How Ayo Built a 30,000$ Food Business as an Undergraduate.

How Ayo Built a 30,000$ Food Business as an Undergraduate.


How do you deal with the problems that you face in life? Do you avoid them or try to find solutions? This is the story of Ayo, an alumnus of Covenant University, who used innovation to solve a food distribution problem at his time as an undergraduate. He identified a crucial issue and tackled it head-on.

Read on, and you will discover a lesson that will change your mindset about solving problems.

Please introduce yourself?

Alright, thank you, Daniel. My name is Ayo shobowale. I am an entrepreneur and a minister of the gospel.

Kindly tell us about your entrepreneurial journey and how it all began?

My journey into entrepreneurship traces back to my early years. From JSS1, where I sold ice cream at double the cost price, to SS1, where I ventured into selling gaming software to my friends, the spirit of entrepreneurship has always been a part of me. However, I would pinpoint the official commencement of my entrepreneurial journey to my third year at university.

Throughout my life, I’ve been deeply invested in making connections. Whether identifying that A possesses something while B is searching for it and then facilitating the connection between A and B – this innate inclination to bring people together ultimately led me to launch my first business, Buga Now.

Buga Now was essentially the ‘Jumia’ of Covenant University. Our mission was to bridge the gap between small and medium-scale business owners by making their products readily available to their respective customers. In this venture, I discovered the fulfilment of meeting people’s needs and fostering meaningful connections.

Do you believe your entrepreneurial spirit is innate, or is it a quality you developed over time?

For me, I would say it’s innate. My passion for selling services and connecting people has always been fundamental to who I am. It’s not something I acquired but rather a natural inclination that has guided my entrepreneurial journey.

What intrigued me about you personally was your accomplishment of building a 30,000$ business as a student. Could you share more about that experience – the motivation behind it and the steps you took to make it happen?

It all began at Covenant University when I noticed a demand for popular dishes not readily available on campus. Students craved meals from well-known outlets like Chicken Republic, Cold Stone, Krispy Kreme Nigeria, Dominos, and Korean spaghetti, which were typically accessible only when parents visited. Recognizing this gap, I initiated Buga Food on January 1st, 2019, forging partnerships with these established brands, and the demand quickly gained momentum.

The universities began hosting events such as trade fairs and Ed’s Day, inviting vendors to make sales within the campus. However, many vendors hesitated due to concerns about their sales potential in such large markets. This is where Buga Food played a crucial role in bridging the gap.

I mitigated the risk for vendors by shouldering some of the costs, guaranteeing a certain level of sales. This approach not only encouraged vendors to participate but also established Buga Food as a trusted intermediary. The strategy hinged on several key elements:

Marketing Strategy: Leveraging student ambassadorship, Buga Food became a household name within Covenant University. The student body’s association with Buga created community and trust around the brand.

Relationship Building: Buga Food developed strong relationships with the university and event organizers. This relational capital gave us a competitive edge, as vendors were more comfortable participating under the Buga Food umbrella.

Negotiation Support: Vendors, often unfamiliar with operating within a university setting, found Buga Food’s expertise invaluable. We facilitated negotiations, ensuring vendors understood the market and felt confident about their sales prospects.

In events like trade fairs, where we serviced the entire 10,000-plus student market, the demand for various food items skyrocketed. The combination of effective marketing, established relationships, and adept negotiation support made achieving significant revenue in just three days of operation feasible. Buga Food became synonymous with successful campus events, creating a win-win situation for vendors and our business.

Incredible! What obstacles did you face with Buga Food, and how did you overcome them?

My first big problem was with logistics. I needed to get products from outside the school. It was difficult, and I could not just leave school whenever I wanted.

The exciting thing about a problem is that a problem is just a step to a solution. I had to think outside the box, and began to foster more partnerships to help make my business grow more in the sense that people were helping me bring the product. Basically, I created a logistic structure to help me bring products from outside the school.

The second challenge was getting approval within the institution. Universities, especially private universities, are monopolistic systems. In the sense that they don’t want any other party to share revenue directly with their mainstreams, and their mainstreams were food and transportation.

My goal for Buga Foods wasn’t just for ends meet. Initially, when I was in school, it was for ends meet. But it was more than that. I needed to do it the right way to get the approval required. For a university like Covenant University, it might not be easy. Those were the challenges I faced along the way: approvals and logistics. Yeah!

What other strategies do you think helped to make Buga successful?

