Hello people, so I had the opportunity to do this interview article for one of my great friends on social media, who inspires me a lot. He’s a young and passionate Christian, with a dynamic personality. He is also a budding entrepreneur who started a Food Company in Nigeria, last year.
My questions are in BOLD letters while his answers have been italicized.
“Growing up, I nursed the secret ambition of finding cure for HIV/AIDS, quite lofty a dream for a child you’d agree, and I had it written and plastered at the back of my room’s door. Funny, none of my family member suffered from the disease, I just felt I could really be useful doing something truly great and remarkable for humanity. Well, that dream led me straight to medical school, but I guess it wasn’t strong enough to keep me there.”
1. How would you describe your amazing self? What was your favorite childhood dream of who you wanted to be in the future?
Adewale: I’m a god-loving young man, note I didn’t say god-fearing, and if there’s anything I’m eager to tell anyone about me it would be that singular fact. I have a wide wild taste to things and as such I don’t have “favorites”. Too bad! No favorite food, color, movie, bible verse, cloths e.t.c. none, although I have some pretty high standards I must say. My philosophy to life is simple: what would Jesus do. So basically it’s the only question I ask myself in any situation. Lately I get to be called an “entrepreneur”a lot, but if there’s anything I’d rather be known by, it would be that guy that believes even the best can be made better, so I guess that makes me an entrepreneur right? *laughs* Growing up, I nursed the secret ambition of finding cure for HIV/AIDS, quite lofty a dream for a child you’d agree, and I had it written and plastered at the back of my room’s door. Funny, none of my family member suffered from the disease, I just felt I could really be useful doing something truly great and remarkable for humanity. Well, that dream led me straight to medical school, but I guess it wasn’t strong enough to keep me there.
2. Can you tell us a bit about Heenspire foods and what brought about the idea?
Adewale: After graduation, I had branched out into business and was consulting for some clients. I was required to take some trips around the country and it was perhaps on these many trips that I got an understanding to a common problem in Nigeria’s food/agriculture sector, but on one of those trips, to Lagos precisely, the light bulb moment came. The problem identified is that of wastage across our food chain which ubiquitously has its effects even on our health. Nigerian’s don’t get to enjoy enough good food at affordable prices because the bulk of the produce gets wasted even before its arrival to the local market. At the local market, the food becomes ridiculously expensive because everyone along the food chain (the farmer, the drivers, the traders and the many unseen market forces), tries to make profits from the small bits remaining. The customer at the table end now bears the brunt and since she has to eat, she has little choice. Realizing a solution is expedient, I sought simple ways to improve accessibility and affordability of agricultural produce and that gave rise to Heenspire Foods®. So Heenspire Foods at its core turns agricultural produce that could have gone to waste into healthy food products offering them at affordable price.
3. I know you studied Human Physiology as a discipline, how did you get from there to where you are now?
Adewale: “All things work together for the good of those that love God and are called according to His purpose.” About and upon the time of completion of my undergraduate studies, I’d became interested in entrepreneurship; it was a concept so nascent and burgeoning in Nigeria at the time. The sparks came as a result of so many things; my parent owned some side-business and a course I took as an undergraduate also spirited it. After school I started reading, voraciously I must confess, about business and entrepreneurship, it became so natural to me that I could care less about the hours I spent studying. Entrepreneurship became so scientific and every bit artistic, that I could explain with the finest of human words its beauty, after a while I took the bold step to practice some of the things I’d learnt. Trust me; reading isn’t nearly as fun as doing. Interestingly, physiology gave me my first business opportunity and we haven’t looked back ever since.
4. What kind of products does your company offer? And how do you reach your customers?
Adewale: Currently we produce some variance of healthy snack on a budget. These are 100% organic fruit mixes, neatly crafted and delivered fresh to our customers. Our products are doses of vitamins and nutrients on the go, and are unbelievably affordable! The inspiration was simply to provide the Nigerian worker a daily serving of nutrients, pure and organic, even as they go about to achieve greatness for themselves. Customers could either subscribe to any of our fruity plans and get the products delivered to their office or simply locate our On-The-Go sales representatives to make instant purchase.
