Please tell me about yourself
My name is Tobi Sola-Abiola. I am a graduate of Psychology from Obafemi Awolowo University, and also a graduate of Lagos Business School, where I attended the enterprise development center, the program was partly sponsored by the World Bank. I am married with a kid. I am almost CIPM certified , I have a professional certification in French language and I’m a member of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
What does your business do
We are a nature based company that produces sheabutter popularly known as ‘’ORI’ in different variants. So we have sheabutter now in strawberry, vanilla, native and minty flavours and what inspired that was because we understand that a lot of people want to use sheabutter, they are aware of the impact of artificial products but having a suitable alternative is usually the issue so when we have sheabutter, which is locally produced in different variants that people can identify with it becomes more attractive to them and so asides making sheabutter in different variants. It’s easier to rub in and it’s fluffier for use and the fragrance also indulge your senses.
Why did you decide to be an entrepreneur
I didn’t always want to be an entrepreneur, all I wanted to become was a personal assistant and be in the corporate world but then reality set in. Before my NYSC I actually got a job in a property development firm and so as at then I was satisfied with the job. It was what I wanted to do, I was the personal assistant to the MD of a property development company in Lekki, so I worked there and I was living in Mowe, the office was in Ikoyi but the sites were in Lekki, so sometimes I would still get to Lekki during the day. I was doing that for three days and I had to go to my PPA once a week which was on Mondays then CDS on Wednesdays in Abeokuta because I was a member of the band and it was really telling on me, four months to the end of my service year.
I told my boss that I needed these four months off to really think about this. Back then I was earning 26,000 naira. I told my boss I needed the time off to get myself together and resume as a full staff. My boss told me not to worry that I was valuable to the organization when I come back my space would be waiting for me. NYSC came and went and my mates were applying for jobs but I didn’t apply because I felt I had a job waiting for me so when I went back my boss, he they were restructuring and asked me to come back the following month. Eventually reality set in and for the first time in my life I was jobless, and I was not used to that because I was always doing one thing or another.
I applied for other jobs and got some jobs I got but I found out they were not for me. I also had to ask myself if the corporate world was for me because I am a creative person and staying in the same place for a long time was not for me. That was why being a personal assistant would work for me because I would still be moving around. So in the midst of being jobless I thought about life’s experiences and I remembered this incident when we were growing up, my sister has this skin irritation, she is light skin and that’s the myth about it SheaButter doesn’t make people dark. My sister is very light skinned and had an irritation and my parents had taken her to a dermatologist and there was no solution and then my grandmother came from Oshogbo with a smelly substance tied in a black nylon and applied it on my sisters skin and within three days the irritation had cleared. And all I remember was that the thing grandma brought and that it was ‘’ÓRI’’.
This ORI is the same it’s just that it has fragrance It’s just so you can use for your body and your hair and then all we actually raw shea butter can is edible. When you melt your butter it comes to shea oil and you can use it to fry things. It also works for cough.
What did you start the business with
My dad paid for my first labels, my aunt sent me money for my first machine, so I bought it and my uncle sent me the money for my first jars because if it was left to me I wouldn’t have done much, and because I knew that everybody’s money is in this business I just had to do it well. And so I took 8500 naira out of my allowance and then I used it to by raw sheabutter. So that’s the only money I actually spent that was for me, so every other thing was given to me by people and then I thought that my capital was 8500 without considering every other thing. So when I sold I made so much money and then because I am a very frugal person I was able to save and invest in the business and the business kept on growing.
What entrepreneurship myths will you like to debunk
People basically think entrepreneurship is a walk in the park, that every time you will have money and the business will be booming, in entrepreneurship people think your work will speak for you if you are good, it is true your work will speak for you if you are good but much more than that it is the character in you that would speak for you. So if you have a good business, you have a good product and you don’t attend to customers well or you don’t have integrity, when you say you would deliver on this day, you don’t deliver on that day, even if you have a good product you are still likely to fail.
So there’s some character development that people need to put in place before running an enterprise that’s what I feel. Everybody just thinks that once you have a good business. You can outsource the rest, but as a CEO when you don’t have the money to outsource. You don’t have the financial capacity to outsource those things that you’re lacking. You have to learn it by yourself such that when somebody else takes on the job its easier for you to identify that this person is wrong or right. So basically character development for an entrepreneur is very important.
What is the greatest lesson entrepreneurship has taught you
Being an entrepreneur has taught me that it is okay to fail. I say it to myself very often and this is because in our society, we do not regard failure as a strength because for somebody to fail and then pick up again and continue takes a lot because the average human being will just want to forget about it, but you failing at something is still part of life they are times when you do some things and you don’t get the required results and our society is not helping matters either they look down on people that fail in a particular area.
What is your advice to prospective entrepreneurs
My advice would be that be sure that it is what you want to do because it is not every day you will have money. Be sure of the reason you are starting your business, are you meeting a need or is the person in it because of the money, it is not every day that there will be money. Another thing I would say is don’t be in a hurry to be an entrepreneur, a lot of people have a 9-5 job and decide to run their own business and they quit their job. Why not try to manage both and see how it goes. If you’re seeing the prospect that the business will cover your costs at least in the initial stage. Then you can resign after a while but don’t leave your office work to then start a business immediately. Just try to run it, fail a few times and then launch out.
How do know if you are cut out for the entrepreneurship life
You won’t know until you try. There are some people who can sell things no matter how little and there are some people who cannot. You will know if overtime you have exhibited traits of selling and value creation. Not everybody can be entrepreneurs, there are some people that are good at helping others rise, being in the background. The life of an entrepreneur is enviable but not everybody can be an entrepreneur.
You can reach me on social media on the following handles
- Instagram: @teasnature
- Facebook: teasnature