Girl boss is Girl Power! More women are entering into the entrepreneurship space than ever before, either as full time girl bosses or via their side hustles. We love it and we want to see more women own their position as girl bosses. Our Girl Boss feature has two aims, the first, highlight the amazing women pushing forward Nigeria’s economy and secondly, to create opportunities for other women to learn just what it takes to be a girl boss.
Meet Our Girl Boss
Ijeoma Ndukwe-Egwuronu is the Chief Executive Officer of Bubez Foods a leading Nigerian food processing company equipped with modern, leading-edge machinery for the processing and packaging of raw Pap (Akamu/Ogi). Yes, in plain english Ijeoma sells pap, a beloved staple Nigerian meal. Ijeoma, an alumni of Lagos Business School, ran a high end boutique for 8 years before branching into her current line of business. Her story is one of passion, originality and innovation-key qualities for any girl boss. In our exclusive interview, Ijeoma shares with us, her entrepreneurship journey, her challenges, motivations and advice for aspiring entrepreneurs.
Starting at the beginning
“I wanted change, to make impact, to find a new direction, so I turned to the only one I know with those answers..God”- Ijeoma Ndukwe-Egwuronu
IBG: Tell us a bit about your business
INE: Bubez Foods is a Nigerian food processing and packaging company with its head office in Abuja. Presently, we produce and package raw and fresh akamu/ogi/pap in 12 variants: Strawberry flavoured, Vanilla flavoured, Soybeans, Groundnut, Ginger, Plain Yellow, Plain White etc. Bubez Foods began its operations in August 2012 from my kitchen and by June 2015, we had the first team of production employees assembled at the factory. We have over 30 vendors selling our product, Bubez Pap out of Abuja, Lagos, Port Harcourt and Warri at the moment and we are constantly working on extending our city and locality coverage.
IBG: How did you decide on your product/sector/service, especially on the price point?
INE: The decision on the product was the very first thing that occurred and it was really a revelation from God. I wanted change, to make impact, to find a new direction, so I turned to the only one I know with those answers which of course, is God. He directed me to our flagship product, akamu.
Everyone knows that akamu is not a luxury product. The goal was finding a way to make it presentable in terms of hygiene and taste as well as making this redesigned form of a traditional meal, accessible and affordable for everyone- providing value for money. These are the major factors that controlled our pricing.
IBG: How do you build a successful customer base?
INE: Staying in touch, staying accessible, providing quality. All these factors really are very important to us. We also know that you can design all the market strategy you want and we do that too, but at the end of the day, your customer’s experience with you and your product is the most effective strategy. In other words, word of mouth is key-what people have to say about your product to you and others.
IBG: What was your first major challenge and how did you overcome it?
INE: The first major challenge was the presentation of the product that is, the packaging. I sell akamu for crying out loud, so for our product to be different from every other akamu seller, I had to do things differently. Provide unexpected value for a common and traditional product. Packaging was one of those things. I overcame it by attending food packaging fairs to see how other food manufacturers were doing it. I learnt a lot on the job and I am still learning.
IBG: How did you get the seed capital for your business?
INE: The seed capital came from people seeing what I was doing and believing in my capabilities and capacity, and entrusting me with other businesses that made me money to be able to fund Bubez Foods.
The business of entrepreneurship
“I always knew from the beginning that I wasn’t just running a business but I was building a brand “- Ijeoma Ndukwe-Egwuronu
IBG: How do you stay competitive?
INE: We stay competitive by trying to be one step ahead and meet customer needs. We cannot afford to get complacent. We have to stay on our toes and make sure our customers are satisfied enough to stay with you and tell others about us. Moreover, we have a mission that says ‘To continually provide easy access to traditional foods using research and the latest available technology that exceeds both our customers’ standards and expectations.’ So it is a continuous, non-ending job.
IBG: How do you go about marketing your business? What has been your most successful form of marketing?
