Founder Tobby’s Donuts
@tobbys_donut / 09092141275, 08147240956
In Dec 2013, she had just 400K left to her name, she sold her car to raise funds to start this business. She borrowed her mother’s car to run the business errands. She lacked the large startup capital for a bakery, so she focused on just baking and selling doughnuts, which she supplied to supermarkets on the Island then… meet the founder Tobby’s Donut.
Can you please introduce yourself and tell us about your background –
My name is Adepeju. I graduated from Queen Mary University in London with BSc. Business Administration and Management. My business was registered and trademarked in 2014. I do not have any formal training in baking; all I know, I learned from YouTube. YouTube is a very powerful resource and teaching tool.
Starting days of business including funding?
In Dec 2013, I had just 400K left to my name. I had to sell my car to raise funds for this business and I remember I always borrowed my mother’s car to run errands for the bakery. I lacked the large startup capital needed for a full bakery so I focused on just selling doughnuts, which I supplied to supermarkets on the Island.
In the beginning, I’d take my doughnuts to church and parties and observe from the background how customers ate and reacted to the doughnuts. This was my way of getting customer feedbacks. I got many positive responses which convinced me it was the way to go.
The production cost were low and the risk weren’t so big so I focused on having very good packaging and presentation for our doughnuts at supermarkets. I also offered them incentives by supplying fresh doughnuts always and replacing unsold ones at no cost to them this took away the risk at their end. Presently, we are in about 40 grocery stores on the Island.
-“God is in it”
When did your ‘aha’ moment come that you thought ‘I can do this’ ?
There are other businesses I have tried that were not successful. I initially thought about baking cakes but then, there were so many people doing cakes and I didn’t want to enter a saturated market. I wanted to do something similar to baking but with a twist and that was when the doughnuts idea came to mind.
Can you describe your typical work day?
When I started, I played many roles simultaneously: purchaser, marketer, promoter, accountant and delivery person. I had just one staff that really had no clue. It went on that way for about 7 months before I began to recruit. Now, we have about 20 staff, and even in my absence, everything goes on fine. We supply supermarkets and private customers too.
I will say my main business is supplying supermarkets, we have become more innovative with the private orders.
What steps have you taken to make sure your brand remains relevant and competitive in market place?
I constantly innovate, tweak and enhance recipes and I also listen to customers’ feedback. We have a special way of making our doughnuts which gives it a unique taste; we play around with unique ingredients like bacon and maple syrup in some of our recipe, we have doughnut burgers and designed cakes made from doughnuts.
Creativity is a major strength that reflects in our products. We use fresh ingredients to enrich our products and avoid skimp of ingredients.
To the best of my knowledge, we are the only bakery store with ‘lettered doughnuts,’ which makes it possible for people to send messages to loved ones with our doughnuts.
Where do you see the brand in 5 yrs- 10 yrs?
I’m working on getting our products into mainland and into other markets like Abuja and Ibadan. We have people all over the country requesting for our products on social media so I look forward to opening more bakeries to enable wider distribution.
Can you give us the most challenging experiences you have had?
I will be honest. It is the entire environment in Nigeria– the road, electricity, generator issues, and staff troubles. You can’t be everywhere to solve these problems and you can’t control everything that comes the way of the business. It is really managing things beyond your control. Imagine you are having deliveries and on the way the delivery the driver gets into an accident.
One thing I believe is that one needs multiple streams of income in Nigeria because there surely will be bad times.
What would you define as your worst entrepreneurial moment?
In 2017, I opened a retail outlet and quickly realised it was an expensive mistake so I cut my losses and closed it. The overhead cost of running a brick and mortar was just too overwhelming and it was affecting our bottom line. If I had invested just 10% of what I spent developing my store in the business, It would have given me better results.
It is equally challenging when supermarkets that you supply owe and delay on payment; more so, when equipment breaks down during production as a result of nonchalance and mishandling of equipment by staff.
Why do you think most food entrepreneurs fail in their businesses?
The food business in Nigeria is extremely competitive and volatile, with random raw food cost fluctuations, erratic government and unstable power supply among others.
Trying to copy what the big guys are doing without understanding or finding their own niche market usually leads to failure. People go on social media and see lots of good looking food pictures and want to mimic them without having the ‘big picture’. “Social media is a curse and a blessing as well.”
How do you treat recipes and intellectual properties?
The truth is, people have their unique skills they bring into a production process so just knowing the recipe doesn’t really change a thing. I am not concerned about staff knowing my recipe or getting it into the hands of competitors. Like I said earlier, innovation for me is constant so when you think you’ve got it, I’m improving on it already.
What advice will you give someone starting up?
- Don’t just jump into something without prior findings and planning.
- Start small and grow organically.
- If it is working for you, multiply it, and if otherwise, quit.
Do you think for a business to stand, one should experience a bit of failure before figuring out what really works?
Yeah… you may start a business and encounter failure. This doesn’t necessarily mean the business would not succeed but then, it calls for change of action. However, it is better to start small so that if for any reason it’s not working, you can change the approach and commit to something that will work.
What advice would you give your young self?
Start small and grow gradually. Though my mistakes helped tailor me to the current path I’m on, I should have started small in my other business and avoided expensive mistakes.
Book and Resource recommendation:
I didn’t have someone to guide me on the business when I started out. That may be the reason I had to learn from my previous business mistakes. Really, having someone to advice you will definitely help in molding your business.
I would recommend the book ‘Joyful’ by Toks Adebiyi.
- Start small and grow gradually
- Don’t just jump into something without prior findings and planning
- If it is working for you, multiply it, and if otherwise, quit!
- Trying to copy what the big guys are doing without understanding or finding your own niche market usually leads to failure
- Note that, the food business in Nigeria is extremely competitive and volatile