Nuts About Cakes in Lagos Nigeria with Nike Majekodunmi
Guest: Nike Majekodunmi
Topics: Nigeria, leasing
Chris Ressa 0:01
This is retail retold the story of how that store ended up in your neighborhood. I’m your host, Chris ReSSA. And I invite you to join my conversation with some of the retail industry’s biggest influencers. This podcast is brought to you by DLC management
Welcome to retail retold everyone today I’m extremely excited. We have an entrepreneur from Lagos, Nigeria, Nikkei magic could do me. Nikkei is the owner of nuts about cakes. She has another retail concept which she will tell us about. She has survived the pandemic and she’s done it in a different country as most of our listeners are from the US. I’m excited to hear about how things are going in Africa and in Nigeria, from a retail perspective. This is going to be a cool show. Welcome to K.
Nike Majekodunmi 0:54
Thank you. Thanks, Chris.
Okay, why don’t you tell us a little bit more about who you are, how you ended up in retail and owning knots about cakes, and your other concept.
Okay, so hi. Um, yeah, so I, I run a company called nuts about cakes, like you say, we are a bakery. And we specialize in cakes, like the name denotes. Also a variety of breads, and pastries. And we also have a training school where we train others how to make cakes, and those, you know, hobbyists or those who want to start businesses of their own. I am married, I have three lovely children. And I started in the baking industry about 14 years ago. And since then, I’ve loved you know, every moment of it. It’s not easy, especially in retail. But yes, but I’ve loved every moment of it.
Thank you for that. You also have another concept. Tell us about that, that only has one location? What is that retail store?
Yes. So just before the pandemic, I set up another retail brand called Mrs. Modaks. And the idea behind Mrs. magicks was to serve a lower income earning market. Because you know, what we find nowadays is people snack as they commute. You know, people have really busy schedules, and they’re moving from place to place. And you know, you want to have sort of salads or sandwiches or, you know, pastries, you know, tea, coffee, etc. But it serves a lower income market. So the price point is really low. And the idea of that is to have about 200 stores in Lagos alone, and then also to move across to the other states in the country.
Wow, how big is nuts about cakes gonna go on to get?
Well, that’s about cakes currently has seven retail locations. The idea is to open 40 locations in Nigeria. And then we’re also looking at growing as an African business and going into other countries in Africa.
Wow. Kudos to you. This is really interesting. You have seven locations, you have one location, but you think that can get to 200. Stores? in Lagos alone? Yes. Wow. Right. Now, how are you financing these? Do you have outside investors? This is all from cash flow. What are you doing?
Um, well. So when I started, I pretty much got a loan and two investors. My mom gave me a loan. And I have my husband and my father who invested in the business. So the three of us own the business together. So I mean, it was one of the most humbling things when you’re looking for finance, especially when you’re going to unknowns, I knew I didn’t want to go to the banks to start. I wanted to sort of talk to friends and family. And I only had two of them respond. So I didn’t have everything I needed at the beginning. So we just started small with what we had. And then we grew over time.
Wow. I love those types of stories where you bootstrapped it, you raised your own money, you didn’t have to go to a bank and you started to grow it. If you want to go from one to 200. If you think that’s the scale, will you have to take on outside investors? And will you have to go to some banks and private equity groups in in Nigeria?
Yes, absolutely. So now we are we’ve approached a couple of private equity companies now where we’re scaling big time, so it’s a totally different ballgame. And that’s, that’s exciting as well. And you know, I’m happy to have people sharing the stake of the business because we’re trying to grow something, you know, small to something big. So yeah, I’m happy to bring in other investors. Definitely. Capital.
There’s some Many questions I have. But I’m going to start from a big broad one that is talked about a lot in the US. How has the E commerce and internet retailing affected retail in Nigeria? From your perspective?
Yeah, so it’s changed incredibly over the years. You know, when I started, I started from humble beginnings, I started from my kitchen and just basically selling to friends and family and then making the deliveries on my own. And then we got into, you know, one store two stores, there was an Instagram when I started. And today, you know, we always say nuts about cakes that we run both the bricks and the clicks channels. So our bricks are our actual physical retail stores, and our clicks, channels, our you know, social media, what’s, you know, the telephone sales ecommerce website, so anything digital, and that has grown significantly. One that is massive for us is tele sales. So people are very comfortable with ordering, you know, cakes and pastries over the telephone and then doing a transfer for payment. And also on social media, we’re very active on on Instagram and on Facebook, and we have a lot of people placing orders that way as well. Our e commerce website, on the other hand, it is available, but it hasn’t taken off as much as we thought it would, I guess, you know, because there isn’t that constant chat back with a with a person. That might be something that slowed that, you know, digital channel down. But with the other clicks channels, you know, there’s somebody sort of responding to you. With every little question, you know, what blue? Is it? Can it be, there’s gonna have a, you know, a train going around it or something like that. And so, yeah, so there’s a, there’s a more sort of welcomed, I guess, by our customers.
