Founder Uzo’s Food Lab.
Uzo Orimalade is the founder Uzo’s Food Lab and uzosfoodlabs.blogspot.com, a lifestyle blog dedicated to creating easy to make, pocket friendly meals, gardening and home & kitchen hacks.
Can you pleases introduce yourself and tell us about your background –
My name is Uzo. I studied law and went on to get an MBA with Focus on Strategic Management. I also worked as an investment Banker. I moved back to Nigeria to do my NYSC and later started working for a marketing/branding firm. I went into investment banking and it was during this period that I started my food business.
In 2009, I started Cupcake Couture. Five years later, Uzo’s Food lab was formed as a Holding company. I draw inspiration from Martha Stewart and Oprah and I am growing Uzo’s Food lab in a similar direction.
Uzo Food lab has different facets to it, we run a Restaurant Consulting business, Cupcake couture is under the food speciality and baked goods arm , and we have a Garden section where we focus on “ Garden to Table” we encourage house holds to plant there own herbs, so we sell young plants.
Starting days for business including funding?
I started ‘cup cake Lagos’ while I was still working in the banking sector. I decided to start saving part of my monthly salary with plans of saving up an equivalent of my one year salary. My goal was run this business full time when that was accomplished. Thus, I resigned in 2013 i had saved enough and the banking industry was also undergoing some changes.
When did your aha moment come that you thought ‘I can do this’ …
Over the years, I kept building the brand, testing recipes and getting feedback from colleagues, family and friends. My services increased; I’d help clients organize intimate dinners. As things progressed, business became more demanding of my time. Coincidentally, it was about the same time CBN changed banking policies and that meant my job as an investment banker working for a bank subsidiary was going to be affected. At this point, I had saved my target amount so I resigned and focused on this. From my professional experience, I knew money management was a huge task for start-up business, so I was adequately prepared.
Can you describe your typical work day?
I am a mom, a wife and an entrepreneur. Usually, my business work starts at 9:00 am. Before this time, I would have done my home chores and school runs.
I have put structures in place to make sure we meet our demands. So there are designated days for particular tasks. For instance, on Mondays, we review stock and restock on our recipe and materials; usually this takes us till the next Monday to restock unless we have something totally out of the ordinary. I spend 10 am – 1pm following up and working on client’s projects.
At afternoons, I work on feature posts in blogs, magazines or articles generally to generate content for social media. More so, I research recipes and post on social media and in the evening, I go back to being a mom preparing dinner and catering for the kids. Later at night, I do lots of strategic planning as there is always a project that needs to be completed.
What steps have you taken to make sure your brand remains relevant and competitive in market place?
I have structured the brand into 3 categories and we are defining each segment:
- Restaurant Consulting business
- Cupcake couture under Food Specialty and Baked Goods
- Garden section where we run a “ garden to table”
How would you say your business has evolved over the years?
It evolved. When we started the cup cake business, there were only two of us offering specialty cup cakes. We were using premium quality ingredients that put our products at a high price point but as the market evolved and more players came in, i had to revisit and adjust to market sensitivity.
Where do you see the brand in 5 yrs- 10yrs?
I am greatly inspired by the Martha Stewart and the Oprah brand. In the next five years, I want to see my brand stronger, merchandising products, be a household name and produce gourmet chin-chin as well as dinner wares.
Secondly, I envision Uzo’s food Lab being a leading voice in food consulting to help brands accomplish their goals.
Can you give us the most challenging experiences you have had?
People seem the most challenging to handle because you have ideas and people come with separate ideas and while working together, there’s conflict of interest and as a result, things may go wrong. Another thing is funding; I have had to find a way to work with what is available. However, working on my brands from home has helped to bring down a significant overhead on my business.
What is the worst entrepreneurial moment you ever had and how did you recover?
2014 Valentine’s Day, we had huge orders and none of my bakers came to work; phones switched off and we had to fulfill orders. My husband, friends and neighbors all came to help. Deliveries were delayed, Dispatch Company were back logged, and customers were calling. It was a tough day.
Apparently, larger bakeries usually need adhoc staff for seasonal periods like this so my staff left to go earn the extra income.
At the end of that stressful day, I ran the numbers and it dawned on me that this arm of our business did not give the ROI expected so I decided to restructure our business and change focus.
Why do you think most food entrepreneurs fail in their businesses?
Failure to plan! A lot of people just want to go into food business because they have the money. They don’t look at what they love exactly, and don’t understand the full business angles before going into it. They fail to understand and implement quality control standards. They also fail to understand the reality of running the business; a business owner must be able to fundamentally run the business and as the business grows can hire a team.
More so, there is the need to delegate. You can’t do it all by yourself and because staff want to be business owners, they work with no sense of ownership. It is one thing to have a business idea and it’s another thing to make it work.
How do you treat recipes and intellectual properties?
I have streamlined my recipes; there are processes all my staff can execute but there are key components and mixes I handle myself. Intellectual property is something a lot of entrepreneurs fail to protect and these are viable business opportunities.
What piece of business advice would you give someone starting up?
Research! Don’t be fooled by outward appearances of other people’s business. Don’t get carried away by what they have posted on social media regarding their business. Rather, engage in intense research and get a third set of eyes that will help you analyze and guide you through your decision making.
You also need an accountability partner that can question WHY ? That will make you answer questions associated with your business until you get it right. Sweat the business concept!
What advice would you give your young self?
My young self… Mmm! don’t be so much in a hurry. Obviously, because I was being pushed by my wants, I always took it from the bigger view. This was good but if I knew better, I would have started step by step and I guess my brand would have been bigger by now. I hung on to many things because I had so many ideas. In a nutshell, take things one at a time.
Books and resource recommendation
I love to read, but never interested in a business or self-motivational book. I consider most of such books self-righteous because there is no one-stop solution to business problems. However, what I hold on to is my business and brand aspirations. They have been crafted based on certain people and their business patterns. I equally look up to successful people, study how their businesses have evolved and try to emulate them.
- Don’t be fooled by outward appearances of other people’s business.
- Don’t get carried away by what they have posted on social media regarding their business.
- Engage in intense research and get a third set of eyes that will help you analyze and guide you through your decision making.