Our recent investment club meetup was a live chat with Goke Balogun, Founder/CEO of SoFresh. We discussed the role of risk-taking in wealth creation.
We spoke with Goke because he quit a well-paying job in oil and gas to start selling fruits. His fruit shop has grown into a healthy food chain with outlets in Lagos and Nigeria so he has experience venturing from the known to the unknown.
Here are some key takeaways:
Be curious: while Goke was in Chevron, he worked in operations but gained experience in marketing and sales and learned how to run a well-structured organization. He believes that a passion for knowledge puts you ahead. For example, he wasn’t paid for the first 4 months at his job with Mr Biggs but he learned enough at the fast-food restaurant that became useful in setting up and operating SoFresh.
Goke also emphasized on saving and investing your income because it protects you when rainy days come and can help if you decide to leave paid employment and venture out on your own. During his time at Chevron, he chose to live below his income, allowing him to save a lot of money for his future business.
Wherever you find yourself, make the best of it and learn your lessons. Even though sometimes, what you are learning may not seem useful, along the line, the dots will start to connect
Turn your passion into a business: Goke grew up with fruits and vegetables and he has always liked them. His fondness made him develop a passion for excellence in how we shop and consume fruits and vegetables in Nigeria. If you’re looking for a startup idea, pick a personal problem, validate it, and if you see people actually are willing to use or pay for such a solution, then and only then start a company around it.
Follow the market: Be open to what the market demands of you. When Goke started the business with his wife and partner, they saw that even though they set out to sell fresh fruits and vegetables, their customers wanted them to offer ‘prepared meals’. So, in less than one month of launching, they added that to their product offering. SoFresh has now moved from selling fresh fruits and vegetables to selling healthy meals.
Ideas are not perfected on papers and in our minds, they are perfected by market validation. So set out with the idea but be attentive to your customers.
Raising Capital: The first source of funding for founders is typically from friends and family and from savings like we mentioned earlier. Goke leveraged his family to raise the initial capital of about N2.5 million. in raising follow on funding, investors favour founders who have skin in the game. In this case, who have run the business from their pocket.
Having skin in the game helps you persuade investors about your confidence and dedication to the business.
Taking lessons from a structured environment: Goke believes the lessons from a structured environment is key to entrepreneurial success. His advice to a new graduate would be to first work in a structured environment as there are a lot of lessons to be learned there before having your ventures. When you work before you start a company, you’ll pick up hard and soft skills while getting paid, build a network of skilled people, and discover the things you are great at.
This reminds us of Victor Asemota’s advice from the July edition of our Meetup — ‘go and work’ he said to someone who asked, “how can they position themselves to be in a winning position 10 years from now?”
Partnership is important: strategic partnerships are important at every stage of business. It reduces the risk in business and improves your odds of success because they help acquire customers at a minimal cost.
Family support can also count as a partnership. At a point when the business needed someone on the ground full time, Goke’s wife and partner, Abimbola agreed to do the job full time while he continued working with Chevron.
A partnership is beyond money. Look for complementary skills that will advance the business. It should be a valuable addition to each other so it can be mutually beneficial.
We learned a ton from this month’s meet up. Click here to listen to the full episode.