INE: You can never underestimate the power of social media especially as a growing business. So every day, we are extending our reach on social media. We also share information about our value and brand with our growing reach. We carry out promotions at different locations every now and then, to create a wider awareness about our product and brand. We are at Next Cash & Carry, Abuja from May 25th to June 8th carrying out a promotion and sharing the unique different tastes of Bubez Pap 12 Variants. So, I will market a bit now :).
“Come and have a taste of this Bubez Pap that people keep making noise about. It comes in 12 different variants – Strawberry flavoured, Vanilla flavoured, Soybeans, Groundnut, Ginger and if you want the plain traditional pap, we have the plain white and yellow corn as well. Oh! And Millet & Ginger for the FitFam”.
IBG: What kind of culture exists in your organization? How did you establish this tone and why did you institute this particular type of culture?
INE: I always knew from the beginning that I wasn’t just running a business but I was building a brand and a multi-national organisation with time. With this mindset, our core values – INTEGRITY, DILIGENCE, EXCELLENCE, DETERMINATION, RESPECT, and TEAM WORK & PROFESSIONALISM – were set. I work with these values myself, so the tone builds itself from the head, I guess.
IBG: As you started to scale up your business what major challenges have you faced and how have you solved them?
INE: We haven’t solved all our challenges; there are still issues of forex rates and power to mention a few. However, we have learnt to take it one bit at a time, keep our eyes on the goal and see them for what they are really; challenges that we cannot let throw us off our game.
Motivation and inspiration
“God.. gave the direction for this journey, so of course, he’s in charge”-Ijeoma Ndukwe-Egwuronu
IBG: Who has been your greatest inspiration?
INE: God! He gave the direction for this journey, so of course, he’s in charge. It also helps that he reminds me every now and then with a show of his hand.
IBG: What book/movie has inspired you the most (and why)? (OR What is your favorite book?)
INE: I read a lot of books on different subjects so it will be difficult for me to pick a favourite. I don’t watch movies/tv but movies like sound of music and coming to America still cut it for me.
IBG: Innovation is key to business success what was the last innovative idea you had and how did it transform your business?
INE: Someone once said; innovation is really finding new ways to do old things. So, for me innovative ideas drop daily by looking at what others are doing and most especially from feedback from our customers who we are here to serve. Our last innovative idea is still yet to be rolled out, so you would just have to wait and see :). However, I can say, we expect that it would cater to some of our customers’ immediate needs.
IBG: What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
INE: Seeing our factory building completed and moving in to start working from our own property.
Girl boss life style
“When I get reviews and pictures of families and babies enjoying our pap, it propels me”-Ijeoma Ndukwe-Egwuronu
IBG: What is your favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
INE: Seeing my ideas come to life and being accepted. When I get reviews and pictures of families and babies enjoying our pap, it propels me, because I can feel the results.
IBG: In one word, characterize your life as an entrepreneur.
IBG: What sacrifices have you had to make to be a successful entrepreneur?
INE: Keeping a very lean social circle and also my sleep at times when I have targets and deadlines to meet.
IBG: What are some of the biggest mistakes you’ve made?
INE: Quite a lot, too innumerable to mention. I learn from my mistakes and improve on them. Like I said, I have learnt a lot on the job.
IBG: Share with us your daily morning ritual.
INE: I pray and I read in the mornings most times. Thinking about it, I really don’t have any daily rituals. It really depends also on my previous night activity. I work better at nights, so for nights when I work, I would wake up late in the morning and have a late start.
“Do not over analyse. Yes, you have to be aware of the challenges but you cannot let that stop you”-Ijeoma Ndukwe-Egwuronu
IBG: If you could start your business over, what would you do differently?
INE: I would focus on learning as much as I can before starting as against starting and having to learn so much.
IBG: What is your greatest fear and how do you manage fear?
INE: My greatest fear is the fear of success. The vision is so big that a lot of times I feel I’m not well equipped to handle the kind of success that will come with it. This isn’t self-confidence, but rather, confidence in the plan and direction of God.
IBG: Advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
INE: Do not over analyse. Yes, you have to be aware of the challenges but you cannot let that stop you or even slow you down. Keep your eyes on the goal, aspire to serve and have a long term approach rather than short term, this will help you build a more sustainable business.