Dunnice is one of the successful brands in Nigeria’s event industry. But its success did not come overnight. It took years of hard work, patience and courage to get to where it is today.
However, its founder Ibidunni Layade believes that the company is yet to get to where it should be.
According to her, Dunnice Catering’s journey started as far back 2005 when it began event decoration.
But how did Layade conceive the idea?
“My first job came from a desire to decorate my church for Christmas shortly after I got married. I observed there were no signs of any church decorations coming up. Being new to the church, I told my husband, who informed the pastor and secured his approval for me to do something about it – at no cost. I didn’t have the skill then, but my hubby connected me with the vendor who decorated our wedding reception venue for a time of tutorship and training. Thereafter, I got a few of the church youths and the decorations were up,” she explains.
She says that that the pro-bono decoration work paved the way for other commercial jobs that she got paid for.
The chartered accountant-turned-entrepreneur recalls that her educational background gave her a soft landing in business, having studied accounting and graduating with an upper credit, making her one of the best students in class. “Never think you can go far without education,” she says.
“Whether formal, informal or on-the-job-training, endeavour to learn. I paid to attend seminars, courses, trainings, masterclasses from bridal accessories to bead making, to flower arrangements, to table-settings and hanging balloons. I still do. Learning, for me, is continuous” she says.
The Dunnice boss notes that she believes in research and development, prompted by listening to clients’ feedback and following trends from the streets of social media. She says she spends a considerable amount on data just to keep informed and ensure that she’s always abreast of what is fashionable and current.
According to Layade, she spares nothing to make her next event experience memorably different from the last.
“I remember an event decoration job we did some time ago where we went the extra mile to provide live parrots and rabbits as part of our props, because the job was a jungle themed party,” she says.
The catering arm of Dunnice has also created various product categories ranging from Corporate Cafeteria Management Services, Soups’n’Stews-in-Bowls, Appreciation Trays, Take away Packs, Celebration Boxes, Intimate Catering Dining, Homemade Foods-in-Bowls, and Owambe Dishes, the entrepreneur says.
Earlier this year, the Association of Event Vendors of Nigeria (ASSEV Nigeria) recognised the dedication of the Dunnice brand and awarding it the Event Catering Company of the Year 2019.
The event and catering expert affirms that collaboration contributed to her success.
“If you want to go fast, go alone. But if you want to go far, go together,” she quotes a popular adage.
“In life, I learnt that you can’t go far alone. In Dunnice, we never walk alone. I have learnt that collaboration is more formidable than competition. I have teamed up with other members of the events industry. I’m a member of the Association of Professional Party Organisers and Event Managers of Nigeria (APPOEMN). I belong to the Busy Bee Tribe as well as the United Caterers’ Forum. I have gained so much being associated with these professionals.
She recalls that there were times she felt like giving up because the business terrain was tough.
“Sincerely, there were times I felt like giving up, but I couldn’t think of going back to paid employment, as the corporate environment didn’t fire any passion in me. I had worked briefly with one of the top audit and accounting firms in Nigeria, and further worked as a resident control officer of one of Nigeria’s foremost banks. After sitting down in front of laptops and computers, I knew early enough that this wasn’t the life for me. Again, more importantly, I hated the drab dressing bankers and auditors of that time wore. I preferred bright and happy colours like yellow, pink, lime, red,” she says.
The entrepreneur says those were some of the things that kept her from giving up when the odds seemed against her.
“I am grateful for the strong support system I had from my family and few close friends who urged me on to pursue my dreams,” she further says.
The female entrepreneur, however, gives a word of caution to aspiring entrepreneurs. “If you want to succeed as an entrepreneur, you must be ready to work long hours, work smart and cultivate excellence – which will make you stand out for recognition. You mustn’t cut corners or try to cheat your customers. It is better you appear expensive and lose a job, rather than come in low-balling and deliver poor service which will leave a bad taste in the mouth of clients and their guests – leading to closed opportunities from that quarter.”
She says there is a wrong notion that entrepreneurs are at liberty to wake up at 10 am or sit in the house and not go out.
She warns that that is a lie.
“The life of an entrepreneur, I dare say, is more tedious than that of a regular Joe working 8 – 5 jobs. You have a business to build, you have bills to pay, you have families to feed, you have clients you must not disappoint,” she adds.