5. In a population as large and diverse as Nigeria, who are your target customers? And how affordable are your products?
Adewale: Our current offerings are targeted towards the Nigerian working class and young adults resident in major cities, lacking access to healthy organic food products. Our vision on the long run is to have healthy product offerings for every Nigerian, both young and old; we believe that every human being irrespective of social class deserves access to good food that promotes growth and development. The issue of food products being affordable is quite dear to me; it was a key reason why I started Heenspire Foods®. Come to think of it, where in this present Nigeria will you be able to buy 6 different types of fruits with 150 naira? But with the vision we’ve got, our customers get to enjoy the taste and nutrients of these fruits and that’s not all, customers who purchase any of our fruity subscriptions get to have their product delivered to their offices at no extra charge.
6. What is your biggest secret in succeeding as a newbie entrepreneur? And what are some of the obstacles you have faced?
Adewale: Quite frankly, success in business isn’t a function of one thing, it’s a combination of numerous efforts, efforts including marketing, product development, effective distribution channels, customer relations, personnel management, branding, sales and so many more, but for me, the total package I’ve found is in Jesus, He’s my biggest open secret. There’s a theory I’m currently developing, it’s called “Hustlebility”, it’s the degree of an entrepreneur’s resolution to make anything happen; anything is possible depending on the entrepreneur’s hustle ability to make his vision come alive. Of course I read a lot, I’m never averse to learning, it’s my way of maintaining my youthfulness and staying ahead of the curve. As for obstacles, they are quite abounding especially for a startup in this present economy, one that could be termed critical would be the sustainability of my supply chain. I have to think about where the raw materials are coming from, who’s growing them so I could be able to guarantee quality at the table’s end.
7. Who are your influences? And is there one person in particular that inspires you the most?
Adewale: I’m not the type of person given to role modelling, I believe in the peculiarity of the individual, nonetheless I’ve learnt (and still learning) a lot from different persons at different times, not necessarily just entrepreneurs, and I’ve found ways to cross-pollinate those lessons into business. Peter Drucker, Brian Tracy, Daymond John, Al Ries, Ayorinde Olukunle, Philip Kotler, and Adeniyi Oluwaseun, who by the way is my partner-in-entrepreneurship, are some of the many persons that have been helpful along my entrepreneurial journey.
8. With your background in health sciences, are there any health benefits to the products your company offers?
Adewale: When it comes to food, its all about health and wellness, other reasons are secondary. What’s the point of an unhealthy food? If it’s not healthy we don’t produce it, it’s a policy we abide by. All our products have health benefits and we don’t just stop at the level of serving these products alone, we go the extra mile to educate customers too. We have a nutrition education program and we use this platform to properly educate consumers about their health and the nutrition benefits of the food they eat, and the feedback has been tremendously great. We are making the consumers health conscious, to care about the source of their food. It’s a healthy food revolution we are inspiring.
9. What are some of the challenges currently facing the food industry in Nigeria? And what are the strategies you think should be put in place?
Adewale: All the way from farm to table there are numerous challenges. For one, we haven’t found effective ways to make fruits and agric produce available all year round, the adverse effect is that food produce become expensive when they are off season. There’s the challenge of distribution, there’s also the challenge of standards, visit the local market and you’ll cry to see how food are treated, it’s a show of disrespect for consumers. There’s the challenge of wastage. Our foods haven’t evolved enough to meet today’s nutritional needs. There’s the challenge of preference for foreign food products over those produced locally. So you see the challenges are numerous, and since they didn’t start overnight you don’t expect them disappear overnight. If we understand the concept of value chain properly, then maybe we can get the problems fixed.
10. How do you see Heenspire Foods™ in the next 5 years?
Adewale: We hope by then to be serving in 15 major cities in Nigeria. Most certainly our products would have evolved, some healthy food product range we intend to have launched, and of course the level of our impact in the course of spiriting a healthy generation increased.
Me: Thank you for your time.
Adewale: the pleasure is mine; I’ve had fun telling the Heenspire story.