Our smoothies are thoughtfully divided into four core categories: Regular blend that cater to everyone, from children to the elderly; Weight loss blend specially designed for people looking to lose or maintain their weight, Fitness blend focused more on the gym freaks and body builders; and Kiddies blend for the younger generation.
How did you come up with the idea for Smoothie Express?
Omowunmi: The idea actually originated from Tracy. We had planned to travel for summer together last year (2014) and had been saving up. Then one day, sometime in August, Tracy calls me up and goes, “Mowunmi what do you think about starting a business, I have been thinking about this business idea and I can’t think of doing it with anybody else but you.”
We talked and talked about it and I was sold immediately and because we had been saving up, we had a bit of capital to start up. This was how Smoothie Express came into existence.
Tracy: I was trying to do a smoothie detox, and I noticed my major problem was time! Then the idea popped up one morning on my drive to work: what if I delivered smoothies at work? How easy and convenient will it be?
I called up Omowunmi, who I had been planning a holiday with for a while. She worked with Cambridge Weight Loss Company, and she was the perfect person to actualize this dream with. So, we postponed our holiday (which we are still yet to take, lol) and decided to start up Smoothie Express. It’s not been easy, but i’m glad we took this step.
We started up with just one dispatch bike. At first we were meeting all our orders, then it became impossible to keep up as the orders increased. Eventually we got another bike and it was okay for a while till it wasn’t again. Eventually we had to liaise with a logistics company. We plan to increase our fleet by the end of the month.
How will Smoothie Express change the world?
Tracy: We aim to promote healthy living in every neighbourhood. Having well prepared smoothies delivered to one’s doorstep is a huge convenience. We want to make the healthier option more available to people around the world.
How did you feel when you heard you made the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Program list and what was the hardest part about applying?
Tracy: We were super excited. We realised we had found a platform to build this company and actualize our dreams and visions for it.
The most difficult part was the number of questions. There were a lot of questions and it seemed the application was never going to end, lol.
What is your number one business challenge?
Tracy: Our number one challenge has been logistics. We hope to expand our delivery fleet with the grant from the Tony Elumelu Foundation.
What do you expect your business will achieve with the programme benefits?
Omowunmi: Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme has been designed to grow startups and help entrepreneurs with ideas that have the potential to succeed. We are given access to a framework that includes mentorship, online and live learning as well as access to information, networking and seed capital and I am so grateful for this opportunity that would not only help build our brand but groom us to achieve professionalism.
Any words of encouragement or advice to entrepreneurs like yourself?
Tracy: It’s difficult building an empire, when obstacles come (they will always come), look for the smartest, simplest way to solve them and move on. Never give up.
Omowunmi: Do NOT be afraid to dream big! Don’t put limitations to your dreams, remember you can do ANYTHING you set your mind to.
God has given us this wonderful gift called instincts, follow them because 90% of the time they’re always right, regardless of what people think. Pray! Pray! Pray! Pray like your life depends on it. Hard work will get you far but prayer AND hard work will get you farther.
And lastly never give up. Don’t even let it cross your mind, have a positive spirit all times and let your optimism come true.
*To order your own smoothie and learn more about the ladies behind Smoothie Express, visit their website or follow Tracy and Omowunmi.
**We are sharing the stories of 30+ African women entrepreneurs who are beneficiaries of the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme. and whose ideas can change the world. Follow the TEEPcofoundHER series HERE.