This is Part 2 of my interview with Shade Ogunleye, co-founder of the Ice-Cream Factory, Lagos, read part 1 here.
We have journeyed with you through how it all started but we also know that most small businesses die out within the first 5 years. This is not the Ice-Cream Factory’s Story, you have grown, become a regular hangout for a lot of families (I understand both your locations are almost always full to capacity on Sunday afternoons) and opened a new location in the prestigious Lekki Phase 1. What has kept you going in this time?
S: One of the major things that has kept us is that we love what we do. I have always been interested in food and experimenting with dishes. I also love ice cream, so it seemed like a natural extension when we finally decided to go in this line of business. THE major thing though, is that when you see yourself as a steward, when you know that this is something God has given you, it’s something that you cherish and nurture. I am not the most faithful or prayerful Christian. We are living testimonies of God’s mercy and grace. So I feel it’s a great privilege for God to have given us this vision. This is something we don’t take for granted. We also feel a great sense of responsibility, to take it to the heights we know that it can get to.
We have also continued to go on because we surround ourselves with wise godly people and because Folusho and I appreciate and respect one another’s strengths and opinions. We are on the same team working towards a common goal. We are therefore not in competition with one another. We sit together and strategise, that’s how Yin Yang came about (the Chinese restaurant attached to our two Ice-Cream Factory locations).
When we started Ice Cream Factory the plan was to only rent a floor in a building (due to budget constraints). During our search we couldn’t find any available property on the market that met our requirements. So we ended up paying rent for a duplex and planned to sub-let the 1st floor. Finding a suitable tenant was taking much longer than anticipated, so during this period we sought the face of God for direction and He led us (through the wise counsel of my mother) to use the 1st floor for another restaurant. We observed that Ice Cream Factory was usually quiet during the day and that we were located in an area where there were a lot of offices, so we thought ‘how do we cater to the need that is around us?’ We decided to do Chinese food but in a way that was different, fast but still really nice, to appeal to people in the middle management cadre in the companies around us. We also thought to make it easy and ready to be taken away like the Chinese places you see on the high streets in London. Great tasting, not too expensive, while providing good quality meals.
I always wonder how couples who do business together cope? What are the dynamics? Do you take business home or does it stop here?
S: In our case there isn’t a clear demarcation between the office and home. It is very fluid. We are business partners who live together. We both love what we do so even when discussing business at home it does not feel like work.
Another thing that makes it easy is that we both know our strengths and work with those. My husband deals a lot with the front-end; staff, standards and excellence, marketing, customer service, facilities and workmen. I deal primarily with the back-end, kitchen operations, product development, overseas procurement and quality control. However, these roles are not set in stone as there is still some overlap between our respective roles.
We make a point of appreciating one another’s strengths and are sounding boards to each other where decisions have to be made, so that we can point out where it doesn’t work. I really thank God for the type of person my husband is. We both understand that we are partners first before husband and wife. So when it comes to matters regarding our business he does not pull out the “husband card” when we disagree on an issue. When we disagree we don’t take it personal. We try to listen to each other and try to see it from the other person’s angle. Sometimes we agree to disagree and move on from the issue.
Our confidence lies greatly in the fact that at the end of the day, God is our rock and foundation so He is able to keep us in check if/ when we step out of line.
What do you wish you had known earlier? What would you have done differently knowing what you now know?
S: Nothing really, that sounds like regret to me. I believe that people are shaped by their experiences and it is through those experiences that you learn. Through what people call mistakes or failures, you learn what to do and what not to do.
Overtime, you start to notice where there are gaps in your system, say internal controls are not tight enough, so you start refining and fine tuning, if you had not started, you would not have known. So every improvement adds to your wealth of knowledge and experience. I believe that when you stop learning, you stop living.
Shade, from a beautiful location in Victoria Island, to opening a second location in Lekki Phase 1, what is your next mountain? Where is the next stop for ICF? Will you create franchises?
Our next step is to have more branches across Lagos and we are looking forward to doing this. We are not thinking about franchising yet, because of the nature of our product and the sense of responsibility we feel to the brand/ quality control apparatus that we must put in place for any franchisees. We have not ruled this out of our future but the timing is not ripe for us to do that yet.
I have really enjoyed my time with you. Just hearing your experiences and partaking in your journey has helped me a lot. What advice would you give to budding Entrepreneurs who are reading this?
I don’t know how to say it without sounding like I’m just speaking “christainese” but I can only say it the way I know it and can only advice based on where I am coming from. So I would say; ensure that the line of business you have embarked on is the right one for you. Be certain about your path. In our case we got certainty by praying about it and receiving clear direction/confirmation from God. When you are certain, don’t be afraid to step out in faith. It is this certainty that gives you confidence and keeps you from throwing in the towel when things get tough because entrepreneurship is not for the fainthearted.
Also be prepared to work harder than you have ever worked. Don’t leave a full-time job to become an entrepreneur thinking you will work less, it doesn’t work that way. You will work harder than you have ever worked. The advantage is that as you grow, you can be more flexible, plan your schedule around what you need to do but you will still put in the hours. When we were about to open Ice Cream factory, I was 8 months pregnant with our 2nd child and I recall making ice-cream over night with my husband. At some point it was only 2 of us in kitchen as we had to release our staff at about 10 p.m. We worked about 18 hours straight, so that we could have all 24 flavours ready for our opening. Only a passion for what you do can sustain you through that.
Be resilient, have a clearly defined strategy, be ready to innovate and stay ahead of the market. And finally, I would say, enjoy the ride. I always believe that we are where we are meant to be, doing what we are meant to be doing. We are always looking to improve and do better, but we will always be grateful for here and now!
WOW! I thoroughly enjoyed speaking with Shade, as an entrepreneur and a leader, she opens my mind to the “brilliance” that accompanies running a business, so many facets many things to juggle but she demonstrates that with the help of God, with diligence and when you work in harmony towards a clear goal, anything is possible. I hope you enjoyed “meeting” with Shade as much as I did. Ciao! Be awesome this weekend.