Hi. My name is Affi. I am an entrepreneur, I’m a mom. I’m a wife. I am an athlete.
Um, I run a company called ReelFruit, which is a dried fruit company, and I’ve been running that for ten years or eleven now in Nigeria.
So I… Somebody described it as I have the most textbook kind of business entrepreneurship journey I actually did not ever think I was going to be an entrepreneur.
But after working for an organization that supported entrepreneurs, I feel like that’s where I caught the bug I started wondering, I wondered, I really like entrepreneurs I love what they do.
I love that they create jobs. Let me find a way, you know, to do the same. And that’s kind of how I got into my business. I thought which sector in Nigeria would create the most jobs?
I was googling and at the time, you know, it was all about “Agric is sexy” “Make agric attractive to the youth” and that’s pretty much how I picked agribusiness
And I was like, okay, google again, which agribusiness kind of creates the most jobs and it was like fruit or processing food.
And I picked that and I kind of started like devolving into an idea from there.
So it wasn’t It wasn’t something I longed to do. It just kind of, I kind of was like lending my way to it. And obviously something I guess I was… I was made to do it in the end.
So I came up with it, like I said, by literally textbook internet research.
No idea will work in Nigeria and I moved back and I just brought my products and started like sharing it with people saying,
Do you like it? Do you think it would sell? And I got, you know,
pretty positive feedback. Like enough feedback
to let me know that that I could start.
But it definitely was a long journey. Definitely took a lot of time to introduce a new product into the market.
I would say it wasn’t till our like sixth year in business. I thought, okay, there are enough people consuming this business, this product for us to have a market.
Till then, it was very touch and go. Sometimes, you know, you think you’re doing good, then a store will tell you people don’t like it anymore.
And you know, it was just a very difficult time launching something new, something people hadn’t known before. That was really, really tough.
And, of course, you know, fundraising, getting funding to keep going. You know, keeping people motivated. Keeping people excited It was… It’s been a long journey, but also very, very I would say, interesting. Very exciting.
I definitely I’m somebody who likes to do difficult things. So I know how to stick with things. I have that perseverance.
I have that like ability to just suck it up and do it. So I think that’s what’s kept me going.
But it’s been great overall with its hard times and its good times.
Yeah. Most challenging, I would definitely say fundraising. That’s been, that was very tough.
That took a long time. In fact, for me to raise funding, it took nine years after I started my business but five years
working with with my investors.
I was like involved with them, keeping them up on my progress.
So it took me five years from even identifying my investor to raising money, and that was long because a lot of plans you have, you kind of need money to execute.
And when you don’t, you have to go back and sort of figure out how to keep going without, you know, the money you need.
So that was pretty tough. I mean, there have been so many
great moments, but I think the best ones are probably when we were able to like, you know, self challenge. Like, when we didn’t let Nigeria happen to us.
Like when Nigeria was coming after us with either, you know, currency devaluation or, you know, some issue, no light, and we’d figure out a way to like beat, you know. Just that resourcefulness that allows us to keep going.
And I think that’s not just me. That’s something my team kind of imbibed. So those moments, I would say are the best when like my team would go and figure out something and it would be
like the solution that works.
Or we would like take a daring step, adding a new product
and is something the market would accept.
So things like that really, you know, scattered along the way, give you the momentum and the excitement to keep going.
Yeah. That’s interesting. Yeah. Raising money was also great.
When we finally raised money, I was pretty happy about that. And when I finally bought my factory, because that was a dream
I had since the day I came back. I was like, I’m going to own a big factory and we’re going to do all this processing and that only happened in year ten.
So that was the moment I was like, “Yes, I think we’re here to stay”
Yeah. Well, that’s a long journey. 10 years. Can you talk to us about year 10 because last year was your 10th anniversary? Yes.
Tell us about that feeling. Like, you bought a factory, everything. I mean, it was, it’s a great. It’s great to have, you know, been around for ten years and somehow it feels like we’re just starting in some senses.
But, you know, we’ve definitely built a solid foundation and that was what the first ten years was about. And people don’t like to hear it, but it takes long to build a great business.
And so I look at it as like I gave my best ten years, the best ten years of my life to my business, but really to see us, to see the strides that we’ve made, to see the success.
I mean, I don’t want to brag, but we are in a lot of stores around Nigeria, we sell our products outside of the country.
We have you know, we have really pushed the barriers of where we can go and to just take a step back in ten years, reflect on what we’ve done, it’s been, we’ve done a lot and with a little actually.
And so it felt great to actually reach that milestone and actually see that there was so much more we can do.
