Olufunmilayo Ewa-Jesu is the TeamLead/CEO of Vinelife Global Ventures, producers of Vinelife Cold pressed Coconut Oil, Coconut Flakes, Dessicated Coconut and other derivatives from the Coconut.
In this interview with MSME Africa, she shares some of her experiences an as entrepreneur.
What inspired your entrepreneurial journey?
From my middle age I realized that I started having health challenges whenever I consumed any meals prepared with Vegetable Oils and I decided to reduce my intake of vegetable oil by about 90%, thereby restricting my meals to a large extent. This led me to reserach ternative oils and I discovered that our great grand parents lived healthy till very ripe old age while their meals were prepared with Coconut Oil. This was before the advent of Vegetable Oils. I then started producing cold pressed Coconut Oil for my meals and also shared it with friends and they all reported positive results. I got the inspiration to start commercial production as many people could be having same challenge.
How do you stay ahead of the curve in your sector?
I build personal relationship with my customers, get to know what they want and I serve such to them with excellent Customer satisfaction.
What are some of the challenges you face in your business?
- Staffing challenge
- Lack of easy access to raw materials
- Increasing production costs
- Regulatory requirements
How have government policies recently affected your business and the MSME sector as a whole?
Surely, government policies are external factors which SMEs do not have control over and such usually affect businesses generally. However, one of the requirements to stay in business is to factor in necessary threats and risks and find ways to mitigate their impact on our business.
What is that one mistake you have made in business that you have learned greatly from?
One mistake I have learnt greatly from is neglecting the power of social media, I did not push out my products as much as I should have. I was just focusing on production. The internet is a great market and I had the opportunity of being an early bird on it, but I did not use the advantage to push my business.
What improvements would you love to see within the business landscape especially as it affects small businesses?
Businesses should be more customer focused and not just think about making profits. When your brand is well known, you will still make the profits from volume
What role is technology playing in your business?
Technology comes in various ways, one is the production for those in the manufacturing. We engage machinery that helps us achieve more production at a faster rate. Also virtually, technology is a big tool to reach out and be known. As I said earlier, a business needs to be out there reaching the millions of people who want these products. So I have started using technology to connect with my Customers, both current and potential.
How much impact do you think technology has had on businesses in the last 20 years?
Technology is the new way of doing business, both physically and virtually. There has been a lot of improvement in products, packaging, delivery and marketing in the last 20 years. There has also been a lot awareness created for businesses and even the customers, all these were achieved through technology. It has made access to products and services easier, like the E-commerce and online purchases. These are great achievements that technology has brought about in the last 20 years.
How can an entrepreneur cope with the challenges of the volatility, uncertainty, and unpredictability that have characterized our economy in recent times?
To cope with the various challenges an Entrepreneur must be rugged, resilient and a go getter. There are too many challenges that pop their heads at various stages of business, but if the entrepreneur follow the SWOT analysis and craft a good Business Model, one should be able to float above the waters. Your Business Model must not be cast in iron, you must be able to evaluate performance from time to time and make necessary changes. An Entrepreneur must be adaptable to challenges and find ways around it
What advice do you have for fellow entrepreneurs?
Be prepared, be proactive, be disciplined. An Entrepreneur must not rest on past glory, rather, you must seek to know more. Know your trade, update yourself and be equiped with current knowledge. Network with other Entrepreneurs to learn from their experiences, Join trade associations where opportunities are made available to members and most importantly, don’t trivialise your relationship with God. He is our Source and so we keep going to Him to find out how to do it.