Eating healthy in Nigeria

SoFresh is a Nigerian health food chain. It was founded in 2010 by Olagoke Balogun. This week we caught up with him to learn more.

What challenge does SoFresh solve?

We solve the challenge of availability and easy access to fresh, healthy food on the go for busy working class professionals.

What‘s the story behind the company?

Originally founded as Fruitivegies Limited in 2010, it was conceived to be a departure from the traditional inconvenient way of shopping for fresh produce in Nigeria by providing a clean and hygienic environment of fresh produce in one location.

As a little boy I had grown extremely uncomfortable going with my mum to the open traditional markets, because they were mostly dirty, unorganised, unhygienic, and generally inconvenient. A time wasting and tiring chore.

My belief was that convenience, ease, and excellent service was supposed to be the hallmark of a good shopping experience. And so the idea was born.

I shared the business idea with my wife, who interestingly also had a similar story growing up. She was aligned to the vision and became the driving force behind the business in its early days.

However after about 3 weeks, we discovered the market wanted something slightly different from just whole produce. They wanted ready to eat meals and so we responded by processing the fruits and vegetables into juices, smoothies, fruit packs and salads.

What were you doing before founding the company?

I studied Biochemistry at university and had varied work experience across different functions and industries including food & beverage, oil & gas, sales, marketing and operations. I was working as an operator in a gas refinery in Nigeria when I started the company and later quit to focus on growing it.

How did you get SoFresh off the ground?

So myself and my wife invested our savings and basically bootstrapped the business. 

How much money have you raised so far?

We’ve raised €360K through one round.

What went into building the early stage product?

Our first business model was premised on sourcing the best fresh produce from farmers and middlemen and displaying them beautifully in our retail store. So we spent time enlisting suppliers. We rented a small 30 square metre space for our first shop. We mostly did door to door marketing in creating awareness about the new store.

Where do you currently operate?

We operate in 14 locations across Lagos and Abuja. We are looking to continue our expansion across cities in Nigeria to include Lagos, Port Harcourt, Warri, Ibadan, Enugu, Ibadan, Kano and then enter other West African countries starting with Ghana.

What’s your business model?

We receive supplies from farmers and middlemen. These supplies are then sorted, stored and conditioned. We process them into meals such as salads, juices and smoothies. We sell these meals through our retail stores and also offer delivery services.

What metrics do you use to measure success?

Revenue, profit, customer growth, increase in physical stores, and food safety metrics.

What company do you look to for inspiration and why?

Starbucks. I am inspired by how they’ve grown a ubiquitous everyday product into a multibillion company while prioritising customer service and excellence. 

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learnt so far?

You grow people and people build the business. It’s all about your people.

What are your views on the African tech ecosystem?

We have barely scratched the surface of the amazing potential tech has to change and revolutionise Africa

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