So I don’t feel like I’m at the end or I’m tired or oh, ten years is a long time.
It is a long time.
But I feel like based on what we’ve built, there’s a lot there’s a lot more in store for us and I’m excited about that.
Now, I feel like I have more license to dream because we’ve actually achieved a lot in the ten years.
But we want our factory to really be one of a kind producing products that we’re not only going to just sell for Nigeria, but for the world.
We have a lot more new products that don’t exist yet that we want to bring to market.
We also want to have a lot of social impact so from, in our value chain, really uplifting the farmers that farm food, really helping them earn more money, improve their livelihoods.
That’s something we believe our business can do. And I’m actually looking for us having that kind of meaningful impact in the next ten years across everybody we work with from our customers, employees, value chain and just really being a really big business.
I want people to think of us and think, Wow, this is like the new, you know, the new age Nigerian FMCG, kind of the new Nestlé, the new, the Nigerian made in Nigeria version of a really big business that started at home and kind of as is global.
And that would be that would be really cool to achieve.
I’m a runner. I run marathons.
I’m passionate about running primarily because it’s another difficult thing that I like to do, but it really keeps me sane in Nigeria.
I enjoy challenging myself physically. I enjoy, you know, also being able to escape a little bit, all the stress of being in business.
So running is great. I play recreational football and like I mentioned, Rise is a sponsor of my football team and we made it to the finals last season.
We didn’t win, but we’re going again We’re going again this season to win! And that again is another great sport, brings a great community together of people.
So I’m passionate about that and, you know, just increasingly passionate about seeing how I can help others, especially entrepreneurs in my value chain, in my business, to sort of not, you know, sort of like help them be more successful and, you know, share my lessons that won’t make, that will make it so that it won’t take them as long to achieve what they need to achieve in their business.
So I think mentoring and supporting others is now growing. I feel like I now have the bandwidth, a little bit more time and experience to help others.
And that brings me a lot of joy.
You’d be surprised. I’m actually not that great with money. Not… So as an entrepreneur, I, you know, if you’re building your business, you put everything you have into the business at some point.
And of course, there was a time I wasn’t earning a salary.
Then there was a time I was earning very little money and it was all, okay.
You know, it was fine because I’m putting it towards my business.
I’m growing my business.
So I wasn’t really good about diversifying my, you know, my savings, my income. I was putting all of it into the business. And then when I had children and I’m like, okay, you know, like I kind of need to have a little bit more money, you know, to be able to do things. It started dawning on me that, you know, I had to also be short term because obviously my return in a business is very long term.
And I had no other sort of ways of saving outside of my business,
pretty putting money in my business. So it started becoming something I learned very late, I would say.
I think, you know, when you’re young, you think there’s a lot of time and you can take risky bets. And then when you get older, you’re like, okay, maybe I need to start packing money in different places
just to diversify my risk.
And, and that’s something I started doing. I want to say probably 2019. So I’m actually. I mean, I’m not a I don’t spend badly, but I don’t save that well. Like I don’t I don’t do that long term game pretty well except for my business.
And so yeah, it was a lesson I learned later.
So yeah, money is very important
obviously, but I think being, being smarter measured about it, like having some safe investments, etc. is definitely key.
So for me, investment was, is pretty. Of course, it’s, I think it’s absolutely necessary and something people need to like imbibe a lot.
You know, I think one of the, one of the misconceptions or assumptions we have is that you need a lot of money to invest.
And that was also something I thought about. When I make my bulk like, you know, X amount, I’ll now put it to save versus just saving more methodically small amounts monthly.
So that was the first kind of thing I learned about investing. The second thing is that I don’t have the time to actually learn about other like ways of investing which companies are worth it?
Which stocks are worth it? So that was where Rise really came in for
me. I was like, I know nothing about investment, to be honest.
I don’t have the interest, I don’t have the time to get really good at it.
So, you know, using a platform that allowed, that took that stress away from me and sort of just I felt comfortable that someone better
was making a decision about investing than me.
Kind of is where… Then I found it like just much easier, much more manageable to now not make investing this big thing
where I have to like, I have to know what stock is. You know, everybody’s like, oh, this stock has crashed.
This is that, you know, that one has gone down, crypto’s crashed and all of that. I’m like, you know, I don’t know anything. I don’t want to know too much about it.
So, of course, you know, finding ways to make it easier and simpler. Finding ways to make it not as, you know, daunting is kind of, I think, the way to go.
So I guess that’s probably why you’re using Rise?
