WELCOME TO DUNDU NATION: MEET THE MAN TURNING YAM FRIES INTO SERIOUS BUSINESS
His enthusiasm is palpable and infectious from a mile away. He speaks about his business so passionately you can’t help but give a second thought to his ‘speech’ even if you weren’t really interested. With experience in banking and then retail having worked for Ecobank, one of Nigeria’s leading banks and now a leading brand pioneering retail e-commerce giant, Amazon, he infuses these know how into building and growing indigenous brands here in Nigeria with a number of start-ups under his kitty. Salubata.com, BayoShoeSale and Moin-Moin Assembly,and now DunduNation. He is an unapologetic food enthusiast as he quips during a session with potential DunduNation franchise holders that he and his wife are chefs who love to experiment with different food recipes. Ladies and gentlemen, enjoy our interview with Mr Bayo ‘Lion’ Adedeji.
EA: Share with us your background experience.
B.L.A.: So my background is in retail. I’ve been involved in a lot of the retail side of business. I come from a family of merchants, a family that believes that the money is on the street and that for you to make money you have to be willing to get your hands dirty.
I believe that when you have an idea, you just need to give it a try, and fail quickly, that has been my motto. So coming from a back ground of retail, from a family of merchants, a family that encourages you to try things out, it’s only natural for me to be involved in business. All around me I see people who do things and so I’m willing to try things out.
It’s been all about trying, and failing, taking the lessons and moving on from there.
EA: What inspired the DunduNation brand? From all of the business ideas, why this?
B.L.A.: Two things happened. I spent some time at the bus stop. I did a lot of market research observing what people were buying and I saw this guy selling puff-puff and I realised he was doing N8000 in sales of puff-puff between the hours of 5 in the morning and 9 o clock and I thought to myself what a smart guy he was. And so when I got home, my wife cooked me yam. At that moment I experienced fast a genius, you know when something happens to you and it clicks or registers something new. And we said, why don’t we just do yam? Interestingly, I loved eating ‘dundu’ a lot while growing up. And I said why not? We tried it and it worked and today, we are where we are.
EA: So officially when did this kick off?
B.L.A.: April 2016
EA: What has the experience being since then?
B.L.A.: It’s been awesome. It’s been a huge wonderful learning experience. When we started, we got somethings right, we got some wrong, we went back to tweak it, correct the mistakes and moved on from there. It’s been a mix of trying new things, being willing to try and that’s it.
And you know of course we encountered all the regular difficulties that entrepreneurs encounter. Sometimes we run out of cash, sometimes we want to do somethings and we don’t have enough money and we have to look around. We run into police, we run into Lastma, Lasaa, all types of issues. One thing that I say is this, we are resilient people and so we look at all that as a learning opportunity. We learn, build and grow from there.
A lot of people say it’s difficult to do business in Nigeria, we say there is opportunity in Nigeria. I focus on the doughnuts not the hole. A lot of people focus on the hole and not the doughnut. You know the problems have existed before me and would probably exist after me. There are a lot of conditions, there is no power, everybody knows and that’s why I use gas and charcoal instead of using electricity and why I avoid electricity as much as I can when I build my businesses.
EA: Human resource wise how has it been for you?
B.L.A.: Oh it’s tough, very tough. A lot of people say bad things about human resource in this country; I say the education has failed us. It doesn’t train students to do things for themselves. We’ve been doing JAMB and NECO for years and nobody is thinking of revamping. You know I went to one of the best Universities in this country, Obafemi Awolowo University. I remember the pride we had then. I meet people today and I’m like how did you even pass through school. But I think it’s an issue of the educational system failing us. We can blame human resource all we want but are we building schools that will train our leaders of tomorrow? You have to find people you can train, people with will and passion. They may not have the skill when they come, but you just need to be committed to training them.
B.L.A.: We’ve gone from one location to four, to six and now we are franchising. For me those are huge milestones. But if I’m going to say, starting off for me was a huge one. Just getting started. It’s nice to see now but starting off was a huge one.
EA: When did you break even?
B.L.A.: I broke even nine months after launch.
EA: With the expansion drive, how do you plan on ensuring and maintaining quality standard across all outlets?
So we’ve built a system that we think is going to work. But the word here is ‘think’. And that’s because like I said we are growing. We know it’s going to be a big challenge, but we plan to fix it. We are going to go forward. We are going to learn and push ahead. You see, if for the fear of being knocked down by a car, I say I’m not going to cross the road, then I’ll never leave my house. I don’t let the fears stop me. I pay attention to it, I build a system to mitigate against it but I die forward. I think we are going to discover, we are going to learn, we are going to tweak from there, but it will never stop me from going forward.
EA: Looking forward, what does the future hold for you and DunduNation?
Our goal is to franchise a hundred locations across Nigeria. That the goal right now. We have about four, five locations right now. We are looking at moving to more locations with new franchise signups across Nigeria. We are talking to people in Uyo, Ibadan, Lagos, Abuja.
Secondly, is that we have another business in the horizon. We’ve not started but we are on it. It might be great. It may not be, I don’t know. But we are going to try. It’s in the pipeline and I think it’s great and it’s all about selling amala. Its amala in a different way. It’s not going to be called amala nation but something to definitely look forward to. My goal is to take one project at a time, build it to a standard before going on to something else so yes we definitely have something new in the pipeline. We have it mapped out.
EA: How do you juggle a start-up in Nigeria and a full-time job outside the country?
B.L.A.: The limitation is that a lot of people say you can’t do it. I tell you it’s a lie. I’ve done three companies and they’ve been successful. It’s all about winning and passion. People ask me how I do it but you know what, we will always make time for whatever we want to make time for. A lot of people find time to play video games, or drink in the beer parlour. I don’t have time for both. I put that time into my business. It’s a choice I’ve made.
EA: Nigeria can be tough. What’s your say to young start-ups founders out there? How do they jumpstart from ideation to implementation?
B.L.A.: A lot if entrepreneurs come and tell you fancy things about how you need to start with this and that. And I say that’s all bullshit. Personally I don’t have wealthy parents somewhere. I’m an orphan. If you can’t convince your family and friends to invest in your idea, your idea is bad. You must be willing to start small. A lot of people want to be an Amazon by tomorrow. That’s not how it works. We started from one location. A container. You have to be willing to start small. A lot of people want to start up with such an idea and want to have a million bikes by tomorrow. No! It’s all about ideation, start small. Cut your cut according to your material and once you can do that you’ll be fine.