How making moin-moin took her to New York to address Goldman Sachs AGM
She started her business about three years ago with just N1,000. No kidding; Mrs. Ayodeji Megbope still remembers vividly some of the major items she spent the N1,000 capital on:
2 tins of beans at N60 per tin -N120; A bottle of groundnut oil - N100; Eggs - N100; Leaves - N150; Pepper, Onions,etc - N130; Fish - N100; Seasoning - N100; Crayfish - N80; Grinding - N50 and other incidentals.
In three days, she was able to generate a turnover of N5,000. This quickly rose to N20,000 in two weeks. She remembers these numbers because according to her, "This was a very low period in my life, financially, when every kobo counted. And I truly counted every kobo - if you know what I mean," She giggled.
Ayodeji Megbope, who had trained as a confidential secretary, and worked in Corona Primary School for about nine years, never intended to set up a catering outfit. She left Corona with the intention to start a Playgroup.
To actualize this, she enrolled in a six-month Montessori programme. But at the end of the period, she felt no excitement for Playgroup anymore. 'For some inexplicable reason, I didn't feel the excitement for it. I needed to do something really exciting, and Montessori didn't feel like it."
To get herself busy, she started cooking for her sister-in-law, who was an extremely busy career woman. "I would make all kinds of meal for her - soups, stew, etc. Then one day she visited us and joined us as we were having moin-moin, as a meal. Immediately, she insisted that I must include moin-moin in her menu. And from there, her friends and colleagues began to place orders."
Here the story gets interesting. According to Mrs. Megbope, her intial buyers were family members, close relatives, and their friends, colleagues, etc. Business was by way of referral and word of mouth. Then it occurred to her to go back to Corona School. "I would show up in my rickety Peugeot car, with wraps of moin-moin in a cooler. I would stand at the school gate, and begin to call each parent by their first name or their children's names, and attempt to sell them moin-moin. They were used to seeing me in skirt or trouser suits, but were now seeing me in Ankara outfits. It was an experience."
INITIAL SUCCESS FACTORS
So having an initial network of familiar people was a factor in helping to at least sustain the business. But so was her product. According to her, "Most moin-moin come in tins, plastics, foils, etc. Mine is traditional. They come in vegetable leaves. This is a harder process, but they preserve the original taste and flavour. Besides, they are more nutritious."
As a result, she could not afford to sell in units. I was able to insist on dozens of orders. But no sooner had people started patronizing her moin-moin, than they also began to request that she makes other delicacies, such as varieties of soups, stews, meals, etc, especially the very traditional ones.
How Did She Learn These Traditional Recipes?
Simple, the sellers of the ingredients for making the meal. She says she would go to the market with a pen and notebook and ask the sellers of the ingredients to teach her how to make the delicacy. Then she would prepare a little portion of it, return to the same sellers who would taste it and award her marks. "Not until I receive a thumb-up for my effort would I fill the customer's order. It worked like magic," she beamed.
Moin-moin maker, invited to New York to address the Annual General Meeting of Goldman Sachs, with satellite links to other viewing centres of the bank around the world. Addressing the worlds' most powerful investment bank, was that the climax for you?
"See me oh, common moin-moin maker in God's own Country!" she intones. "It was God's doing. Nothing is impossible before the Almighty. I give HIM the Glory"
Although this was moving for me, it wasn't the climax. Winning the Goldman Sachs scholarship for the 10,000 Women Certificate In Entrepreneurship and Management (CEM) has been the turning point in the life of my business. The scholarship and the experience constituted the foundation, and I am sure I speak for the many women that have been fortunate to undergo this programme worldwide.
I thank Goldman Sachs, Enterprise Development Services (EDS) of the Pan African University, for this opportunity. And I thank my husband and other family members who have been very supportive."