When it comes to making good food in Lagos, this is a woman that knows her onions. She is brilliant, business minded and very warm. Happenings Magazine correspondents, Kikelomo Onigbanjo and Odunayo Adeneye had a chat with Mrs Funmilayo Ajose-Adeogun who gave us a sneak peek into her world and her advice to youths:
Happenings Magazine: Personal Details
Funmilayo: My name is Funmilayo Ajose-Adeogun (nee Duduyemi). I am the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Delina Confectioneries located beside 1004 Second gate 9b Samuel Manuwa Street, Victoria Island.
Happenings Magazine: Educational Background
Funmilayo: I attended Unilag staff school till I was 10 years, after then I went to England and started my secondary school where I did my A’ Levels. From there I proceeded to University of Buckingham where I bagged a degree in Economics (2.1). I was only a few marks below a First Class. After that I did my MBA in Export Management and International Finance from the University Business School in London. I worked briefly after my Bsc for the London Cocoa Exchange as a Commodity Manager. When I finished my MBA in 1987, I was offered jobs by four Financial Institutions in London. City bank, Solomon Brothers… I can’t remember the remaining. My mother wanted me to come back home and get a job in Nigeria. What I did was that I joined City Bank when I found out that they had a branch in Nigeria. I got transferred to their branch in Nigeria. Then it was called Nigerian International bank (NIB). I was in the Export Department for almost a year. I was also undergoing some training. I moved to Commercial banking, I also did institution banking. For the last two years I headed the Customer Service Department. This meant that all the Customer Services in other branches of the bank were under me. I can remember that it was our bank that started Electronic verification that is a capture of all the customer’s signatures. I left banking in 1992. I decided to be on my own.
Happenings Magazine: Birth of the Business
Funmilayo: I have always wanted to be on my own. I had already made plans to open a fish restaurant. But my parents wanted me to work first so that id get used to the system. I gave myself two years to work. I ended up using five years. I joined my mother who wanted to start a bakery business in Apapa where we were making whole sale bread. We were making ‘special bread’ in printed cellophane and business was good. After two years, I started the confectionery aspect of the business-the pies, sausages, pastries etc. After that, I added the cakes. But government policy at that time was that we could not increase our prices because we were under the Master bakers Association. I decided not to do wholesale bread again. We resorted to retail. We just started the wholesale bread recently again but on a small scale. By that time the confectionery aspect had already taken a lot of ground. We were in partnership with Eko Hotel for a long time before they set up their own bakery.
Happenings Magazine: What really motivated you to open a restaurant?
Funmilayo: I have always loved food. From the age of eight I was already cooking for the family, even the industrial cooking on adogan (general laughter). Cooking has always been my passion. I knew somehow that I was going to end up in the food business. Over the years, I have just tried to improve. I trained myself in that field. I worked in a bakery in England for three months before I opened the bakery. One thing I have learnt is that you must know how o do your business very well especially in Nigeria.
Happenings Magazine: Why didn’t you study a course relating to food?
Funmilayo: My background is what has allowed me remain in business. There is more to running a successful food business than cooking. I had to learn that too. Besides, sometimes you go to school just to get the qualification. What you do after school is your real passion. There is no degree that is wasted. I remember one Doctor Robert that makes cakes. He is a medical Doctor, yet he makes cakes. Why is he so successful? He followed his passion.
Happenings Magazine: What has sustained you this long in business?
Funmilayo: It is the passion. The passion is the only thing that will sustain you in business. I speak to a lot of young people and I tell them to have an idea of a business they want to do. Once they have a passion for what they go into, they can convince anybody to get the capital to start their business. Food business is tough, government will frustrate you, inflation is high, you have bills to pay, a lot of dues to be paid, the list is endless… but all that keeps you going is just your passion.
Happenings Magazine: How do you cope with staffing?
Funmilayo: The thing with staffing bothers on the fact that a lot of young people do not have the drive to work and succeed. They have seen money made too easily, so they are discouraged to work hard. There is not work ethic; there is no integrity and honesty. There s no commitment. They see all jobs as being beneath them. It is very rare to find someone who is very honest and hardworking. If you think a job is beneath you, you wouldn’t find one that is above you. Someone quoted something and said, “if you are a street sweeper, be the best street sweeper you can be”.
Happenings Magazine: What is your advice to young people who want to really better themselves?
Funmilayo: They should sell their ideas to people more. They should write their business plan and keep to it. You see, writing a business plan will make you know the in and out of your plan. It will make you know your business better. It is very difficult to get financing but they have to attach themselves t people that add value to them. I do not have time for wasteful relationships. I do not make friends with people my age. I feel either those people who are older than me or younger than me have something I do not have. In the end, it all depends on what you have on the table. That is what you have yourself. They have to be focused.
Happenings Magazine: Most young find it difficult to find genuine people to look up to. How is that so?
Funmilayo: It depends on how you present yourself. I have people I look up to and I have people I consult when I need some information. I call them my ‘informal board members’. There is a difference between admiring someone and pestering someone. You meet people socially and from there a mentor-mentee relationship is born.
Happenings Magazine: Family background
Funmilayo: I have three children. The first is a graduate of Business Management; she is doing her NYSC in a bank. The second is a Lawyer; he is presently in Law School in Abuja. The third is in year 2 studying Business Economics and Finance.
Happenings Magazine: How do you unwind?
Funmilayo: I read a book every two days. I also play Sudoku. I have already gotten to the more difficult parts of the game. I exercise every morning. Very recently I started gardening. The hobby started from when there was scarcity of tomatoes (general laughter). The last time I travelled I got all the vegetable seeds; carrots, onions, tomatoes, etc. Gardening is another way to relax for me. I do not sit still. I am always up on my game and always learning. There was basically nothing I did not do. The next thing I want to do is to start a blog. I have a lot of knowledge to impart on others.
Happenings Magazine: Do you have any other businesses apart from this?
Funmilayo: Yes I do. I used to train. I have this company called ‘Creative kids’ (although my daughter has taken over it now) where kids ages 5-15 spent a week with me and they learnt a lot of skills like cooking, candle making, soap making, box making, tailoring. The children loved it. I was later asked by Corona to train their teachers how to do these things. I did that for while. Apart from this, I am also the director of Henry Alex Duduyemi Memorial College in Ife. I am a multitasking person, so it is quite easy to shuffle all these businesses together, thank God for the provision of the email so it is quite easy to send mails and give instructions without seeing the person in question.
Happenings Magazine: Any plans to retire soon?
Funmilayo: I do not think I will retire (general laughter). I will just slow down. After that I will take up farming.
Happening Magazine: It was a pleasure meeting you ma
Funmilayo: Yeah, the pleasure is mine.