Founder of Omo Alata
The desire to work on a business that would showcase her creativity led 2015 SLA-Entrepreneur Showcase winner Kasope Ladipo-Ajai to starting her food processing company Omo Alata.
The Nigeria-based food service brand, launched in 2012, is focused on the production and sale of hygienically processed and packaged Nigerian soups, spices and peppers. It aims to promote healthy eating and to make cooking easier for busy people.
Travel, particularly to advanced countries, exposed Kasope to the possibilities of quick and convenient meal preparation. While on her trips, she went to various African stores and realized that many of the ingredients for cooking Nigerian meals were not produced or packaged in Nigeria. This is largely due to packaging issues in the country which rules out the exporting of some its food products.
Kasope: “We have all these products but why can’t we package it properly? If we package it properly then we can export it.” It was with this realization that the idea for a food service brand was birthed. Kasope decided to start by packaging pepper. “It is a produce that is basic to us in Nigeria.”
Once she had the concept for Omo Alata in mind, she solidified her decision to venture into entrepreneurship by registering the business. Kasope then carried out research on the product she was trying to launch. She looked into sourcing fresh produce, and best practices for cleaning, processing and packaging it.
She also solicited advice about brand development from knowledgeable people in her network. A lot of work was put into the graphic and package design aspect of it. Kasope knew that she had to come up with something that would both look right and catch people’s attention. The package itself, too, had to be functional.
Kasope and her partner leveraged their personal income to get the business off the ground. “We had limited funds to play with. We asked ourselves, ‘What do we need to do?’ and ‘What’s the best way to do it?’” There were essentials for their company that they couldn’t avoid spending money on.
These included securing a factory space as well as the necessary equipment for production. They had to get creative when it came to spending money on professional services that they really needed.
“We leverage on our family and friends expertise for such,” Kasope said. “We told them our vision and asked them to work with us, and we pay them in kind or later.”
Kasope has had to tackle several challenges that come with running a business in the food industry. For starters the raw materials that are used for making Omo Alata products are seasonal. “The produce gets expensive when it is out of season,” she said. “The suppliers will try to exploit you.”
“You have to be on your toes checking to make sure suppliers are not taking advantage of the fact that you have a relationship with them,” she added. Farm produce does not have a fixed price. Kasope constantly checks the market to make sure that she is being charged the correct seasonal price.
(Read the rest of her inspiring story here: https://sheleadsafrica.org/kasope-ladipo-ajai-building-omo-alata/ )