That’s really an interesting perspective that your general website hasn’t taken off as much as you had thought. But your Instagram and telephone sales are doing really well, because your staff gets to engage with the consumer.
Absolutely. Absolutely. And WhatsApp
and WhatsApp the staff gets to engage with the consumer that that is, that is really thought provoking, because that’s the essence of physical retail is you’re engaging with people while you’re shopping, or whatever it is, you’re shopping. And then if you can mimic some of that on an Instagram, it’ll probably do well. But on a website, it’s a little bit stale as it relates to the back and forth communication. Have you thought about having like a, an automated chat bot, like you see, like they can ask questions to and what and that type of thing
we have done in the past, I think we actually had that puts on there, but it was a bit slow in terms of responses. So when people would come up before, you know, the same agent who’s been on the phones gets to see it. So it’s not like there’s someone dedicated, just sitting, sitting there and staring at the the chat box. So if the response comes, you know, like a minute too late, it’s, you know, it’s time gone already. And I think people are more sort of instance shoppers nowadays than then, you know, waiting on somebody to finally answer you. So we thought, okay, let’s take that out. If we can’t do it perfectly, let’s take that out.
I understand. Let’s go to a different topic. I do not know a lot about how the pandemic has affected Nigeria and Lagos. What’s going on to your business from the pandemic, and how is the pandemic affected things in Nigeria.
So, I mean, I think it’s pretty much affected our business just like it has the rest of the world. We also went through a lockdown. Last year, March, April. And during that time, my stores we were allowed to open because we are in Istanbul, consider that essential business because we serve food, and we make bread and things like that. So we kept three of our stores opened, we closed. We closed four of our store five of our stores, including the system of checks, and we did mostly deliveries. So we partnered with a lot of independence delivery sort of people so like a man in a van. And, you know, we trained them up on you know, how to deliver cakes, how to carry it, how to transport it. And so that’s what really helped us I mean, at that time, we went from about 30% of our, our, you know, from up deliveries to about 85%. Because a lot of people just were not coming out. So I mean, moving from 30% to 85% was something that we really had to get a handle on. Also our, our, our staff, we decided to house all our stuff. Well, a large percentage of our stuff we housed in our headquarters, and that sort of helped, so that they were not being exposed to the pandemic, you know, to the to the virus. And also transportation was very difficult at that time as well. And, but most of the all of the administrative staff are working from home. So we converted all our offices to dormitories, and we bought mattresses, and we fed you know, everybody, you know, seven days a week, breakfast, lunch and dinner, and we went had Sunday. So ordinarily, we opened on Sundays, but we decided to shut on Sundays so that we could have sort of entertainment in house with the staff, we got some table tennis, some, you know, table, we got some card games, just to keep things interesting. So it was you have to be we had to be nimble, we had to think on our feet and figure out how we were going to survive. One option I did not consider was closing shop.
I love it. I’m glad that didn’t register in your brain. There’s a little bit of unbelievable story there. You turned. What did you turn into housing your like corporate office?
Yes, yes. So all our offices, our boardroom, our training, because we couldn’t do any training school, we couldn’t open our cafes, actually, I mean, I forgot to mention that we, we added, we have a couple of cafes. So we couldn’t open that because of social distancing rules. So we turned our cafe, our boardroom, our project room, and a couple of other offices, they just became dormitories.
And you and you turn them into dormitories? Because did your staff not have a place to go? Or was this a safety issue?
It was was a safety issue. Firstly, it was difficult to move around during that time, if they were going to get to work, they’d have to take public transportation, and just to try and limit the exposure of the staff to the virus. And also, they were very, you know, few buses around as well. Not that not that many. So it would be difficult for them to get to work in terms of timing. And then also, just to try and keep the operations of the business going. So we don’t have you know, an issue with staff coming from different locations. And then, you know, maybe, you know, passing the virus to each other, we just try to contain it as much as possible. So that was those were the ideas behind housing and the staff were happy to be housed. And if anybody was, you know, going home for the weekend, we would have the company vehicle, take them home. And then you know, so we had a lot of take home pickups, you know, it was it was manage just trying to organize all of that, but
oh my god for seven store chain, how large is your corporate office?
