How UN-employment Drove Me to Starting Out – Joel Ajunwa

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Unemployment can be seen as a blessing in disguise or as a limiting factor; it all depends on your perception. There is a saying that so many look but only a few SEE. When asked to read this; “Opportunity is NOWHERE“, some people read it as “Opportunity is NO WHERE“, while others read it as “Opportunity is NOW HERE“, it’s all about what you see and how your mind can carve things out from what you look. What are you seeing today?

The great Jack Ma was among the 24 persons that applied for a job at KFC, everyone was chosen except him. That unemployment drove him to starting out what is known to be the biggest eCommerce portal worldwide today – Alibaba.

On this week’s episode of SME Digest’s SME of the week, Joel Ajunwa, the CEO/Founder, Pluck N Peel Fruit Cafe narrates his journey into entrepreneurship, there are a lot to grab from this, trust me. It will definitely worth your time.

Sit back and relax as we welcome Joel on the stage.

Q: Can we meet you?

My name is Joel Ajunwa. I am a fruit nutritionist and a foodpreneur

Q: Tell us about your Business, how you started and what inspired you to go in that line of business.

My business centres around nutrition, healthy and well-being. We provide healthy alternatives of foods and drinks and encourage people to lead healthier lives. Like many Nigerian youths who run businesses today I was driven into starting my business by unemployment. So I would say idleness inspired me into starting my business (laughs). After searching for job for several years and not finding anything worthwhile I decided to start something for myself. I tried my hands on several ventures including procurement, packaged water and farming. I decided to settle on food business because I discovered along the way that I am a food lover. I don’t just love to consume, I also love to produce and provide great food. But I didn’t want to do just regular food. I wanted to do something different. So I decided to go into healthy foods. That was three years ago. I’m still learning my trade and still marching forward. 

Q: What were the Initial Challenges you faced when you started your Business?

Initially there was no enough capital to buy the right equipment that I needed so I had to make do with what I had. Also, the fact that I was working alone also limited me. Most times I would go to the market first to buy fruits before going to my stall to prepare my products. Most times customers would have come to look for me before I got to the market. 

Q: What is that thing you wish you did differently?

If there’s anything I wish I did differently about my business it would be that I chose a different location to start. I had an option to either start at Bode Thomas, Surulere or Trade Fair Complex and I chose the latter because it was what I could afford at that time. Furthermore, I thought I could leverage on the huge traffic that Trade Fair offers. I didn’t take into consideration the purchasing power and patterns of my potential customers as well as their preferences.

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Q: Who or What is your Main Inspiration: Business/Personal?

In terms of person, Cosmas Maduka is my main inspiration. He constantly reminds me of the fact that you can be whoever you choose to be in life. Coming from a poor background does not define any man. It is rather his vision for his life and his resolve to chase and actualise that vision that actually defines him.

Q: What makes you different from your Competitors?

Difference between me and my competitors: I think innovation is what differentiates me from my competitors. I always try to find ways of making my products stand out. For instance, I had an experience quite recently. I usually sell smoothies and parfaits in church and my products are amongst the favorite for customers. Just a few week ago I got a feedback from one of my customers that the reason she loves buying my parfaits every Sunday is the fact that I usually change the ingredients. So most times she doesn’t know what to expect. She loves the fact that she usually cannot predict what I will come up with.

Q: Would your Business still be around in 5years?? Why do you think so?

I see my business living beyond five years. And this is simply because the value my business provides is continuous. There are lots of opportunities around health and wellness, both for individuals and for corporate organizations, and we try to explore these opportunities by providing products and services that suit such needs. 

Q: What does it take to start a Business like yours?

What it takes to start: each time I hear young entrepreneurs say the only thing holding them back from starting their business is capital I tend to laugh. I think its horribly wrong. For me, I’m of the opinion that all you need to start a business are just three things: knowledge (of the business), vision and a solid plan. I remember when I wanted to start my business. I didn’t have money, I literally had nothing. But I had a vision of what I wanted for the business. So I sat down and built a plan. It took several weeks to come up with the plan. The next thing I did was to get knowledge in that line of business. That took me to Surulere where I had to work for someone for a while and learnt a few things about the business. I also kept researching online and developing my skills. The capital to start eventually came when I spoke to a friend and presented my plan.

Q: How has your Business made you a better person?

Business has changed a lot of things about me. Firstly, I now manage money better unlike before. Secondly, it has thought me patience and tolerance, because I deal with different kinds of people everyday, I have become better at relating with them. Business has also helped me to be more responsible and accountable. For instance, I have a responsibility to provide my customers with their favorite products, so I do all I can to live up to that responsibility.

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Q: In what ways have you given back or is your business giving back to the Society?

So far I haven’t done much in terms of giving back, but from time to time I conduct free trainings for women and young people who are interested in doing my kind of business. However in the nearest future I plan on paying the school fees of one child every month. Other means of giving back will certainly be developed as I progress.

Q: Do you currently have Expansion Plans? Can you share with us?

Expansion plan: My vision is to have outlets in various popular spots in Lagos. Then I intend to expand into other cities like Abuja, Port Harcourt, Calabar etc. Currently I’m working on a plan to service schools and offices and also partnerships with eateries.

Q: Favorite Quote you live by:

“if you are starting something on your own, you better have a passion for it, because this is hard work” – Sallie Krawcheck, cofounder of Ellevest 

MESSAGE TO ENTREPRENEURS

Q: What would you like to tell the person who is scared for one reason or the other to start a Business?

Fear will keep you down. So find a way to overcome your fear. One way of doing that is to be true to yourself. Know your strengths and your weaknesses and get help where necessary. Then go ahead and start. You may not have all you need initially, you may not even know all you need to know initially. The beauty of business is that failure can be a weapon or a friend, it can make you get better if you channel it well. But surely you get better with each experience.

Q: Message to other Entrepreneurs:

I have noticed that some entrepreneurs start a venture and expect money to start flowing in almost immediately.  And that is so wrong. It takes patience and hard-work to be an entrepreneur because most certainly you will fail. But it’s the failures that are usually stepping stones to your success. Also, success will not come over night. It is consistent and persistent hard-work that brings success. 

Q: Message to would-be Entrepreneurs:

Hmmmm, how do I say this now (sighs)… OK I think for a would-be entrepreneur the first thing you should ask yourself is “can I keep up with this even when I’m not getting the desired results?”. I have seen people who start businesses only to run away at the first sign of challenge or discomfort. Not everybody are cut out to be entrepreneurs so it is always good to be double sure that you are ready to rock the waters when you decide to be one. 

To reach out/Patronise Joel Ajunwa, please see contact details below:

Pluck N Peel Fruit Cafe 
Lagos Plaza, BBA, Trade Fair Complex, Ojo, Lagos. 
08036104351
j.ajunwa@gmail.com



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