BN Making It!: Accidentally Discovering Frozen Yoghurt Led Ehime Akindele to a Business Path She Couldn’t Have Imagined

work picIn 2009 when Ehime Eigbe Akindele visited Nigeria on holiday from the US, she kept asking for where to buy Frozen Yoghurt and nobody could give her an answer. And just like that, the idea came to her: come start a FroYo business back home.  Today, Sweet Kiwi Frozen Yoghurt is strategically branded as the IT place for Frozen Yoghurt in Lagos, Nigeria.

Ehime started the business by catering at events, and eventually the proceeds from those jobs funded the flagship store. 

In her chat with BellaNaija, Ehime talks about the nuances of running a business in Nigeria, and what it means to be an entrepreneur in the current economic clime. We hope you enjoy the interview.

So who is Ehime?
I am the founder of Sweet Kiwi frozen yogurt. I studied Business information Technology and International relations at the London Metropolitan University, I graduated in 2006. I have always worked mostly part time in London with my first career job being at Amnesty International in London. In 2007 I moved to America and I worked for a few companies including Citigroup where I was a Bankruptcy Referral Litigation specialist. This was my last job before I founded Sweet Kiwi

How did you find yourself on the path to Sweet Kiwi?
I found frozen yogurt by mistake. I would always see the signs but I had no clue what it was. In 2010 I ended up visiting an outlet and so began my romance with frozen yogurt. I took a training course to learn how to make frozen yogurt, I also did a food handlers and restaurant management training to prepare me for the business. I did a lot of research as well and started planning the kind of brand I wanted to have.

Let’s talk about money! Did you have to go through the loan or equity route?
To start the business I used my savings and money from family so I did not have to go through a loan or equity route.

What’s an average day in your life like? 
My average day is pretty hectic. I wake up about 7am and try to plan my day. I have a little book where I write my to do list, I revise it every morning as it helps keep me on track with all the things I have to do. I get to the office about 8am and I start to put my list into action. I have to go through loads of reports, have several meetings throughout the day, visit Sweet Kiwi locations and meet with management staff. My little black book helps me keep sight of the pressing items I have to attend to.

Can you describe what it is like being a young, female entrepreneur in Nigeria today?
Being a female entrepreneur is not easy at all, it is very tasking and I take my hats off to anyone who is doing it. Nigeria is an interesting place and even when you plan your day down to the very last second, it hardly ever goes according to plan. My typical day ends about 1/2am.photo-76

What are some of the constraints of running a business of this nature in Nigeria – given the absence of basic infrastructure such as electricity
For us a major constraint is power, easy access to funding and government policies that affect SMEs. Once your business is visible, I find you get harassment from all kinds of real and made up governmental agencies. I think this issue should really be addressed as their aggressive nature suggest they do not want the development or growth of small businesses. Funding is another major issue as it is extremely difficult to raise funding as a business in Nigeria and every business needs funds to grow. Going into the power issue is like flogging a dead horse.

IMG_6206 kiwi 7 IMG_6172What’s the current staff strength of Sweet Kiwi?
Right now we have a staff strength of about 30 people.

That’s an impressive number. We know that a lot of budding entrepreneurs complain about the availability of good human resources – staff. Do you have any of those challenges at Sweet Kiwi?
This is a major challenge for us and I find that it stems from the educational and social environment in the country. I find young people are not encourage to start working early and so they do not understand how to behave within a work environment. I think the Nigerian educational system should be restructured and also older secondary school children should start working part time in different industries so they gain work experience. I started working at a young age and I believe that instilled great work ethics in me so I am a supporter of teaching responsibility early.

IMG_6428Please share some of the ways you overcome these staffing difficulties?
At Sweet Kiwi we do a lot of training. We try to imbibe our own culture into our staff. We keep our compensation package attractive and try to maintain a fun work environment where staff have room to develop their skills and grow. We like our staff to own their processes, and have the ability to think through actions. It is still a daily challenge but I like to believe we are overcoming it.

What are your short term and long term goals for Sweet Kiwi?
My short term goals are to expand the business through Nigeria and build solid internal structures and processes. Long term goals are to expand Sweet Kiwi international, for it to be the largest frozen yogurt company out of Africa.

That’s an admirable goal. So far, what would you say has been highest point of your experience running Sweet Kiwi?
My highest point would be the day we opened our first official location on Admiralty way. I was put through the fire to achieve that but at the end it was all worth it. It wasn’t a perfect day but it was amazing to finally have a dream which had been in my head since 2010 come to fruition.

DSC_0702In hindsight, what are three things you would have done differently – if you had to do it all over?
Honestly, I can pick a million things I could have done differently but I believe those things have shaped both me and Sweet Kiwi to be what we are today. Every experience for me is a learning opportunity and maybe if I did not do it in the first place I won’t know not to do it now. I find it is best to make those mistakes when you are still small and growing.

