Founder Mo’ Grills
Shop C 256/2659 Ikota Complex, Ajah Road, Eti Osa, Lagos
@mo_grills / 08158433933, 08055577239
Meet the hands behind ‘Mo Grills‘ – the man driven with business fever right from his days on campus where he started his entrepreneurial journey and on getting his first job started molding his dream into reality by venturing into food service and serving his colleagues at work.
Could you please introduce yourself and tell us about your background –
My name is Lawal Babatunde. I studied Industrial Relations at Olabisi Onabanjo University. I am married with two kids. I have always been involved in business right from my University days; I would save up to start buying and selling anything i could. I have worked within the Banking and Telecoms industries but i have always wanted to be self employed.
Starting days for business including funding?
While working in Globacom, I thought of business ideas that could supplement my income without disturbing/jeopardizing my employment. I spoke to a friend that ran a joint on the Mainland and this sparked the beginning of my Sharwama business. I enrolled for a Sharwama training class that cost me N 100, 000 back in 2010, and shortly after, I started making Sharwama and selling it to my colleagues at work. I would precook them and bring them in food warmers and sell to colleagues at work.
I briefly ran a Sharwama store in a car wash on Ado road from a 500 thousand Naira initial investment back in 2011. I got my first independent spot at Ado Road, financed with a 2 million Naira start-up loan. I was so optimistic about the success of the business that I took 2 weeks leave from work to see it set-up.
Things were running smoothly but as soon as I resumed back to work, product quality, customer service and sales dropped. It became glaring that the location and the team I put in place posed a challenge for the business to grow.
As a result, I had to repay the loan with my salary; this was a huge burden for me, but I never gave up my optimism. Fortunately, in 2011, I partnered with a popular bar in Ikota shopping complex and the business recorded success, as I eventually took over the entire space and built my brand.
When did your ‘aha’ moment come that you thought ‘I can do this
As a matter of fact, I was almost discouraged while selling to my colleagues at work because at some point, the products lost temperature and i had to trash a lot.However, In 2015 after saving some money I knew it was time to focus on my passion. I resigned and expanded my business with a full service location in ikota shopping complex..
Can you describe your typical work day?
When I started, it was long and hard days everyday; I worked 8am-10pm. It was tough on the family but my wife being very supportive, understood the desire and passion I had. She encouraged me throughout the period of 2 years I worked these hours.
Amazingly, things are different now; I have 2 employees among others, who have been with me since we began; they understand our processes and are vital to our operations. Even when I’m not around, business goes on fine.
My daily routine is more of reviewing the numbers, checking stock, previous day sales, inventory, and checking process to make sure everything is in place.
What steps have you taken to make sure your brand remains relevant and competitive in market place?
We stick to simple marketing programs, run promos and give out fliers. We have a good brand; when customers come in, they meet us here, and we give them what they want in its most appealing form.
Where do you see the brand in 5 yrs- 10yrs?
Well, with the steps on ground, we would have a couple more spots and a better structure. We equally hope to sell franchises some day.
Can you give us the most challenging experiences you have had?
I think just like with every other business, staffing is a major challenge. To manage humans is a very complex task, so you need to understand each person and try to develop a strategy to manage them.
What is the Worst Entrepreneurial moment you ever had and how did you Recover?
Taking a 2 million Naira loan with 10% interest to build my dream business, only to have it fail. I had to pay back the loan from my monthly salary; it was tough for me.
Why do you think most food entrepreneurs fail in their businesses?
Leaving their businesses in the hands of employees at an early stage of the business (infancy). Honestly, if you must succeed in Nigeria, you have to be on ground until you have the right team in place that can handle things properly.
How do you treat recipes and intellectual properties?
My supervisor knows my entire recipe but not all my staff.
What piece of Business Advice would you give someone Starting Up?
My advice is, stay positive and persistent. It may not be so easy, but it’s achievable. Bear in mind that your presence is needed for things to work properly.
More so, take good time to decide when picking out a location. It’s always best to start small and grow gradually. Treat your staff welfare as priority; understand where they are coming from, show them love and feel their pains so they can be motivated to do more.
What Advice would you give your Young Self?
Be zealous enough to pull through and stay true to your dreams.
For my young self regarding this business, one advice is not to have taken the Ado road spot (I read a book that says “Be sure of your location”)
Book and Resource recommendation:
Tunde – “Rich Dad Poor Dad” by Robert Kiyosaki
- “It may not be so easy, but it’s achievable”
- “Always best to start small and grow gradually”
- “Treat your staff welfare as priority; understand where they are coming from, show them love and feel their pains so they can be motivated to do more.”
- “Be zealous enough to pull through and stay true to your dreams”
- “Be sure of your location”