Founder of Bubble Tii
Aaron’s Mall 12b Olubunmi Owa St, Lekki Phase I, Lekki
@bubbletiing / 0909-384-0201
Did you know that Taiwan brought the bubble tea concept over 35 years ago?
Meet the founder of Bubble Tii Lagos, a determined lady who went to Asia to research and know more about Thailand’s Bubble tea culture. She needed to understand the culture and experience so she could recreate it here in Lagos.
Can you pleases introduce yourself and tell us about your background –
My name is Tokunbo, I have a BSc. in Marketing and Advertising in UK, and MSc. in International Business & Finance. I am a certified Project Manager and Risk Manager. My background is more of a white collar corporate culture, so when I moved to Nigeria in 2015 I knew straight up, my work ethic and background wouldn’t fit into the corporate structure here.
The parent company of Bubble Tii is called Stag Triumph, Bubble Tii is the first project of the company. And it is about 3 yrs old.
Starting days for business including funding?
I did extensive research before we started this business, to set it up we must have spent 5 figures USD, raised from personal savings and investments. I actually flew to Taiwan and Thailand to understand the culture; the types of tea. I wanted to understand the product very well and I couldn’t do that without visiting the birth place.
The first concept we had for Bubble tii was kiosk model. We imported a custom made kiosk and parked in VI. This was an experience as we realized after 1 yr that this business model wasn’t successful in the Nigerian market. We don’t have a high street culture in Lagos so the foot fall wasn’t enough to keep the business running.
When did your aha moment come that you thought ‘I can do this’ …
I think back in 2013 I came to Nigeria on holiday and at some point I was craving a bubble tea and there was none around, I am not even sure if people knew about it back then. I went back to the UK and started doing some research on it.
Bubble tea is a Taiwanese concept and by chance became a thing. Legend has it that someone was drinking tea and eating tapioca and at some point he just combined the two and now we have bubble tea.
In 2015 I moved to Nigeria for the first time ever and I decided to open Bubbletii, I knew it is an experiential and lifestyle type drink and one of my task will be to educate and inform the public on this new drink.
Can you describe your typical work day?
My typical work day varies. In the morning I check my emails, spend time studying and understanding social media, I set a standard for the brand’s social media outlook,then I do some research for recipes and then I work on supply and sourcing the ingredients.
How has your business evolved over the years?
We initially wanted to build a strategy around mobile kiosks, around busy streets and malls, when that didn’t work we co-shared a space with a complimentary brand and now we are settled in our own flagship store.
We have partner company like Xo bakery that supplies us complimentary fresh baked pastries.
- our space is designed to be more accommodating to customer, the brand now has a defined branding image we are adhering to. People engage with their eyes, our emails, social media, online presence; we have set a good standard I am proud of.
- we extended our product range to Bubbletti waffles, coffee and chicken waffles in developments – It’s all about making the difference.
Where do you see your brand in 5yrs/10yrs?
We would be in at least two other West African countries. So, we may franchise in other countries when the opportunity comes. We hope to also open up in Abuja and Lagos Mainland and somewhere in the northern states.
Can you give us the most challenging experiences you have had?
Everything comes with a challenge,’ and it’s all about how you define the challenge. There’s hardly supply of some of the ingredients we use. For example, it’s hard to find tapioca in Nigeria and we rely heavily on importing our products. I remember in the beginning we shipped so much products, we over estimated sales and we ran a loss as the products expired.
Everything is a challenge in Nigeria even driving your car to your shop can be a challenge in Nigeria due to traffic and bad roads. Power, resources and staff are all part of the challenging factors in this business.
But one experience that jumps out was when we were co-sharing space there were differences in how to manage/co-brand the space. Finding synergy was a challenge. But I have learnt from that experience and with XO bakery, Chef Alex and I, have an excellent working relationship.
When you pick a wrong partner it affects you and your business.
What is the worst entrepreneurial moment you ever had and how did you recover?
That would be Co-sharing space with somebody else. While it has its importance, you and your counterpart need to have an understanding irrespective of the product and services offered differently. So my biggest challenge sprouts from that.
When you pick a wrong partner it affects you and your business. I also did wrong opening a lot of kiosks stations and it wasn’t supposed to be so, but I didn’t see that coming.
Why do you think most food entrepreneurs fail in their businesses?
- We are all too passionate and we look at the business like it’s our baby
- People don’t do proper costing before starting up
- They don’t understand the financial aspect of the business.
Then again, if you’ve never lived here (Nigeria), you can’t just start a business without first understanding the environment, people and how to go about executing your business plans.
How do you treat recipes and intellectual properties?
I’m less concerned with recipe. We keep researching and tweaking our products regularly. So, as you copy me, be sure to know you are behind me.
What advice would you give your young self?
Start business earlier. It is more painful to make mistakes now, than when I was younger. It is about setting things in motion and following up. Again, be more calculative.
What piece of business advice would you give someone starting up?
- Do more research, do your costing adequately and don’t throw all in.
- Get all your documentation in tact, I have lawyers and tax accountants on payroll.
- There is more than one way to skin a cat
- Be relentless , look for multiple options and explore them all, even if one option is blocked there are other ways to get the same result.
Book and Resource Recommendation:
The art of war by Sun Tzu
33 Strategies to war by Robert Greene
Richard Branson books – Screw It, Let’s Do It
- Business is a war, and it’s about being prepared before the war
- Everything comes with a challenge
- Be passionate but realistic
- People don’t understand true costing before starting
- Start small then put more to it as it grows
- They don’t understand the financial aspect of the business