She is a 26-year-old budding entrepreneur and the creative director of an online indigenous food brand called TASTY CORRIDORS. A graduate of Law from the University of Lagos, she pushed her degree aside to make a living for herself. In this inspiring chat with her, we find out how Funmi has turned the lemons life has handed her to lemonade.
tw: Can you share your story with us?
TC: It all started in my teenage years. My mum as a single mother could not afford to foot most of the bills. At a point, we had accommodation issues and we had to live with our Grandmother. She stayed in a type of apartment popularly known as face-me-i-face-you apartment at Carter Street Ebute-Metta Lagos. There were 16 rooms and over 50 occupants (including children) living in the apartment at the time. Ewa Aganyin was my best food (still is) so every morning, I would queue up to buy Ewa Aganyin from the Togolese sellers who were our co-tenants. They were Masters in making Ewa Aganyin (and that was where I learned how to make it). My Mom was a Caterer so I will give the Togolese kids icing sugar and cake in exchange for Ewa Aganyin. I would spell out their name with my Mom’s icing set on their palm (which was fascinating to them) in exchange for Ewa Aganyin. I never knew I would later make a living off Ewa Aganyin. I started making it at the age of 13 for the fun of it. When I was at the University, I was never satisfied with the quantity of Ewa Aganyin they sold to me in the buttery. So I would go to the market, buy ingredients and cooked mine. I would give some to my roommates and friends, while others would beg me to sell to them since my Ewa Aganyin was very tasty and stone free. I didn’t take it up as a full-time business until now. I finished my Youth Service and the harsh reality of the Country has hit me.
tw: Are you a practicing Lawyer; is this Ewa-Aganyin business a side hustle?
TC: I have always loved Law; I haven’t gotten any offers yet from any law firm. I intend to practice once I get a good offer. I also intend to put a structure in place for my Ewa Aganyin business while I continue with my Law Career.
tw: It seems to me like there is a certain fascination with the idea of being an entrepreneur; it’s all everyone talks about these days. Everyone wants to own a business, and some fear that entrepreneurs will soon outnumber the customers. Do you think this is true?
TC: Well I think there is some sort of mental freedom about being an entrepreneur. You can create an empire in your mind and break free from the norm. Being an entrepreneur is beyond the facade of parading as a CEO. Some people don’t want to work 9-5 but would prefer to work round the clock for themselves to meet targets. It’s good that entrepreneurs are emerging especially the youths, but I believe there are still many opportunities yet to be discovered that people are not tapping into. Entrepreneurs can never outnumber customers; there would always be someone who needs your products or services.
tw: What gave you the push to jump into the entrepreneurial world and why did you choose food?
TC: I have always been independent and I am not new to the entrepreneurial world. I sold pen and fancy erasers in secondary school. I hawked pure water and made hot doughnut, noodles, and fried egg. I also sold new clothes and second clothes to ladies in the hostel (Moremi hall, Unilag). During the ASUU six months strike, I got a shop behind Unilag second gate where I sold provisions and daily needs. My shop was demolished barely two years of being in operation without any compensation whatsoever. I felt like dying then as I was in my final year and I also loaned money from a microfinance bank to buy the goods putting up the shop as collateral for the loan. I had to turn my room in the hostel into a mini shop with the help of my roommates to make ends meet and up pay up the loan.
After Youth Service, I applied to a number of Law firms but didn’t get any feedback so while waiting for offers that never came. I met someone who bought into my idea and gave me a push to start anyhow and forget the what-ifs. He gave me the motivation and promised to help me out with branding and packaging but left me disappointed halfway. I picked up the pieces and put finishing touches here and there, that was how I plunged into the food business. I figured people must eat no matter what. There’s no occasion that food is not needed, hence my decision to make a living out of food business.
tw: How long have you been in business?
TC: My Mom was a full-time Caterer at some point, so that helped with my clientele. I officially started the online food business November this year.
tw: How has it been like since you started?
