It’s our second edition of the #CelebratingWomenCampaign, and this time we’re celebrating entrepreneurship in women!
Meet Aisha Otsemobor Danesi, a Chemical Engineer and the brains behind Aida’s Bakeshop, an exquisite confectionery that churns out delicious pastries including doughnuts, cupcakes, cinnamon rolls and anything mouth watering dessert that could come up in your imagination.
I have watched Aida’s Bakeshop closely and I am so pleased with its meteorite growth, and I believe that Aisha’s passion, creativity and diligence would inspire other ladies to take the plunge and follow their passion to start a business!
1. Tell me about yourself
Aisha: I am a Nigerian, born and raised in Lagos. I graduated with a B.Sc in Industrial Chemistry from the University of Lagos and an M.Sc in Chemical Engineering from the University of Leeds. I’ve always been passionate about the sciences and how solutions can be created with its knowledge and application and wanted to be a part of that. I have also always enjoyed cooking, I am a self-taught baker.
2. How did you start your business and how did you decide that making pastries was the way to go?
Aisha: I started my business when I returned to Nigeria from the UK in the last quarter of 2016. With the recession in Nigeria and difficulty in getting jobs especially in my field, I had to come up with something while I waited. I have always tried to be independent, even with my supportive parents and as far back as when we had strikes in my undergraduate days, I would do some sort of business, mostly buying and selling. I never liked being idle. So the idea of baking came up because I had done it here and there privately but not professionally and one common feedback I got was, ‘You should do cooking professionally’ and that’s how my business was born.
3. What were the initial challenges you faced, given the Nigerian business terrain, and how did you
Aisha: The major challenge was getting the word out and competing with the known professionals in the industry. Pricing was an issue and I later discovered I was under-valuing my offering. Some people do not understand what goes into baking, the difference between high quality and low quality and this was a challenge.
I would say I am still working on it but I was able to use social media to showcase my work and the feedback has been quite unexpected and great. I had envisioned it would take longer than it actually took and I am grateful.
4. Who are your business mentors?
Aisha: There are 2 people that have helped me a lot. Dupe’s Bakery is one of them. She is such a great person. I knew her in my undergraduate days before she started baking. She is very industrious and I had patronised her previous business. She has helped with advice and has been very helpful. Also a classmate of mine Teemahcakesnmore who also shared some knowledge with me. She is always willing to share her knowledge.
5. Please expatiate on the positive impact of tertiary and post tertiary education in the running a
business that one is passionate about.
Aisha: It may not be completely necessary to have tertiary or post tertiary education to be successful and also tertiary education may not guarantee business success, but it is definitely more helpful than not. Tertiary education provides you with basic life skills, gives you the exposure to all kinds of people and helps you learn how to deal with difficult situations and people.
Education opens you up to a whole different level of thinking. I have had to play the role of marketing, finance, customer service in my own business and I have also had to educate myself continuously to keep up with the industry both in Nigeria and around the world.
6. How do you merge your business and a full time job
Aisha: I started my business and in less than 6 months after, I started a full time job as an Engineer in Oil and Gas. I usually get at most 4 hours of sleep. I have worked prior to my job and it entails a lot of brain work, long hours and working under pressure, so I have been able to manage things to an extent. It has been tough because I had been baking by myself from my home and I really can only take limited orders but I am definitely working on expanding to accommodate the numerous orders I get. In such a short time of about 7 months, I have so many clients, it’s quite overwhelming and encouraging.
7.Where do you see Aida's Bakeshop in the next 5 years?
Aisha: I definitely have big dreams for Aida’s Bakeshop. In 5 years I hope to be a leader in my craft running a world standard bakery and maintaining high quality while offering affordable treats to Nigerians. I hope to also train people in the craft, impart some knowledge and give back to my society.
8. On what platform do you interact with other small and medium scale entrepreneurs and what are
the benefits of such interactions
Aisha: Instagram has been a very helpful platform. Interactions and even inspirations have come from Instagram pages. Also, some collaborations have come out of it. I get a lot of my raw materials from sellers who advertise on Instagram, so it has been very helpful. There are also some gatherings organised for entrepreneurs I have attended a few times and business relationships have come out from them.
9. What were the proactive things you did to get and keep clients?
Aisha: For me, quality is very important to me. Being a Scientist and Engineer, details and accuracy is important to me. I work with numbers and proportions so I am always trying hard to get the best recipes. I source for the best materials irrespective of price because the taste makes a difference. My customers value quality and my prices are very reasonable and competitive. I have numerous loyal clients from this. Customer service is also very important. The customer is always right and is he centre of everything and my job is to provide a solution which is my product. I also do give-aways, discounts and freebies with orders over a certain amount.
10. Please expatiate on the role that social media plays in small and medium scale businesses of
Aisha: Social media has been a great tool for small and medium businesses. Not only does it connect you with clients, it connects you with other businesses similar to yours and this creates a healthy competition where you want to be better. When you see what other people are doing, it inspires you and helps you to want to grow and improve. A lot of businesses are on social media now because people like convenience. You are able to reach a wider audience, get materials, and inspiration for your business with social media.
11. Please give a word of advice for an intending business owner who is not sure how to start
Aisha: If you have a business idea, just start! There is no set way to start. I started from my parents’ house and I didn’t pay for any baking class. All I did was turn a passion into a business by using the internet as my class and the kitchen in my parents’ house as my laboratory. Yes, indeed you need some money but you can save towards this. Instead of buying that new smart phone you don’t need or “aso-ebi”, save that money and start a business that would enable you to buy an even better smartphone in the future. Another thing is that it doesn’t happen overnight, do not enter it because of money because you are more likely to fail. Go in with the mind of actually providing a solution to people the best way you can and money will come. Lastly always educate and improve yourself, never stay the same because other people are improving and can take over without warning.
That’s it folks!
Please follow @aidasbakeshop on instagram