Yeah, that’s why I use Rise and that’s what Rise did for me.
I think Rise made investing simple, and it made it so that I could just, like, put money away and, you know, know that it was 1) being diversified properly, but 2) also that I didn’t have to think about where to put it.
Like I don’t, you know, I don’t have that skill set.
Yeah. I want to say since 20, I want to say 2019, 2020. I think I did like a three, three, three different plans. I did, then saved a lot of money, then took some out and now back in. So yeah I’m I’m, I’ve been I’ve been a… I would say I’ve seen the value for a couple of years.
I must say this is very vain but the UX is pretty, pretty cool.
Um, the yeah. The ease of use is extremely cool.
I think the ability to save on the different asset classes is also very, very cool.
Like I said, for someone like me, it makes it very easy.
So I would say ease and convenience. Those are probably my top two things.
You know, I’m one of these people who will try to balance like the real story with the hopeful story, but it’s definitely a long game.
So I think people have to be prepared to play the long game, especially doing business in Nigeria.
But more practical tips, I would say are, you know, learn as much as you can within your network.
I encourage people to actually go and if you can’t even work for somebody, just go start learning about what people who have gone ahead of you are done. I think one of the most underrated things in entrepreneurship is avoiding mistakes other people have made.
I feel that people, you know, if you if you put a little bit more effort into learning from others, you save yourself so much time and loss money.
And I think that’s a winning strategy, especially in this country where there’s not a lot of you know, there’s not a lot of chances to mess up and come back on your feet.
You know, you can’t make too many big mistakes. So learning
from others is key and networking.
I can’t emphasize that enough. Like, most of the things I’ve gotten to build my business have come from networks that I’ve had to grow.
I came back to Nigeria. I didn’t. I never grew up in Lagos, really. I didn’t know people, so I had to build a network and today that network is probably the biggest asset I have running this business.
So I would say networking, learning from others and, you know, being prepared, prepared to give it time.
I was, I was. It took me a year. Firstly, I didn’t just quit and leave. It took me a year to kind of like do research.
Then I was just like, okay, at some point I need to come back, and I was telling my mom like, Mummy, I’m moving, I’m moving.
She’s like, okay, then one day, I bought a one way ticket and she’s like, Oh, you’re really leaving?
And so that was, that was one of the things that moved me to come.
But also youth and naivete.
You know, I was 26 when I came back and I just. I was just like, I’m gonna go for it. And I thought, what’s my worst case scenerio? Did I even have a plan B?
I don’t even think I had a plan B at the time, but basically just feeling like I had done enough as I could do and I needed to just throw my hat in the ring.
I needed to jump into the, into the ocean, as it were. And I just took that step. And, you know, and came back and didn’t look back.
But yeah, it was when I think about it now, it was pretty silly, but also it’s kind of working out so good.
Yeah, that’s a very, very good question. I think love is a great investment. I mean, if you think about it in the sense of like people, of course, you know, if you invest in people showing love and all of that, you get so much in return.
And of course, it requires some effort and it requires some compromise.
But I think in the long term, you know, what you get from having good people around you who love you and you love, I don’t think you can put a price on that.
And if you think of love as in, you know, loving the work you do, your trade, your passions, whatever, like whatever you put energy into and you give commitment to, I think the payoff is often very, very high.
So I say it’s a great investment, obviously, with with obviously some some caveat that you don’t just go around giving your love to everybody, but for the things you choose to love.
I think putting your all in it gives you a very, very good payback.
So that’s it.
What are your thoughts as regards investing as a couple? Me and my husband? That’s a very good question.
My um. So I would call my husband the investor.
Like for, for a long time, he’s very. He is an entrepreneur in tech.
So he’s also he also got into tech investing and he dragged me in as well a little bit down the line.
But I would say the difference was he was a lot more bullish than I was. Like ready to take risks.
I was more like safe. So I would rather not invest and invest. And overtime, I started learning to take a little bit more risk.
So I would not I would not participate in some of the investment he did because I was like, no, count me out, that’s too much for me.
So he just kind of went along and he’ll be like, Affi, do you want to come in this?
Do you want to come in?
I’m like, no, no, no. And then later I started doing it.
So I’d definitely say, he definitely. And he liked investing in, you know, in entrepreneurs.
So that’s another thing like that specifically.
Whereas I would be like, okay, can I do maybe property? Or can I do like something a little bit, you know, a product I could see and all of that stuff.
So I would say that he’s definitely more the cowboy.
Cowboy investor. I’m now becoming that. But yeah, I would not do half of the stuff he has done.