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Start Small, Grow Your Business – Abolaji

Posted: Aug 5, 2015 at 12:25 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Seun Abolaji is the Co-Founder and Creative Director of Wilson Lemonade Company. He was born in Nigeria and left for the United States of America with his parents at the age of eight. He studied Pharmacy and returned to the country. He worked, as a Pharmacist for some years but was unfulfilled. He and his brother decided to set up a lemonade-making firm Wilson Lemonade Company in Ota, Ogun State. In this interview with Ikechi Nzeako, he speaks on how he and his brother have been able to grow the company to the extent that their products are sold in the biggest outlets in the country such as Shoprite and Game. He also speaks on the challenges of running a company in Nigeria. Excerpts:

What motivated you and your brother to start up Wilson’s Lemonade Company?

When we got here, we found that most of the stuff that people drank was made from concentrates; we found that most of the drinks were not in their natural state. The natural drinks were not in the market we believed that people wanted something fresh and we decided to fill that gap. We saw that there was a lot of lemon in the country and we thought we could do something about that. So we started bottling and selling lemonade and the kids loved it. We had 11 persons who were working for us; that was how we started to grow the business.

We were mixing lemon juice and selling it. My brother and I thought that we could put the lemonade into bottles and sell. So we went and started gathering coke bottles and used them to sell the lemonade that we had made. We had a name but Nigerians did not like the name and we changed it to Wilson’s Lemonade and that is the name we are currently using. We made the name sexier and lovely and Nigerians love it. Nigerians love things that are colourful and bright and we made the product flashy and appealing and it has been good.

 

How has the business fared?

It has been good; we have made progress despite the difficult business environment. We sell our products at Shoprite and Game and other outlets; we spreading the business to other areas.

 

What do you say to some potential entrepreneurs out there who have good ideas but are waiting for the big hit before they start?

They should not wait for the big break; we did not wait for the big break. We started with just N2, 000 and we started small. We were just selling hand made lemonade. People were asking how we would be able do something with just N2,000. We started small and we have grown to the extent we have our products in biggest shopping malls in the country.

We all have ideas; no one is a preserve of knowledge. If you have an idea and if you do not do something with it, another person may have the same idea that you have and do something with the idea.

So start something with that idea no matter how small. When you start, the idea about how to develop the business will come. Again, do something no matter how small. As the saying goes, nothing ventured, nothing gained. If you start, you will find funding; you will find people who know about the business and who can do the proper things. So start but you who have the idea must start and do something.

 

Have you heard about the N220 billion SME fund set aside by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) from which SMEs can take loans at very small interest to grow their businesses? If yes, have you made any attempt to access the facility?

I do not have that information but the interest rate that Nigerian banks are charging are outrageous. The banks charge between 30 and 32 per cent and that is very outrageous to me. What kind of business can one do in the country with that kind of rate?

 

What is your assessment of the Nigerian business environment?

When we first started, we were doing another kind of business; we were dong palm oil business. We were selling the oil and others and we were selling on credit and people were not paying and this had adverse impact on the finances of the company. The business practice here if different; you cannot call someone on the phone and assume that you have closed the deal.

Most of the business here depends on personal relationships. People want to see you; they want to know whom you are before you can have quality business relationship with them. It is like “I need to know” kind of environment; one needs just to be careful.