Um, well, it’s it’s pretty decent.
I mean, in number of people, how much staff do you have? How many people do you have?
We have, in total, we have 130.
Wow. And in the US what a lot of companies did was they did this work from home? Was that something that was potentially an option for you? Or were not? Yes.
So for the administrative staff, we all work from home, I work from home, you know, marketing work from home, you know, finance work from home for the people who had to make the cakes, but for operations, and, you know, front sales attendants, they they had to come in. And then we also sort of rotated and came in once in a while just to you know, check up on things and, you know, consolidate what we’d been doing from home. All our meetings, were online on Zoom, we still have all our meetings online on Zoom. So there was a lot of sort of switch that we had to we had to do.
This is incredible. I haven’t had one person I’ve talked to turn their offices into housing in order to keep their team working and safe. Kudos to you. That is really inspiring. Thank you for sharing that. Overall, you are an essential business. In Nigeria, you would have been in In the US as well, your revenue in 2020, up or down from 2019.
Interestingly enough, up
unbelievable. Yeah, yeah, they
went up, it was unbelievable to us as well, because when, in the in the height of the pandemic, the lockdown, we were worried, you know, sales literally crashed for the first few weeks, you know, two weeks, three weeks, we were probably doing about 20% sales. But we kept going. And in this time we found our feet. You know, we found the independent delivery drivers, we started marketing a lot more online. You know, Google Ads was our friend. And you know, Instagram promotions, Facebook promotions, we literally just took all our marketing online, because everybody else was at home online, and they were all on their phones. So that’s where we had to be where the customers fished, so to speak. So, yeah, so that was bad at the beginning. And then it just started going just started going up again. And so that was positive and inspiring. And you know, I think that also shows never give up and keep going for as long as you can
totally agree. It is inspiring. And I love the Never Give Up attitude. What is going on with small business in Nigeria right now, for those who weren’t essential businesses? Are they? Is there a lot of business failures? What’s happening?
Yes, so there was I mean, the industries that were pretty much just brought down to zero, like the hospitality in terms of events, the events industry, where you know, you couldn’t meet, you couldn’t throw parties and Nigerians, we like to party. And calls, you know, caterers for big functions, you know, Muse, the music industry, you know, stage lights, production, all those things, you know, they really, really suffered, and they’re still suffering till today, because, you know, there’s still some strict restrictions in terms of number of people that can show up at events and things like that. So that really, that industry really suffered. Others who basically, you know, you can buy and sell, you can go online, and a lot more people went online, Instagram, became, you know, the place to be. And what we saw is a lot of the delivery companies did very well. So bike bikes companies, and, you know, Uber, and the like, so they, they did very well, because they just move products around, and they’re allowed to still move around freely. So I think also a lot more small businesses found themselves having to go online, to be able to survive and just have some online presence. And also, you know, doing transfers in terms of payments. So payments also did really, really well, here in Nigeria.
That makes sense. I think that’s a lot of the rest of the world. Was there government aid as far as trying to help financially some of these businesses, was there anything past to help some of these businesses?
Yes, they were some interventions that were announced. I’m not sure how widely it was spread. It’s not as organized as it as it is with you know, paying the company and the company keeping their stuff on. It was just, you know, make a request and you know, you might be answered and you know, you might get some some relief for a loan, but there wasn’t sort of a grant that was given it was mainly just loans which have to be repaid at some point when the businesses do shoot back up.
I understand. We are going to take a quick break here. And now a word from one of our sponsors. With over 80 years of architectural practice, NWS architects, and its sister MBE firm, Shahadat, and associates are committed to the visions, budgets and schedules of their clients, incorporating the best in architectural sustainability, licensed in 48 states with a 98 percentage rate. It’s easy to see why clients such as DLC management, Brookfield properties, Dollar General, and many major Junior anchor and anchors trust NWS architects with their projects large or small, call Sanjeev at 312-735-7123 or visit NW sa architects.com To learn how they can provide value for your next project. So I want to change to a different topic here. I want to talk about one of your locations and a story about how it actually opened up. And you can tell us what location it is. And, and take us through that. Because I think overall your story as a person in a business and operating in Lagos, Nigeria, retail locations, I think that’s going to be interesting to the listeners in general, and what you’ve done. But tell me a story about how one of your locations opened up.
