By Tolulope A. Adegoke
“Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.” – J.K Rowling
Success can sometimes be found in the most unexpected places. It could lurk in the most despised or detested occupations, making it only discoverable by those who have the determination to ignore all the pain and shame that come with the process, and remain focused till they strike gold. This type of success inspires hope in people who run odd businesses or side-hustles and feel they are only spinning in circles, with no hope of real success to eventually come their way. This is why the zero-to-HERO story of Ayo Megbope, a moi-moi (bean cake) seller, who hustled against all odds to eventually grow a successful business with a turnover of over $100,000 a year, is worth exploring!
Megbope was a trained confidential secretary, who worked at Corona Schools, in Lagos, Nigeria, for nine years. After working with Corona for so long, she decided to quit her job to start a playgroup. To achieve this, Megbope signed up for a six-month Montessori programme. However, by the end of the programme, she had lost total interest and was no longer motivated to run a play group, because according to her, it was no longer exciting.
Now without anything to do, Megbope started cooking for her sister-in-law – who ran a restaurant – so she could keep herself busy. She would make all kinds of meals, including soups, stew, and a lot more. Then one day, her sister-in-law visited her, and met her family having a meal of. Megbope had prepared this meal from the last 1,000 naira (roughly $3) that the family had. The sister-in-law was invited to the dinner and she found the moi-moi so tasty that she asked Megbope to start preparing it for her too at her restaurant. Before long, her sister-in-law’s friends and colleagues started placing orders for the moi-moi from Megbope.
Within three months of selling moi-moi to family and friends, Megbope’s monthly turnover was already between 30,000 to 40,000 naira. At this point, she realised she was on to something and had to maximise her profit margins, since the best way to run any business would be to have high turnover. However, finding a place to grow the trade proved to be a bit difficult. After much effort without success, she decided to try her former place of work (the school), to see if she could sell some of her delicacy there.
In an interview she granted to a newspaper, Megbope said; “I would show up in my rickety Peugeot car, with wraps of moi-moi in a cooler. I would stand at the school gate, and begin to call each parent by their first name or their children’s names, and attempt to sell them moi-moi. They were used to seeing me in skirt or trouser suits, but were now seeing me in Ankara outfits. It was a humbling experience. They were like, ‘sebi we told you not to leave Corona but you did, see what you are selling now, moi-moi; this is bad’…but I sold still.”
As she persisted, the people gradually began to patronise her. After confirming that she was a good cook, they started requesting for other delicacies like meats, stews, soups and a lot more. At this point, Megbope could not really account for what she was making because she kept no real records; but she knew her income was growing. Soon after, she read in the newspapers that a United Nations team was coming to Nigeria to invest in women-owned businesses. It was a partnership between Goldman Sachs and the Enterprise Development Centre (EDC) at the Pan-Atlantic University, to empower about 10,000 women entrepreneurs.
Every participant was required to write and submit an essay. Megbope submitted an entry for the moi-moi business and it was accepted. The five-month programme exposed her information she wished she had known a long time ago. It showed her how to structure her business, organise her finances, build great communication skills and improve her customer service experience. By the end of the programme, her business, now called “No Left Over Nigeria Limited”, experienced a major overhaul. Within a short time, she had hired over 50 staff, including temporary workers, and got her accounting right. She went from a one-product business to becoming a full-on catering outfit, servicing over 1,000 people. So much was the patronage that Mogbeope got that her moi-moi sales in one week alone was able to pay all the staff’s salaries in a month. Indeed, within a year from her time at the Goldman Sachs training, she was finally able to purchase a delivery van. Her success was so remarkable that she was invited to the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of Goldman Sachs. She was also on the panel of the Turkish Prime Minister’s Global Summit on Entrepreneurship, while equally holding meetings with former America’s first lady, Michelle Obama and former America’s President, Bill Clinton.
Ayo Megbope is truly an inspiration to entrepreneurs, especially those who are just starting out. She has shown that no matter how petty a start-up’s products and services may seem, positioning your business at the right place, with the right price, and constantly improving your knowledge, will set you up for success and emerging a HERO in your life’s calling.
The key question is, what have you learnt from all these inspirational narrations and experiences so far? And what will you do about it?
Exemplars of Greatness Series continues next week…
Watch out for the Book titled: “The Power of an Empowered Zero” (From Zero to HERO) by Tolulope A. Adegoke. Foreword by Dr Yomi Garnett (CEO/Chancellor, Royal Biographical Institute, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania U.S.A., U.K., Abuja, Nigeria.) Edited by Ola Aboderin.