‘It is challenging running cold chain business in Nigeria’
Olubunmi Khadijah Otufowora is a trained Pharmacist and founder of Partisoft Limited, a proudly Nigerian cold chain real fruit
manufacturing and distribution company, producers of the Boomsky Smoothies and Juices Range. Prior to this, she spent 14 years in various functional and senior leadership roles in one of the leading telecommunications companies in Nigeria, rising to become the Head of Relationship Unit. Her passion is to ensure that people live healthy lives through the consumption of natural fruits as well as enhance the
income earning potential of farmers through the reduction of post harvest waste of fruits. Otufowora was selected as one of the 1200 recipients of the YouWIN grant of Federal Republic of Nigeria in 2014 amongst 66,000 applicants and is also a recipient of the World Bank Growth and Employment project 2019. She speaks with IJEOMA THOMAS-ODIA on her passion for ensuring that more Nigerians live healthy as well as challenges of running a business.
Having spent over a decade in the telecommunications sector and risen through the ladder, why did you leave to start up a smoothie business?
I have always been a fruit lover, I take fruits everyday but it was always in chunks. So, when I was pregnant in 2008, I realised I didn’t have a hold on fruits anymore and I thought it wasn’t right, so one day when I got back from work, I decided to blend my fruits. My husband came home and saw my cup of blended fruits and called it smoothie, I was confused, I went on google, I never had an idea such word exists. So I continued taking the smoothie to the office. I blend different fruits and my colleagues would line up to try and guess the combination I did, it was fun. In December 2009, my sister was having a party, I made smoothies for free and took the remaining to the office, afterwards, I sent a message saying, ‘If you like what you took today, you can get a bottle for 200 naira’, and everyone responded with their choice of fruits. I went to the market and bought fruits worth N3000, I made the smoothies in nicely packed containers. I came home to tell my husband I made N12,000 from it, he decided we start a business. Since that day, I haven’t stopped blending fruits till today.
How has it been like running a business in Nigeria?
Running a business in Nigeria is extremely difficult especially in my line of business. What I have realised is that the most challenging thing for me is power. My product is cold chain; from cutting to delivery and so to ensure the product is in good condition I had to put chillers in all outlets that we supply. I have two generators and also an inverter, just to ensure that we still have that 24hours electricity. I tried solar it was too expensive, I had to drop it, so I have just been looking for ways to make this business easier but it’s really difficult, for me it’s power. I was lucky with funding because I got two grants, God helped me also with the fact that I save, I always put back into my business.
For this business to have been really profitable, do you think more Nigerians are eating healthy?
Definitely, I think more people are moving towards the drink thing. Initially people felt that it was the fitfam that would take a smoothie, it’s not like that anymore. People now prefer something really natural and fresh.
What has kept you going running the business, considering the challenges you have mentioned?
I love what I do; I am passionate and excited about it. When I talk about it people say it is contagious, even my husband wishes he finds something he is passionate about the way I am passionate about this business. So I love it, I am interested in it, my whole body is into it, I am committed to it. Secondly, what gets me excited is, I give you the drink and you don’t have to say anything to me, but your eyes speaks to me and you enjoy it.
What is the key thing you will tell a new business owner, especially a woman?
I will tell them what I did when I started; If you don’t cheat anyone, no one will cheat you and I think that has worked for me. I don’t owe my suppliers, I don’t owe anybody. I pay and I move on and I think it has helped me, even though I have had cases where people are still owing me. Secondly, I will say before you can go into any business, you have to do a proper research on whatever you are doing and I always tell my staff to pay attention to details, also integrity is very important. If I tell you this drink is 100 per cent natural, no additive, no preservatives take it that is what it is and those are the key things that work for me.
Being a mother, wife and entrepreneur, how do you blend these roles?
That’s simple, you have to delegate, ask for help too. You cannot do it alone. I can remember when my son was growing up, my mum was always helping me stay with him, I will drop him with her. Always ask for help, it may be from spouse, friends, sisters, cousins or parents. When I started, I was always stressed but I learnt to delegate, it is now easier. So for me asking for help made it easy.
What advice would you give to a woman who is scared of doing what gives her pleasure due to the pressure from the homefront?
I think most of us are scared, asides from what the society thinks, as an individual we are scared, we are not ready to take that step. So I will say start, take that step. When I started I didn’t have all the vision, no social media, I just did it and I was enjoying what I was doing . Secondly discuss with your spouse, if he is okay with it, don’t care about any other person. Forget what society thinks, we should take that step and not be scared, just start no matter how small.
Who are your target markets, where can your products be found?
The products are actually where you can get constant power supply. We also service all kinds of events hence we earlier in the year concluded a 30 days activation in all the outlets where we are found. It is a wet sampling activity where customers get the opportunity to sample any of the products and give their feedback, so far it has been amazing.
What stands your brand out?
What stands me out is the fact that my smoothies are 100 per cent natural. I have gone a step further by taking my products to the federal Institute of Industrial Research, Oshodi (FIIRO), each of the flavours have been analysed. I know the iron, calories, sodium contents and all the little elements. So if you tell me you want to be on a particular diet or you want a detox, I can tell you the combination of fruits to get rid of calories.
What is your life mantra?
Think it, believe it, it is possible.