I would say Innovation. Why? Because despite initially lacking the necessary skills, I was innovative in meeting the demands of students. Learning to build a website allowed me to create a user-friendly web platform. Students could effortlessly select and purchase items directly on the site, expanding my market reach within the institution.

Innovations in technology played a crucial role in efficiently catering to more students. Unlike traditional methods like sending messages on Instagram or locating me within the hostel, leveraging technology enabled Buga Foods to serve a broader market and easily meet increasing demands.

True, that’s cool. So you learnt how to code?

Yes and no. I built the website using a content management system, WordPress, and it did the job.

In retrospect, one thing I realized as time continued to progress, was that trying to do everything on my own was not the best way to build a business. I tell my people in Buga tribe that if you wanna build a skyscraper or a building, you can probably do it alone. But, if you want to build a conglomerate, you need to collaborate.

So, releasing myself from trying to do every single thing on my own and structuring to put more people on different things would generate more results.

Can we talk about Buga’s travel? What is the motivation for transitioning from a food distribution company to a travel logistics agency?

It is not a transition. My vision is to establish a conglomerate offering various service brands, with Buga Food as the focal point. As for what Buga represents at this moment, I would say, I’m uncertain.

There’s Buga Foods and Buga Travel, along with other Buga enterprises in the pipeline, yet to be launched. It’s about creating a diverse conglomerate unified under the Buga brand, encompassing various sub-brands. I hope that makes sense. Buga Travel is a startup focused on mobility solutions, aiming to revolutionize transportation dynamics in Nigeria and across Africa.

Presently, transportation in Nigeria is gradually moving from a gasoline phase to a hybrid phase and eventually to a fully electric phase. These aspirations are what we are actively pursuing and developing within Buga Travels.

From your experience as an entrepreneur, what lesson or tip of advice would you like to give young and aspiring entrepreneurs.?

I’ll keep it to two things. First, Africans have to understand the power of collaboration in building profitable businesses. It’s not enough to have a good idea, and dream to become the next Mark Zuckerberg. Aspiring entrepreneurs must learn how to collaborate to build sustainable businesses.

Jack Ma once said he liked working with people who were smarter than he was, and his job was to make sure all those smart people could work together. The truth is, it might be difficult to scale if you are the smartest person in every conversation in your Startup. So, you need to be able to collaborate with people and build something everyone can cal their own.

The second thing is to understand that Failure is relative. Failure is important for every business. Now, the thing is really about what you define failure to be. For me, failure is halfway to success, in my opinion. Every single successful person failed at one point in time, but they did not define it as a failure; they only defined it as “we are almost there.”

The guy who invented the light bulb had different trials. If he had seen those unsuccessful trials as failures, we probably wouldn’t have what we call the light bulb today, or someone else would have discovered it.

One thing is redefining what it means to fail, and the second is you don’t have to control everything.

But what do you think about entrepreneurs who keep failing? That there is no success story at the end of that pipeline.

A very wise man, Bishop Oyedepo, once said, “I stand on the shoulders of giants”. Many people who keep on failing fail because it is possible to be hard-working and still fail. Because you are not working smart.

How do you work smart? Rest on the shoulders of people who have gone before you. You do not need to learn from the mistakes on your own. You know, I am a very stubborn person. There were many things I shouldn’t have gone through in business, failures or mistakes if only I listened or learnt. Now, I listen very well because the process has taught me.

Any Final words?

Alright, there’s this individual from around World War 2. Despite having only completed secondary school, he emerged as the wealthiest person of his time. He authored the book “Movers of Men and Mountains.” How did he achieve all of this? As I mentioned, I am a believer, and there’s an intriguing hack in the world of entrepreneurship and business.

Working with the Holy Spirit makes navigating challenges fascinating. First Corinthians, chapter 1, verses 2 to 15, discusses the mind of Christ, which is crucial in business endeavours. This perspective has been my secret in business, enabling me to accomplish my goals. When faced with decisions, seeking the mind of Christ in that situation guides my actions.

Now, consider how R.G. LeTourneau approached business decisions. He would request a few minutes, head to his closet, and pray about it. Whether the decision was swift or required more time, he stayed until he received clarity on the next steps. This approach allowed him to make key decisions confidently.

Remarkably, R.G. LeTourneau, the inventor of tractors and many other machinery we use, demonstrated the impact of aligning with a higher purpose. His ability to innovate and succeed is a testament to the profound influence of seeking spiritual guidance in business.