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Sifa Asani Gowon, co- founder, Koko’s Kitchen

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koko-kitchenSifa Asani Gowon is a baker, an author, and scriptwriter. She is the co-founder of ‘Koko’s Kitchen’ and also the manager of Cakelaration Café. She has published two novels and also wrote the script for Ebonylife TV series ‘Sons of the Caliphate”. She recently launched the red velvet cake mix alongside her partner and friend Oluwatosin Olaseinde, a product that is beginning to gain momentum and also fast becoming a household name in the baking world. She shares her inspiring story with us in this interview and why she named her company after her late dad.

Childhood
I’ve always had a love for baking passed on to me by my mother. I baked my first cake by myself when I was 11 years old. I put in on the back burner during my secondary and university years but rekindled the passion later in my 20s. I began to bake as a business in 2011 and experimented briefly with making dry cake mixes around that time.

More about me
I’m a mom of two in my mid-30s who loves to bake, read, write and listen to music. I have authored two published novels as well as written a script for an upcoming Tv series on EL Tv (Sons of the Caliphate). I grew up in Bauchi, schooled in Jos and Zaria and then eventually married and settled in Jos. I consider myself an introspective person, which has its pros and cons.

Inspiration behind KoKo’s Kitchen
Earlier this year, in March, my beloved dad passed away quite unexpectedly. While my family and I were in mourning, Oluwatosin Tosina Olaseinde, who had been my sister’s flat mate back in their university days, came to Jos from Lagos to commiserate with us over one weekend. During that time, even as she caught up on old times with my sisters, I offered up some cake as a snack and she loved it. We got to talking about everything ranging from life to business and somehow the subject of cake mixes came up. I mentioned that I had tried making cake mixes before and she was all for the idea of starting it again, noting that it was a viable business idea.
We both decided to partner in registering our company, Tosif Foods ltd, with KoKo’s Kitchen as a trademark. The name KoKo was what my kids called my dad, which means Grandpa in Swahili. We wanted to honor his memory and Tosin was extremely supportive of that.

Reception and views after launching the red velvet cake
So far, we’ve had great reception and reviews. We are very particular about hearing from our customers about the mix and ask them what they think about sugar level, texture, ease, color and the like. Overall, our feedback has been extremely positive!

Other projects and activities
Right now, we are part of the She Leads Africa Accelerator Programme which aims to facilitate mentorship, support and provide opportunities to African female entrepreneurs particularly. We are also taking appropriate steps to grow our company in terms of scale and recognition. We have some other products we aim to introduce to the market in the near future.

On giving up
Yes. There are times I have woken up in the night with my heart racing in anxiety and asked myself ‘But who sent you?’ There have been times I have felt that this dream is too big for me and that I am not smart, good, or strong enough to see this vision in the end. But then I remember the woman of Proverbs 31 as well as the God Who made me and placed talents, vision and purpose within me. When I remember that I calm down some, and then I commit my fears to Him. I am also very fortunate and blessed to have an amazing and supportive family as well as a level-headed partner who also carries the same drive and vision within her.

Greatest reward
I would say that the fact that we have been encouraged and validated not just by friends and family, but also professionals who have talked to us and seen our product and heard our vision has been a great reward.

View(s) on Nigerians’ appreciation of homemade products
Yes, I think that Nigerians are starting to have a greater appreciation for all that is possible and all the brilliant homegrown ideas and solutions coming up. The truth is that I believe Nigerians are starting to realize that in order to sustain and grow the economy they have to begin looking and buying inwardly. The recent economic downturn has seen the ‘buy Naija to grow the Naira’ campaign grow in leaps and bounds. Nigerians are ready to patronize Nigerian made products as long as they are of good quality, well priced and fill a gap in the market.

I Am a Woman of Rubies
I believe that my drive, principles, work and life ethics and faith make me a Woman of Rubies. I also believe my desire to help others and see others succeed makes me a Woman of Rubies. Rubies are precious, of course; but they undergo a rigorous and hard process to become the brilliant gems fit for a crown! So also it is with any woman looking to better herself, her family and her heart even as she strives to reach her goals.

Final words to women
Stay true to yourself and your vision and hang on to your Maker! It’s a tough ride ahead but one full of joyful pit stops so learn to savor the good moments, shed a tear or two at the bad ones and remember to involve God in all of them.


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