What is your background and how did you get started?
I had somewhat of an international upbringing as I spent my childhood going back and forth between the United Kingdom and our family home in Nigeria. After returning to London in 1999 and completing my A-levels in Mathematics, Accounting and Economics, I moved to the United States in 2001 to attend the University of South Alabama and earn my Bachelor’s Degree in Finance with a Minor concentration in Marketing.
I later joined a mortgage company in Alabama as an Account Executive. The company was one of the first to be hit by the demise of the sub-prime mortgage market and subsequently closed. I then teamed up with some co-workers and formed an independent mortgage brokerage. Years later, anticipating the global financial crisis of 2007-2008, I decided to make a career transition into commercial banking.
In 2013 however, my entrepreneurial inclinations beckoned and I found myself itching to get back into business for myself. I returned to Nigeria and joined my parents in the family business of the manufacture of wines, fruit juices and bottled water in commercial quantities.
Describe your business and your role.
I am the Marketing & Global Brand Director of Deebee Company Limited and I lead the worldwide marketing and commercial efforts of the Company to develop and leverage its capabilities, brands and assets to meet the needs of distributors and consumers to drive profitable growth.
Deebee Company Limited was incorporated in June 1977 with the initial purpose of commercially utilizing the research results of my father, the Founder and Executive Chairman, on the process for the manufacture of wine from kolanuts. These research findings were as a result of his doctoral research work at the University of Cambridge, UK leading up to his Ph.D. in 1969. The results were also later patented in Lagos and London in 1978.
In May of 1985, production commenced at the newly constructed, purpose-built factory with state of the art equipment and machinery in Ogun State, Nigeria. The Deebee range of products continued to grow, utilizing the technical know-how of the Founder; it was thus that some of the brands (e.g.Popapine, Deebee Black Label) became house-hold names in the Nigerian marketplace. Deebee started as a wine manufacturer but it’s product range now includes non-alcoholic fruit juices, bottled water, and will soon include a line of functional/energy drinks.
“Currently, there are many challenges to manufacturing in Africa as a whole and Nigeria in particular. Despite this, we at Deebee continuously push to set new standards in terms of the quality of our products and the efficiency in the processes by which they are manufactured. The importance of manufacturing to the African economy cannot be over-emphasized as it is critical for real economic growth and development. All Deebee products carry the ‘Made in Nigeria’ label with pride.”
How important is technology in conducting your daily business? Which piece of technology can you simply not live without?
We are primarily a manufacturing based company and so without technology, our business would simply not be possible. From the complex factory machinery used for purification, PET blowing, filling, labeling, capping and shrink wrapping (and that’s our bottled water product alone), to the logistics software used communicate raw material and finished goods orders between offices; technology plays an infinitely significant a role in everything that we do. It is impossible for me to name a single piece of technology that we cannot live without because every piece of machinery we use is essential to the delivery of the consistent quality in the products that the Deebee brand depends on and is known for.
Why do African businesses need a website?
In this day and age, I believe that every single African business needs to have a website to compete in almost any marketplace on almost any scale. The truth of the matter is that nowadays, there’s very little that cannot be sold over the internet. Even for businesses that aren’t quite ready to jump feet first into the world of e-commerce, there should (at a bare minimum) be a web presence so that interested clients, customers, potential employees and even prospective investors (to name a few) can conveniently learn more about your business and what it has to offer. With a well designed website, any business can fine tune and project its image to the global and local marketplaces.
Our website was initially launched in the mid 2000′s and was redesigned in 2014 with help from the team at Africa.com. Among other things, our new website now includes images of our complete range of products, information about our custom label services, a careers tab with job application portal, and an interactive map for retailers and consumers to find distributors in their localities. The addition of the application portal and distributor map in particular have been of tremendous value, allowing us to quickly fill vacant positions, and to point consumers and retailers in the right direction when looking for where to buy our products.
What is your message to young entrepreneurs?
Many new entrepreneurs are given the false impression that it all starts with an idea. The fact of the matter is that many of us have numerous great ideas in any given time period but very few of those ideas actually come to any sort of fruition. Reason being that immediately after your great idea will follow a thousand reasons from colleagues, friends, family and even yourself of either a) why it can’t be done, or (b) why it can’t be done in Africa, or (c) why it can’t be done by YOU. But if it’s your idea and you believe in it, then you have to be prepared with a plan to counter all the reasons why not, and follow it through it to end, even if they were right all along and that end is failure. It really is all or nothing for new entrepreneurs.