Isioma Onyegikei: Social media has helped reach our target audience

Isioma Onyegikei
It has not been so difficult to sell food online – Isioma Onyegikei Click To Tweet

24-year-old Isioma Onyegikei is the founder and head cook at Brelunds, a food service provider startup in Lagos, Nigeria.

Her startup offers services which include the running of office cafeterias, breakfast, and lunch weekly subscription plans, events catering, bulk soup and stew preparation.

Isioma officially began Brelunds in September 2015 with a standard menu consisting of Nigerian dishes, finger foods, and Nigerian street foods. She is a graduate of Political science and public administration from the University of Benin, Nigeria.


What inspired your decision to start a food retail business?

The decision to start a food retail business was inspired by my experience as an employee for another company. I resumed work very early and got home very late due to heavy traffic in the city. Saturdays were the only days I rested, did chores and caught up with friends. On Sundays, I go to church and prepare ahead for the next week.

I realized that it was the reality of most of my colleagues. Some even had to work on weekends too. Cooking is a huge chore because time and rest in Lagos is a luxury to a typical Lagosian. So I started out by making and delivering bowls of soup and stew.

My intention was to ease my client of cooking as a chore, an important human need. Along the line, the idea of a weekly lunch plan to be delivered to clients at work came up.

How have you been able to sell cooked food to people via an online medium? Describe the process from order to sales.

For now, we sell our meals online via our Twitter and Instagram pages. We are currently working on a better website.

We post information about our services on these platforms; potential clients see our information online and contact us for the service they want. They either pre-order for bowls of soup/stews or they subscribe for any of our lunch packages. They provide us with their names, phone number(s) and address for delivery.

It has not been so difficult selling cooked food online because it is an important need and a food delivery business helps the client with one less problem to worry about.

Social Media has helped with referrals – Isioma Onyegikei Click To Tweet

How has social media enabled you to reach your target audience?

Frankly, social media has enabled us to reach our target audience in the sense that a lot of young Nigerians (Lagosians) and even older Nigerians are online. The chances that our next client that we will market to offline has a Twitter, Facebook or Instagram account is 80%, so with social media, it is easy to market to a lot of people at the same time in different locations with just one post.

Potential clients also come online to search for a service they need, we see this and market our service to them. Social media also has helped in terms of referrals. An old client can see someone asking for a similar service and refer them to our page.

Instagram, for example, is pictorial so with a business page, anyone who comes across the page already knows what services to contact us for. The use of hashtags has helped in getting across to our intended target audience because people do search for the service thy want using related hashtags.

Which social media channel do you consider to be the most responsive channel for your business?

Twitter has been responsive and this is because people do not necessarily have to follow you to see your tweet on their timeline. Retweets are free.

There is also the advantage of having others try out a service that one or two of their friends have used and Twitter seems to be the most engaging social network to set up that way.

How often do you make sales from social media?

We make sales from social media regularly. It is a food business and now, more than ever, people desire convenience. Also, the fact that we have two different service offerings: pre-ordered bowls of soups/stew and lunch subscriptions, helps to ensure that we are able to reach a broader segment of people and meet more needs.

Logistics is an issue for online businesses. – Isioma Onyegikei Click To Tweet

What are some of the issues you have faced while trying to run your business online?

In running an online business, our main issue has been logistics. First of all, we run a value for money service, delivering high-quality meals at very affordable prices. Currently, a lot of logistics companies charge very high for their service and most times it makes no sense to ask a client to pay more for delivery than the actual food they are buying.

Also, the logistics companies have other clients that they also trying to service while servicing you. In situations like this, it is very easy to get disappointed at any time or have a client’s order messed up on the way. There is also the issue of bad publicity when running an online business.

Social media can make or mar business. An unsatisfied client can easily discourage others, totally within their rights, so for us at Brelunds we ensure that our customer service is top notch and intended to “wow” both clients and potential clients.

What’s your perfect one-line statement for young females trying to build a brand via social media?

Know what you do, learn what you don’t know and know those who know what you don’t know.


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Habiba Wushishi: Food should not just be eaten but be enjoyed

habiba wushishi sydney's cuisine she leads africa
It has always been my dream to be innovative with my cooking - Habiba Wushishi Click To Tweet

You know a real foodie when she talks about food evoking emotions and cooking being a married of ingredients. We’re talking about Habiba Wushihi here, founder and spice-mixologist (yeah, we just made this up) behind Sydney’s Cuisine.

Habiba just loves food and she wants everyone to enjoy the tastiness and variety of Nigerian cuisine. That’s such a dope goal. Through Sydney’s Cuisine, she’s creating a new culture around how we appreciate Nigerian food which she hopes to expand globally through franchising.

Read on to discover how Habiba will achieve her goals. She’s got lots of great advice for baby start-ups too.


Why are you passionate about delivering good food in Nigeria?

