Ardent fans of BN Cuisine know Uzo Orimalade for her interesting spin on recipes. BellaNaija wanted to know more – get a closer and more illuminating perspective into this woman who works her magic in the kitchen. Uzo’s interesting turn around from life as a thriving investment banker, definitely caught our attention! In her chat with BellaNaija, she shares what keeps her going, and how she manages to hold everything in place, as a business owner in the current economic wave. We hope you enjoy reading this as much as we enjoyed bringing it to you.
How would you describe Uzo?
I graduated with second class upper honors in law from a university in England and got an MBA (graduated summa cum laude) from a university in the US. I also hold an Advanced Diploma in Management for International Hospitality and Tourism. After working in financial and marketing services in the US, I returned to Nigeria and spent my professional life in the management consulting and investment banking industries before I made the decision to be an entrepreneur. I am a married momma of one.
I run 2 businesses. Cupcake Couture Lagos (which provides retail and corporate clients with premium baked goods) and Uzo’s Food Labs (which provides consulting services to the food, beverage & hospitality industry, cooking classes and demos to individuals and corporates, houses intellectual property such as food writing, television segments, YouTube channel and other associated services). I have been running CCC for 4 years and Uzo’s Food Labs for 2 years.
From investment banker to food entrepreneur! How did that happen?
I started the baking business first while I was still working in investment banking. I would get home from work, bake overnight and deliver to clients before getting to work. I did that for a year and a half while saving aggressively (in order to have a financial buffer) and made the leap into full time self – employment. Uzo’s Food Labs started as a fluke – a client asked if I could teach her daughter how to bake and I said yes. The rest is history.
So would you describe yourself as the Martha Stewart of Nigeria?
It’s very interesting that when I meet people or unveil a new project, they immediately say – ýou want to be the Martha Stewart of Nigeria’ and I respond by correcting them – Africa I say. Then I go further and say – In time there will be no need to liken me to Martha Stewart. The name and brand UZO will stand on its own and be mentioned in the same breath as other leading women from around the world.
What keeps you going?
My big audacious dreams. I have barely scratched the surface of all that I plan for my empire ☺ There is a quote that I love and I repeat in my own way all the time: If your dreams are not so big and scare you, then you need to rethink them.
Describe an average day in Uzo’s Mum/Wife/Mogul-in-the-making life?
My day starts at 6am. I pack my son’s lunch bag and double check his school bag to ensure he has enough pull-ups, wipes and a change of clothes for the day. Then I get him ready, feed him and drop him off in school then its back home to get myself ready for the day. I tend to my garden and then review the domestic front – staff, food plans, purchases to be made.
By about 10 – work begins. I ensure that on the bakery front, orders are confirmed and filled, deliveries scheduled and things are running relatively smoothly. I attend meetings and tackle my numerous deadlines on The Food Labs side including writing and shooting content for the different platforms I contribute to until 3pm when I shift to mommy mode. I try to spend time with my son once he gets back from school – singing or just playing with him. Once he is settled, I return to work till about 7 when I shift into wife mode and try to relax a little.
Once everyone has gone to bed and it is very quiet at about 11pm, I work out. This seems to be the only time I can get some form of exercise uninterrupted. I will pop in a workout dvd – Zumba, pilates, yogilates, kick boxing are huge favorites or get on the treadmill for at least 30 minutes or do some strength training. Then I work some more – I write and test recipes and focus on deliverables that require concept design and strategy. I seem to be at my most creative at this time. I try to get into bed by 2am. I do not sleep much during the week which is why my weekends are sacred to me. That is when I catch up on sleep and give myself permission to do no formal work.
What’s the high point of running your own business?
Being in control of my time. A major reason why I made the decision to leave paid employment was so I could spend time building a home life that I could be proud of. It’s also a catch 22 because I find that being in control of my time means I don’t have an off switch and I find myself working harder than when I was in paid employment
Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years
Sitting at the top of a successful food and home entertainment group with reach outside the African continent
With the surge of health and fitness in Nigeria, has it affected the direction you have given the general direction of your business?
My goal on the Uzo’s Food Labs side is to teach people about food and flavors. It’s not just about replicating recipes or plating styles. It’s about understanding what different foods are, what substitutions can be made for different ingredients, understanding flavors and different flavor profiles to enable people mix and match and have fun creating at home without breaking the bank. People will then be equipped to make food choices based on their peculiar dietary needs on a daily basis – not just as a fad. The #FitFam movement in Nigeria has meant increased demand for healthier options on the Cupcake Couture side of things. Seeing as we are a boutique bakery focused on quality over quantity, we try to accommodate specialty requests where we can. However, these requests are not as prevalent as one might think.
Knowing what you know about running a business in Nigeria, would your advocate passion for profitability?
Definitely not. It costs money to even take a breath here in Nigeria so it would be foolish to pursue a passion that does not translate financially. That being said – I believe every passion can be a source of income. One might just need to work a lot harder to let people see the value and be willing to pay for it. One might also need to burn the candle at both ends – hold down a job while working on turning one’s passion into a viable business.
Let’s relax a little!
We have to confess, we have a bit of a hair crush! Tell us about your hair regimen
My hair routine centers around moisture and protection. I have a wash day every fortnight – pre poo with coconut oil and tea tree oil on my scalp. Wash. Deep condition with heat and twist and seal with shea butter to protect my ends. In between, I keep my hair moisturized daily with a spray bottle that contains water, leave in conditioner, vegetable glycerine and coconut oil. It’s been trial and error for the past 4 years that I have been natural. Now I simply don’t mess with my hair too much and almost always have my hair in some kind of a bun/up-do.
If you had a super power, what would it be?
Whenever I read fashion magazines or my favorite food/kitchen/home blogs, I imagine that everything I like leaps from the pages or the screen and appears in my closet/kitchen/on my table. In my mind, I have even used this super power on people that shall remain nameless ☺
What’s the most exotic place you’ve ever been?
As a hardcore Bollywood addict, I went to India with my sister friend and did more than Mumbai and New Delhi. We had a 1960s Ambassador car to ourselves for the duration of our trip and opted for long drives to towns and only flew from Mumbai to New Delhi. We spent time in Jaipur and Agra as well visiting places off the beaten path – beautiful temples and palaces – so wonderfully preserved. We even got addresses of Bollywood superstars and went to their gates bearing hand written notes and flowers. Such a groupie thing to do but we had a blast. I still get chills remembering visiting the Taj Mahal. The story of Shah Jahan and his love for Mumtaz which resulted in that marvel of architecture to hold her remains – the ultimate love story. I am glad we did this years ago. With everything going on in India now, there is no way anyone will let us travel there alone.
Three things you can’t absolutely go anywhere without?
My phone, a book and lip gloss/lipstick
It was a delight chatting with Uzo and we wish her the absolute best!