Do you have any nuggets of wisdom to share with any aspiring entrepreneurs reading this?
‘Be fearless in the pursuit of whatever sets your soul on fire’. It will not be easy but it will be worth it, you just have to hang in there, be selfless and dedicated.

So let’s chill out a bit. What are three things that can get you giddy with excitement
My husband, Travel, Sweet Kiwi

If you win a billion dollars in a lottery, what’s the first thing you’d do?
Invest it in Sweet Kiwi. World here we come…

What’s your favourite song at the moment?
Photograph by ED Sheeran

Thank you for speaking to us, Ehime. We can’t wait to see Sweet Kiwi International and we wish you the best in your future endeavours.

Photo CreditJohn Rhoda Media | Insignia 

19 Comments on BN Making It!: Accidentally Discovering Frozen Yoghurt Led Ehime Akindele to a Business Path She Couldn’t Have Imagined
  • Anne February 4, 2016 at 7:03 pm

    Great and inspiring interview. By the way, Atoke, I love how diversified your writing is: prose, interviews, articles. Great job. And thanks for the writing tip and opportunities you put up on your twitter handle. You are making a difference.

  • ACE February 4, 2016 at 7:12 pm

    Nice ! Success

  • Bey February 4, 2016 at 7:31 pm

    I thot sweet kiwi was also in Abuja xcept I’m mistaken. Visited a similar place on a visit to Abuja in 2013.

  • feyisayo February 4, 2016 at 7:34 pm

    Absolutely love Sweet Kiwi, what an inspiring story!
    I discovered them through Tuke Morgan’s blog and I’ve been addicted ever since.

  • meelikey February 4, 2016 at 7:58 pm

    Inspiring!

  • Sansarai February 4, 2016 at 8:39 pm

    Inspirational! Sweet Kiwi is the truth. I can satisfy my sweet tooth and feel refreshed on a hot day without stepping into Coldstone and feeling disgusted with myself afterwards, lol. Go Ehime! Open a location in Lekki – Epe axis abeg, I’m thinking in that new Circle shopping center.

  • bimbylads February 4, 2016 at 8:45 pm

    Ehime, my friend, your work ethic is amazing. Always been a go-getter…. the passion in your eyes when you hold unto something u believe in ehn!! lol..the sky is your starting point hunxx Well done.xx

  • Bubu February 4, 2016 at 9:03 pm

    Really Inspiring interview, and she made a valid point about allowing young people learn work ethics early enough. More inspiring stuff like this. Please showcase more real people doing real stuff especially business wise. Uche don tell us sey make we find side hustle. So we need encouragement.

  • Different Shades of Nigerian February 4, 2016 at 11:52 pm

    Very inspiring. Thank you Bella naija for shinning light on real stars! Not everyday one musician or the other (they are stars too) but people who see business opportunities and chase them relentlessly are the ultimate stars in my eyes. Africa is to entrepreneurs what a fertile land is to farmers. Funding is where I see the biggest problem, I am sure her parents or kind relatives provided the initial seed fund cos Naija banks can run someone to the ground with interest rates. That said, others have succeeded and I will to IJN

  • Mystery Man X February 5, 2016 at 12:14 am

    Keep making us proud luv… PuraVidaaaaa

  • Radiant February 5, 2016 at 11:37 am

    Well done to Ehime. Keep up the good work. Thank you for articulating this “Once your business is visible, I find you get harassment from all kinds of real and made up governmental agencies. I think this issue should really be addressed as their aggressive nature suggest they do not want the development or growth of small businesses.”

    The governments must rein in their agencies if they are serious about SME growth.

    God bless you, dear.

  • Nnennaya February 5, 2016 at 12:51 pm

    wow! am truly inspired.

  • prince February 5, 2016 at 1:17 pm

    Very inspiring words there. Be fearless got me. That’s what Focus and Confidence does to you. We look forward to having an outlet in Abuja also Madam Sweet Kiwi.

  • DD February 5, 2016 at 3:17 pm

    Yep sweet kiwi is also in Abj around Wuse Area near chicken Republic and glo office

    • Angel February 6, 2016 at 9:24 am

      No dear. That would be Tutti Frutti. It’s a frozen yoghurt shop too

  • Bibi February 5, 2016 at 4:19 pm

    Inspiring Interview……….love it

  • Idomagirl February 5, 2016 at 4:33 pm

    Good stuff. Well done.

  • Jfk February 6, 2016 at 4:53 am

    Go girl! Learnt a thing or two from this. Sweet kiwi all the way!

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