TC: It has been crazy, I have been rejected a number of times by clients and investors. I wanted a physical store to sell my Ewa Aganyin on the Island, I tried the village market on Saturdays owned by a popular supermarket in Lekki phase 1, I wasn’t given audience and was told they would contact me if they needed me and that was it. There are times my phone would refuse to work and that is the instrument I use for my trade (my online shop) At times, I take orders to some of my clients and they change their minds saying they have canceled the order. It results in a loss for me as beans is perishable and I produce from my tiny kitchen. My father doesn’t even buy into my Ewa Aganyin business idea; he believes it’s not as prestigious as being a lawyer. Since I started my business I don’t have a social life anymore as orders come in anytime. My friends often tease me that I would to remain Single if I continue at this rate. But the feedback from my clients makes it worth it and keeps me going. It’s the evidence that I’m doing something right.
tw: Was owning a food company part of your life plans? Did you ever think that this is what you will be doing?
TC: I always dreamt of owning my food company, but I never knew it was going to be this soon. I was waiting for the time when I will have millions as capital before venturing into the food business. I knew I was going to do this as a side hustle but for now, it’s my main hustle.
tw: What are some of the unique challenges you face running a business in Nigeria and what is your recipe for success?
TC: The foremost challenge is accessibility to funds. I didn’t have funds to start with until I was paid my double allowance N41,000 (the final stipend Federal Government pays to outgoing Corpers). More so, there’s also no affordable shop to rent for production. The hassle we go through to produce at times is not so rewarding. The Lagos traffic at times to deliver to clients doesn’t help matters. Some people won’t patronize you until you become a huge success. My big moment came when coach Askdamz (Damola Ladejobi) asked entrepreneurs to advertise themselves in the comment section on her Instagram page. I saw it as the moment I’ve been waiting for and made good use of it. She patronized me and attested to how good my Ewa Aganyin was; she gave me a shout out and since then orders have been coming in. She is like my own ‘Ebuka’. My success recipe is persistence, perseverance, and doggedness. I would also not forget the God-factor; he is my source of inspiration in whom I draw strength from when I feel like giving up.
tw: What does being a Today’s Woman mean to you?
TC: Being a Today’s Woman means I know that I am resilient and capable of achieving whatever I set my mind to do. I am independent, always an asset and not a liability. I acknowledge my flaws and work on my weaknesses. I do not live in self-denial that they don’t exist. I am in constant competition with myself to be a better person. A today’s woman is decisive, sees opportunities and harnesses such to improve her life and that of the community at large. A today’s woman exudes strength; she is a voice for the voiceless and a succor to her community. A today’s woman is dynamic, she’s open to new ideas, and she is an institution where others learn from. We have gone past the time where women should be seen as competition to each other; rather we should preach women supporting women. I am a definition of Today’s woman, and I would love to be the reason why my fellow woman didn’t give up and made it to the top where we belong.
tw: What valuable life lesson would you share with other women like you?
TC: The foremost lesson is to believe in your dreams and work hard towards achieving them. Nobody owes you anything in this life; anything anyone does for you should be seen as a plus. Keep doing what you love because one day you would be rewarded for it and it will pay off eventually. Do it legitimately and reap the benefits bountifully. Do not be afraid of competition because they bring out the best in you; remember the sky is big enough for everyone. Whenever you feel like giving up and it doesn’t make sense to you anymore retrace your steps to your Creator and ask for direction. Trust him he will make everything good in due time.
tw: What are your hopes for the future?
TC: I hope that my Ewa Aganyin by Tasty Corridors becomes a household name. I see myself moving from #kitchen2restaurant where old and new generation can relish our cultural heritage through African dishes. I hope in the next 5 years, we have our factory where we can produce sauce in large quantities for local consumption and export across the continent. I hope that funds are readily available to young budding entrepreneurs to create employment opportunities for our youths.
You can place your orders via:
Facebook: Tasty Corridors
Connect with Funmi on her personal Instagram handle: @harderonkies.