Read Kasope Ladipo-Ajai’s One-Of-A-Kind’s Journey From A Computer Scientist To A Renowned Pepper Seller
Kasope Ladipo-Ajai is the co-founder of OmoAlata Food Services, a company that processes and packages soups, spices and ‘peppers’ for flavouring local Nigerian dishes.
Early Life And Career
Kasope graduated in 2006 with a B.Sc. in Computer Science. She also studied Strategic Business IT at postgraduate level. After NYSC, She worked in the IT department of Virgin Nigeria for over 4 years. She also handled core IT project implementation for Taytom Group.
How ‘Omo Alata’ Began
Kasope Ladipo-Ajai ventured into entrepreneurship because she had the urge to do something more meaningful than the traditional 9-to-5 job. So, in 2012, she started OmoAlata, a Nigerian food service and packaging company that is focused on producing hygienically processed and packaged local Nigerian soups, spices and peppers.
According to Kasope, when she was starting out, with little understanding about how to process food and only her savings as capital, she turned to the internet. She went online to check out companies that were already doing this and inspected their packaging – what it looks like and what information is on it. She realised she needed to know more about nutritional facts and so she went to the FDA website for the US and Canada, looking up the rules and regulations about packaging foods.
Ladipo-Ajai could not afford to pay for a professional formulator to develop her flavours. However, she contacted food caterers, and asked them about their favourite blends. She then tried different samples with them until the mix was perfected.
Caterers were also able to advise her on how best to source the large quantities of fresh produce she needed. She asked where they sourced their tomatoes, which markets were the cheapest and how she could get in contact with farmers if need be.
While large multinationals might have budgets to conduct comprehensive product testing, Ladipo-Ajai had to make do with what she had: her friends and family.
She had to research whether people would actually buy this product, so she started producing little packs and giving them out to friends and family for them to sample. And then got feedback on whether they would buy it.
The company now supplies 25 retailers in Lagos – including the Spanish supermarket chain Dia – and just signed a contract to supply Spar stores.
Today the factory produces between 500 and 700 packs of flavourants a week – with 1 litre retailing for ₦1,000 (US$3.20).
Awards And Recognition
She is the Vice President of the 2014 LCCI Entrepreneurship Mentoring Program.
In 2015, She emerged as the winner of the SLA Entrepreneur Pitch Competition.
Also, she was a TFA nominee for the Business Entrepreneur of the Year 2016.
She was also listed among Forbes 30 most promising young entrepreneurs in Africa, in 2016.
Kasope Ladipo is happily married.