As a foodie, I understand that there are people who eat just to fill up, and people that actually love food. I believe that food should not just be eaten but be enjoyed. Nigeria is a country that boasts of so many traditional dishes from a myriad of cultures within it.

Each culture has its own blend of flavours and ingredients which makes all of the food unique. Sydney’s Cuisine’s concept is based on an infusion of Nigerian and Intercontinental flavours.

To that point, I too have started ‘The Sydney’s Culture’ which aims to continuously entertain my customers with bursts of flavours as they eat. The beauty of the Nigerian food culture is that we all eat and appreciate each other’s food from all parts of the country.

One thing that is for certain is that Nigerians love to eat. This is befitting for me as it has always been my dream to be innovative with my cooking and create new and updated dishes that I know will attract a lot of people.

When you are running any food business, the main priority is to be able to satisfy a variety of palettes and to enhance customers’ dining experience. Food has the ability to evoke positive emotions. Maybe you are having a stressful day at work, and my food has put a smile on your face. This is immensely rewarding for me knowing that I have provided a good service.

Sydney’s Cuisine is dedicated to delivering good food in Nigeria not only to quench hunger and satisfy cravings, but also to create awareness about the next phase of Nigerian cooking.

sydneys-cuisine-1What makes Sydney’s Cuisine different from the other food and catering businesses that exist on the market?

Before I started this business, I did research on as many food businesses as I could. More often than not, you come up with some idea(s) that someone or several others already have executed. I realised, after conducting my research, that my food concept and brand culture would take-off based on that special component, that makeover, that je ne sais quoi, that is much needed in the Nigerian food and catering market.

Not long after, I had an epiphany —cooked food is a marriage of ingredients! In this case, my food concept would be to infuse Intercontinental flavours into the Nigerian cuisine. What sets Sydney’s Cuisine apart from the rest is that there are at least 15 different Nigerian and Intercontinental spices in all of our meals. This achieves a level of flavour that is so desirable, it has proved to be a tad overwhelming (in a good way) for a few of our customers.

Sydney’s Cuisine blends at least 15 different Nigerian and foreign spices in all meals Click To Tweet

One of my goals is for Sydney’s Cuisine to appeal to people around the world, and the best way to achieve that is to provide a sense of familiarity by cooking with ingredients known to people from a specific country. I want the rest of the world to have a taste of the Nigerian cuisine and in turn, I’d like Nigerians to experience other flavours in food. Just like people all over world eat and enjoy the Asian cuisine.

Global corporations like Google, Amazon, and Microsoft have their own individual business culture. This culture has played a huge role in the success of these companies. You don’t really hear about food/catering businesses and their cultures. Culture is a substantial part of any business and should be incorporated into every business. I am gradually developing the Sydney’s Cuisine culture that will make it stand out.

Since this is your first start-up, what are the hardest parts of getting your venture off the ground and how are you looking to fill in the gaps?

With any start-up, you will be faced with tough challenges. Teething problems are to be expected at the start of any food business. At first, when any issue arose, I found myself panicking and even doubting myself and my capabilities.

I started this business on my own and without any partners. As a result, I had to juggle several roles and responsibilities to ensure quality control and efficiency. I was a manager, accountant, marketer (via social media platforms), food orders supervisor, packager, just to name a few.

Sometimes, I would focus on one or two roles and because of this I would have missed a few orders or endanger the quality of the meals. Each role is just as significant as the other which is why I became very anxious in the beginning.

I found myself panicking and even doubting myself and my capabilities - Habiba Wushishi Click To Tweet

When you are starting a new business, you may not want to hire a manager from the onset because you want to save on costs. So I decided to try out a couple of routines and figure out the best one for me to follow. Since then, I have come up with a system that works perfectly and has enabled me to settle into all those roles comfortably. And as the business grows, I will create a team to fill the roles. Day to day operations will always be a challenge and I have learned that all businesses no matter how small should have systems in place to allow fluidity.

habiba-wushishiThe financial aspect was a struggle as I had difficulty keeping track of my incomings and outgoings. I was dealing with a lot of numbers and would sometimes get confused and miscalculate. I have been able to create a cash flow template that allows me to track my daily sales and expenditures. There are also many low cost accounting packages available for use by small business such as mine, e.g. QuickBooks. This has helped me get a better understanding of the overall accounting of the business.

Sydney’s Cuisine offers a delivery service and living in Nigeria, you know that traffic is one of the many challenges we are bridled with. My deliveries have not always been prompt and I have disappointed a few customers because of this.

Having said this, purchasing a motorbike seemed to be the best course of action. We are making arrangements to acquire numerous motorbikes that will be assigned to several key locations in Lagos; in the hopes that this will ensure timely deliveries. We hope to conquer Lagos one neighbourhood at a time. We have also partnered with Jumia Food to handle our foods orders and delivery logistics.