By Akin Alabi
If you’ve followed me online or known me physically, for any time, you’ll know that amala is my favourite food.
I’m a proper Ibadan man, so no surprises there, yeah?
In fact, I turned my love for Amala into a business.
I mentioned sometime in 2020 that I was looking for a side hustle to complement my earnings as a member of the Federal House of Representatives so I could give more to the people in my constituency.
I actually started one. It is called Amala Ibadan. It is an “order by telephone” food service.
It is a Lagos-based business selling Amala.
I have since noticed that there are not too many sellers of quality amala in Lagos. When Ibadan indigenes go to Lagos, they always complain about the quality of amala.
In fact, I personally stopped eating amala in Lagos.
When you mention this to Lagosians, some will tell you there is quality amala in Lagos.
I don’t blame them. It is because they do not know what the original Amala is like. When they taste the real ones, they will also start hating the ones sold in Lagos.
I decided to start the business.
I asked my elder sister to come from Ibadan to help me.
I created Twitter and Instagram pages and started posting pictures. I used my personal page to retweet the posts for exposure. I was like an influencer for the brand.
And that is one of the things I wrote in my book, How To Sell To Nigerians. Using influencers to promote your product will take it from ground zero to well-known within a very short period of time.
It would be best if you did it.
Anyway, people saw the posts and started ordering food.
I made sure our customer care was decent.
Guess what happened?
The business was barely a month old when we grossed a million naira.
Yes, a brand new business made a million naira in sales in less than one month, selling Amala.
There are many lessons to learn from this new business, and I’ve decided to share five of them with you today.
Firstly, it doesn’t cost much to start a business.
Anyone could have started this business from home with pots and pans.
I didn’t get a new space or open a new restaurant for the business; I simply used one of my existing spaces for it.
An “order by telephone” food business is super cheap to start. If you’re considering a food business but don’t have the money to start big, simply activate it this way. Start in your kitchen.
The fact that you’re not doing sit-ins protects you from any criticism of not having a well-set-up restaurant.
Make sure your kitchen environment and utensils are neat, though.
Secondly, you need to find out what people want before you start a business.
I noticed that people were looking for quality amala. The market was there.
Yes, I usually use food as an example when I advise you not to go into a business because “everybody eats.” In my own case, I was solving a problem and filling a gap in the market.
I didn’t start a food business because feeding is a necessity.
Thirdly, your product must be of top quality.
We made sure we delivered top-quality amala with ewedu and gbegiri. We didn’t compromise on quality.
You can have all the marketing and sales skills in the world to sell any product you lay your hands on, but all things being equal, a great product is easier to sell. It minimises the effort you otherwise would’ve expended in making each sale.
Fourthly, you don’t need “passion” to succeed in business.
I’ve always stressed this, and the story of Amala Ibadan is an example.
Even though I love amala, I don’t love cooking it; my love for it is in the eating department.
But I started a business in it, and the business got traction fast BECAUSE I was filling a gap I could identify in the market.
I was filling a need for people like me who want better quality amala available at a good speed (60 minutes or less).
All I had to do to start the business was work with people who were good at cooking. And BOOM, we have a business!
Stop overthinking this passion thing once and for all.
Fifthly, your customer service must be good.
Even though we are not yet perfect, I make sure all customers are treated with care.
For example, we do not collect money from the customer when we deliver too late.
It was a great ride, and I am sure I will be making a lot of money with it in the future.
You can and should also start your own small business. Think about it. It’s not so hard.