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How A Personal Tragedy Led To Oluwadarasimi Ayeni’s Food Business

Oluwadarasimi Ayeni is the founder of Simifoodies Quickeat (@Simifoodies), a food delivery business. In a recent conversation, the 28-year-old told us how a personal tragedy led to a stronger focus on entrepreneurship and gave an insight into some business decisions she has taken in the past year.

What did you study?

I studied Mass Communications at LASPOTECH.

Did you immediately find a job?

No, not really. I graduated in 2016 but it took a while, about two years, before I got a job. In the meantime, my parents were helping me with what I’d call tips.

Tips? Not an allowance?

No o. It was neither heavy nor regular enough for me to call it an allowance. It was just “use this one hold body.” [Laughs]

Oh well. Still better than nothing, right?

Yes, definitely.

So, when did you realise you could be entrepreneurial?

I could always cook, so I had been doing that a bit for some time. But it wasn’t too serious. I would do a few packs of food a day —but I wasn’t relying on the business. I think that was mostly in 2018.

When did things change?

In 2019, I got a job in a hotel.

This was your first major job out of school?

Yes. But I didn’t do it for very long. I was there for about four months before I left. The hotel was too far from my place and the money was too little.

Terrible combination.

Yes. I think they were paying ₦25,000 and it was a very draining job.

But did you leave to nothing?

No. I got a job as a kitchen assistant in Victoria Island.

Better pay?

Yes, better than the first one. ₦45k. It was also less draining. I saw a job notice on Instagram and on the day of the interview, they told me I could resume the next day.

That was fast! How long were you there for?

I had to stop because my mother got ill.

Sorry about that.

Thank you. We lost her eventually but because of the time I had spent away, I couldn’t resume just like that.

Must have been hard.

It was. I had to move in with someone and I was always indoors. It was quite draining. I went on Instagram at one point and decided to find out how people package food for their food business. 

I tried to find out how to get some of the newer things business owners were using and I succeeded. Then, with the small money I had, I started making and selling packs of fried rice and jollof rice.

That’s impressive!

Thank you. In a day, I’d get a few orders.

How were you able to get customers at the start?

[Laughs] I am still at the start o. But at the time, if I made food, I’d plate it and post the photo on my Instagram account. I didn’t really use Twitter at that point. Some of my friends that I helped with food also told other people.

A combination of word of mouth and social media, then.

Yeah, largely.

So how has inflation affected your prices?

Ha. I started with ₦2,000. It is now ₦3,000 for a pack of food.

Wahala. You launched a business in 2020, the year of the lockdown. That was bold.

Maybe. But I had to. And although movement was restricted, it was possible to deliver food because people need food.

You said you weren’t using Twitter. But you are quite popular on Twitter these days. How did that happen?

I was bored and unhappy when I was in the hospital with my mother. I was looking for something to take my mind off the situation. In my depression one day, I saw some savage replies someone had posted to Instagram, I think. I just thought that I would like to experience some fun somehow. That was how I downloaded the app.

Did you get the fun you were seeking?

[Laughs] I couldn’t even use it. I just left it for months and would show up on some occasions. I eventually understood how it works, and here we are.

Haha. So, with your growing Twitter fame and your adjustment for inflation, how is the business?

It’s okay. I no longer sell single packs so much. I now do bowls.

Bowls?

Yes. As in, litres.

Why?

It is just better. Distance is a big thing. Sending packs of food across large distances just doesn’t work. The delivery fee and the actual cost of the food are too close. Even dispatch riders will tell you they can’t go certain distances carrying just two packs of food. They would need to add some other person’s items to mine, which might take time. Selling in bowls solves that problem. There’s more profit and less headache.

That’s a crash course in food delivery business. Thank you!

[Laughs] You are welcome.

So, what is a good month like?

Well, it’s not really a uniform sum every month because I have to divide my time between Simifoodies and my job as an in-house chef.

Ha. You have another job?

Yes. I am Nigerian now. [Laughs]

Fair enough. But that’s impressive.

Thank you. I got this job in June. I run Simifoodies when I am off. My dad is also late and I have five siblings to care for. So, I need all the work I can get. 

So sorry about that. 

Thanks. 

What has to happen for you to solely focus on your own business?

[Sighs] More capital and a house, somewhere closer to my customers. Sometimes people reach out from areas I can’t send food to fast. So, I guess more money is the answer. I would probably be making my salary in a day or a little more than a day.

What happens in the next five years?

Ah!

That’s too small? Ten years?

[Laughs] Well, with the more capital I mentioned and the years you have mentioned, I see the Simifoodies brand a lot bigger than it is now.

How big?

I’d own an event centre and a large restaurant! That would be very nice.

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