Meet Tolu and Isaac, entrepreneurs making waves in confectionary industry
Several entrepreneurs have successfully explored their passion for pastries and have turned it into a business early in their lives, while some have left behind corporate jobs after identifying opportunities to do it.
For Toluwalope Anjorin and Isaac Obasohan, co-founders of Waffledom- a fast food confectionery brand, operating in Lagos and Ogun states, their entrepreneurship journey started when they identified a gap in the confectionery industry while still undergraduates.
Tolu and Isaac have been friends since 2016, as they loved eating waffles together during their school days. They saw a gap in their university’s food market and decided to fill in the gap.
The move prompted them to establish Waffledom – a fast food confectionary business that produces pancakes, milkshakes and beverages in 2019.
The business was kick-started with N400,000, an amount they got from family and friends to purchase two small waffle makers, a small-sized camp gas, a freezer, and a kiosk.
“Our business grew with the assistance from friends and family. At inception, we had them post our brand on their social media accounts,” Tolu says.
“This helped us get customers at our first outlet in Covenant University.”
“Much later, we were able to get industrial machines, proper kitchen equipment and the rest is history,” Tolu notes.
To survive the difficult moment of the pandemic, the co-founders tweak their business models by shifting their sales model online and getting celebrities and influencers to advertise their brands.
With this, the business was able to make more sales and expand. “Once we did all this, our sales picked up within Lagos state, as expansion in the food business is key,” Tolu says.
“Not too long after schools opened up, we got a space within a second university to conduct sales. We recently started attending a few fairs and events for publicity’s sake and it has been great.”
For Isaac, “Waffledom has come far, we must say. Though the growth is there, compared to past years, the line of our progress was not straight.
“We have encountered a lot of ups and downs. We had to close down our operations about three times in the past because we both had to pursue our second degrees and juggle school and this type of business wasn’t the easiest thing to do,” he says.
“We chose this kind of business because we loved waffles a lot and then we thought one day, why don’t we start this as a fast-food company here in Nigeria and then spread globally,” Isaac says. We thought, since the food business is forever, it would be nice to start one.”
Responding to questions on how the business is surviving the current FX scarcity and inflationary economy, Isaac says it has not been easy as “most of the raw materials we used have doubled in price since we started in 2019.”
“From time to time we have had to raise the prices of our product because of this. We are truly grateful and glad that our customers understand and adapt to the price increments,” he notes.
Concerning challenges they faced initially, Tolu says, they did not have any experience in running a business because the business idea was conceived while they were undergraduates
“We had a hard time setting it all up with little knowledge of what we were getting ourselves into,” Tolu says.
“Because we were new to the business world, we made lots of mistakes.”
Tolu adds that managing staff was a challenge initially. “We were both introverted people then and it didn’t take us long to realize how outspoken we had to become for authority and networking’s sake,” she says.
“We also had to learn almost everything on the job. From accounting to managing staff, bookkeeping, and recipe creation and so on,” she states.
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To further understand the business and the industry in which they operate, both co-founders took up several training programmes and researched the industry.
“We learned a lot of what we know now from the internet. Google truly became our best friend,” Isaac says.
“We also worked on our public speaking skills by putting ourselves in positions where we had no choice but to speak out. We started having regular meetings with our staff which helped a lot.”
On the business short-term goals, both entrepreneurs say, Waffledom aims to provide more affordable meals for the average Nigerian.
On long-term goals, they look forward to Waffledom becoming a household name and having outlets in all states of Nigeria and across the whole world.
On their advice to other entrepreneurs, Tolu and Isaac say “you saw the vision of your business, not anyone else.”
“In your days of humble beginnings, it is important to just keep working with that vision in mind no matter what anyone else has to say.”
“Each time we have bad days or months we make it a habit to talk about how Waffledom will be in the next 5 to 10 years just to help us stay focused on our goals. It is also very important to be a smart worker as much as you are a hard worker.”