Here on Whoot Africa, we not only showcase brands, but we also talk to the people behind those brands and have them share with us their back stories as well as give tips on how to successfully start and run a business.
Welcome to Whoot Africa’s – 15 Questions with the CEO.
Today, we will be talking with Uche Ariolu, CEO of Foodstantly.
1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and Foodstantly as a brand you represent?
I am Uche Ariolu, professionally I am a Lawyer but, at heart I am an Entrepreneur. I love building businesses and creating jobs. I have set up a series of small businesses from my secondary school days. I worked for a while in the food and hospitality industry and gained a lot of knowledge about the industry; as well as the ICT outsourcing industry as a freelancer for 10 Years .Just before I set up Foodstantly, I set up “TicketMyPal” an event discovery and online ticket sales platform for shows, events, seminars and entertainment.
Foodstantly is an online marketplace for food. It provides the technology and business solution for farmers, restaurants, fast-food, foodtraders, frozen food dealers and food producers to set up shop online, display their products, accept payments, sell and also deliver directly to consumers. Foodstantly solves the problems of difficulty in accessing food. It’s your online version of the Yaba market, Ajah market, Mile 1 market, Oniru market, Oil mill market, Watt market etc. It’s also an online platform for you to buy from restaurants and fast food outlets. It brings the market to your door step. All the hassles, inconvenience and time wastage experienced from going to the market to shop for fresh food produce or driving to fast-food outlets to pick up ready meals during peak time are solved by Foodstantly.
2. How did you get started in business and what did it take for you to get to where you are today?
I started in business right from secondary school while we were doing several things to supplement money given to us by our parents and guardians. It took courage, perseverance, focus, self-discipline and a lot of delayed gratification to get to where I am today.
3. Did you know you were going to be an entrepreneur all along, or did it happen by chance?
I knew I would be an entrepreneur right from my early years in secondary school .I have always been fascinated with building a business. From primary school I read about the big businesses that currently shape our world and about the movers in those businesses, which helped to draw my path from that point.
4. Foodstantly offers a platform that covers everything from grocery shopping for quick meals to restaurant deliveries to direct from the farm sales; what are some of the challenges you face as a company in your quest to offer easy and accessible food products to your clienteles in Nigeria
The challenges are numerous but very surmountable with the right strategy and consistence. They’re mostly usual challenges faced by all ecommerce business such as trust issues from users, getting farmers and food vendors to adopt new technologies, logistics etc.
5. We all know agriculture suffers in Nigeria as a result of lack of storage facilities which drives food prices up the roof, do you have any plans as a business to help local farmers with long term storage facilities which will help reduce wastage as you are about to kick off your “Direct from the farmers” sales and purchases?
Yes, we have medium to long term plans to assist local farmers with storage and delivery. One of our core goal is to drive down the cost of food in Africa by reducing the multiple middlemen and by providing practical solutions to food producers/ farmers and these solutions includes: market access, storage and distribution –these are the core of what we do at Foodstantly.
6. The Nigerian business scene is not for the faint hearted, if you had to sell doing business in Nigeria in a few words to an investor, what would they be?
Not for the faint hearted, but extremely lucrative.
7. What are your thoughts on E-commerce fund sourcing? Are there any techniques that helped you with funding your business that you would love to share with those who are still in the process of turning their start-up ideas into business ventures?
Till date we are self-funded. We are not in the Silicon Valley where it’s easy to get funded even from the idea conception (seed) stage.In Nigeria entrepreneurship is one of the loneliest ventures. Nigerian banks don’t fund start-ups and Angel investment and Venture capitalism in my view, is yet to kick off fully. So you have to bootstrap your way till you gain some traction to be attractive to external funding. That’s where your personal funding comes into play as well as money from family and friends .Also start small and utilize free resources until you are able to fund yourself or get external funding or grow organically
8. What keeps you and the Foodstantly team motivated and how do you envision Foodstantly in 5-10years from now?
We are motivated by the belief that we are doing something that adds value to the average man and women on the street, and not just something for a select few. We are motivated by the fact that food is a daily necessity and we are trying to innovate on the ways and means it gets from the farms to finger. We are motivated by the fact that “everyone must eat” and we have solutions to simplify how they access food. In 5 years we hope to see us as the dominant food marketplace in Africa, and getting set for a global expansion. In 5 years we want to be able to dominate the agriculture industry from owning farms to having stake in the entire Agriculture value chain.
9. What do you love most about your business and life as an entrepreneur? At what point did you decide Foodstantly was it for you?
I love the fact that we as entrepreneurs are able to build from the scratch and make products that impacts people’s life and make their life easier. I love that as an entrepreneur it’s easier for you to think outside the box than be caged by organizational limitations. I love the fact that I am able to create jobs. I knew Foodstantly was for me long ago. I have conceived the business idea long ago, but knew it wasn’t ripe enough, due to low adoption of internet and low IT awareness. We started operation though skeletally and what I will call beta testing late January 2014.Our main focus till now has been to build the marketplace/community.
10. What do you think are the most important personal skills someone must have to be successful in business?
Discipline, focus, perseverance, flexibility and empathy.
11. Who was the most influential person or mentor in your life?
They are so many, internationally it would be Richard Branson, Mark Cuban, Samwer Brothers andJeff Bezos; nationally , Mr Toyin Alabi of (the promise fast food), Tony Elumelu, Jason Njoku, and Fola Adeola these people and their work influenced me in several ways.
12. What was the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?
Using all the money I saved for university in 1999/2000 to set up a roasted food (Roastalls) outlet, which was planned to grow into a nationwide chain, the business failed due to lack of funding, divided attention and other factors. I lost it all, but the fortunate thing is I was able to work my way through school and graduated (didn’t do the drop out thing. Laughs). Also, taking the path of entrepreneurship, I had a lot of opportunities to make quick and easy money) instead I chose this path. I’d rather create a business that outlives me and adds value to people and the society than just making a living.
13. What do you think about college education? Should kids go to college now or get into business if they feel it’s a better choice? Considering some of the worlds’ greatest never had college education, your thoughts?
University is good but it doesn’t make you successful, it only broadens your view. I feel our university curricula are broken and antiquated,they need to be fixed. Themost creative years of our lives are spent in university, but our universities don’t teach you to create or build, it doesn’t teach you to be independent or innovate it teaches you what has been laid down by men in the past. Where is the room for you to express yourself and your drive? While I advise every kid to attempt or attend one. I don’t think it’s compulsory if you feel you can add more value to society by not going to university then follow your calling, if you do so well, one day you will be employing PhD holders.
14. What would be the most important piece of advice you could give to young entrepreneurs and why?
Think, work smart, think outside the box, and never give up. Nothing beats and nothing is more satisfying than building a business, even if it fails it’s not an easy feat to do something as wonderful as that.
15. What is the best advice you have ever received, from whom and how has it impacted your life till date as a businessperson and individual?
Don’t let anyone stop you from your vision. It’s your vision not theirs.They can caution you based on their experience, but you conceived that vision and only you can make it happen.
If you missed the previous parts of the 15 Questions with the CEO series, please click here