Olagoke Balogun, director and promoter of ‘So Fresh Neighbourhood Market’ in this chat with KELECHI EWUZIE gives insight into Nigeria’s retail sector and the role local retail operators are playing
What is your assessment of your industry in Nigeria?
The healthy lifestyle industry continues to gather steam as more Nigerians are becoming increasingly aware and more knowledgeable about how much healthy eating habits contribute to the overall body health, fitness, beauty, prevention and management of deadly diseases.
Hence, there is a burgeoning demand for healthy food options and alternatives in urban cities like Lagos. Therefore, there is a high growth potential in the industry, which is still largely untapped in the Nigerian space.
Additionally, with the influx of foreign retail brands, Nigerians continue to desire a convenient, well laid out, modern shopping experience, which is sure to fuel the growth of organised retail sector in the country.
What is your business all about and how does it meet the needs of your targeted audience?
So Fresh Neighbourhood Market is a One-Stop Shop for all things: Whole Fruits & Vegetables, Juices, Smoothies & Salads, Fruit Trees, Bouquets, & Baskets, Natural & Organic Foods, Healthy Grocery and Gourmet Meals.
Our underlying philosophy is to provide good, clean nutrition and healthy living for our customers and to champion the cause for healthier lifestyle in Nigeria.
We operate full sized retail outlets that deal primarily in the retail of fresh produce, healthy groceries and equipped with a production arm for 100% all natural freshly made juices, smoothies, salads, fruit trees, fruit bouquets, fruit baskets and healthy gourmet meals.
What are the steps taken to grow the business?
For us at So Fresh, it is all about the customers, we continually seek to create and deliver the highest value in the most convenient way.
After about 4 years in the business, we had to re-strategise by identifying our target market, the best way for them to access us and the most efficient way of us reaching out to them in other to deliver value. As a result, we had to relocate to Ikoyi, which has significantly boosted the business outlook.
Our aim is to keep expanding our product offerings, broaden our geographical within and outside Lagos and be at the fore front of the crusade for healthier, cleaner and safer food.
What is your take on the issue of talent management in organisations?
Talent management is about if not the most critical element that can guarantee or hinder the development of any organisation. As I discovered early in my entrepreneurial journey that the company and even the boss is as good as his crew.
We therefore focus on growing and nurturing the talent within the organisation, through training and encouraging staff to develop themselves in an area of specialisation.
The issue of human capacity remains pivotal in Nigeria. What framework is required to address this in Nigeria?
Nigeria is in dire need of skilled and employable human capacity. The only way I see is to go back to our completely broken down educational system right from elementary up to tertiary and institute a complete reform and realignment of our educational system to fit the Nigerian environment. I was raised by two educationist, my mum still practicing and we discuss now and then, how much the Nigeria educational system has deteriorated. I think it’s a huge task, but can be done.
How do you stay above competition?
At ‘So fresh’, customers remain the number one, number two and number three reasons we exist. We distinguish ourselves, by providing high quality products, superior customer service and a wide range of healthy meal options for our customers which makes us a one stop solution for healthy conscious customers
We ensure shopping with us offers a convenient, very conducive, time saving and exceptionally wonderful shopping experience.
What are some of the challenges you have faced in the course of operating this business?
Running business comes with its unique set of challenges and meanders, made worse when you attempt to do it in Nigeria. It’s been a very challenging and intense experience. It’s had its lows and highs, but we keep evolving to better position ourselves in the market. Power is a major challenge as we are heavily reliant on generators to keep our produce fresh.
An endless stream of regulators each coming to demand for this levy or that tax, inadequate skilled labour and lack of supporting structures to encourage budding entrepreneurs are few among the issues we have had to contend with. The business is still young and gathering steam, we are hopeful of a great future
What is your motivation in life?
I am motivated by my passion for excellence and the quest to contribute and leave my world better than I met it.
What is your leadership style like?
Am probably a mixture of different styles, but generally, I am a hands-on guy. I like to get in and get my hands dirty and allow my followers watch and learn by doing. I probably oscillate between transformational to democratic and authoritarian; I am learning to delegate more.
Where do you see your business in the next five years?
So Fresh seeks to scale-up its operations by expanding its product range and its geographical and online coverage over the next 5 years to further solidify its position as the market leader, reach more of our potential target audience and remain the number one destination healthy store in Nigeria.
Summarily, our goal within the next 5 years is to be the most reliable retail prime destination for fresh produce, wholesome, natural, healthy food in Nigeria, and also to be at the fore front- inspiring people to engage in clean and healthy eating lifestyle.