Yes, so um, so our main location, which is our headquarters, where the offices, the administrative offices are, we actually moved here just over 10 years ago. And, you know, it wasn’t my first or second store, my personal second store were in the middle of nowhere. And pretty much no, but there was no walk in traffic, you know, a few, it was awesome, but it was pretty much places where I just honed in on my recipes, and just, you know, got better basically. And then when we moved to this location, it’s in Lekki. Phase one, it’s a residential, it’s highly residential. But now it’s such a huge mix of commercial and residential. It’s such a huge property. And we didn’t have, like I said earlier, we didn’t have all the funds we needed when we were, you know, setting up. So we may do, we got a massive property, it used to be a home, actually about a nine bedroom, home, you know, with a couple of living rooms and kitchens, and, you know, proper quarters at the back. And we only use two rooms out of everything. Because we just didn’t have the funds to use anything else. I wanted to open a cafe, I wanted to do a training school, I wanted to go into pastries and bread, but I could only do my cakes at the beginning. And there were only four of us when we moved into this into this building. So we couldn’t occupy the whole space. But with time it grew, we opened up other rooms and added other you know, sort of product lines as well. But you know, and then the area as well grew from like, we used to be the only bakery on the street. And now there’s seven bakeries on the same street. So that that shows how it went from mainly residential to commercial.
unbelievable story. So let’s go from the beginning. Did you buy or rent this property?
I’m renting. So renting
and how long are the leases in Nigeria? How long of a lease? Do you sign in? When you take one of these properties? How long have the lease do sign?
So I signed a five year lease initially with an option for an additional five years. On fortunately, my landlord passed away. Sort of at year, I think it was in year four, he passed away. But you know, he has a solicitor for his estate. So I deal directly with the solicitor for the estate now. And we’ve literally just signed another 10 year lease just at the end of last year.
Congratulations. So how many people work in that location?
So the production, we have two production hubs. We have one here, and also one on the mainland of Lagos to serve the stores on the mainland. In this location. We probably have about 7080 odd people in this location.
Wow, that is big. Do you know how big it is? The the actual size of the space?
I think the land is probably about it’s about 2000 square meters.
Are there about 2000 square meters?
Yeah. And then we have you know, we have two floors?
Did you have to do renovations inside? And did you have to pay for that?
Yeah, we had to do a lot of renovation. I mean, it was somebody’s home. So we had to open up sort of the front house and make that bigger where you know where, you know, the retail customers come in. And then for the production we had to build so we built an extension to the property because there was a lot of space within the property that was sort of garden space at the back and we built our production center out back as well. Yeah. And then we had to convert offices and you know, putting some glass make it look a little bit more corporate looking. Yeah, so
You have a big investment into the property for sure.
Yes, we have hence the long lease.
When you were deciding where you wanted to put this location, and it was going to be your main location, how did you decide? Here,
it was quite simple, really, it was close to home.
There you go close to home
to home, I live, you know, four minutes away. So I wanted somewhere I could get to easily my first location probably took me about an hour and a half drive. And you know, there because we didn’t have much walk in customers, I had to do a lot of deliveries. So I would go in, and I’d have to time it because of the traffic traffic in Lagos is hectic, you know, it’s over two 20 million people in Lagos. So you time it, you’d get to work quickly do everything you need to do and then head out to make your deliveries. And then you know, that could take you another sort of an hour and a half hour or two hours to get to where you’re delivering to. And then you have to see can I get back to work to the shop or not? Because you can’t always get back based on time. And so I just really wanted somewhere convenient. That was close to home, I could, you know, get there easily. I just had my first child as well. So it was it was I had to be close closer to home. So it was pretty much personal reasons. And then it worked out in the end.
That’s a great reason. There’s that’s the best reason you want to you want to make your work life balance work for you. How do you choose the other locations that don’t have production that are just cafes where you can walk in? How are you thinking about that? So,
you know, we have seven knots about cake stores now. But we’ve had a few in the past that we’ve also had to close down for various reasons. So I think the second two, or the third two, actually, I had after this main location which shut down and I think that was based on just lots of wrong decisions. The first one was in an area, which is high brow area is called equally, which is you know, is the most expensive real estate in Maine people in West Africa. You know, had a beautiful little cafe store there. But then there were some issues with the, with the title of the property and whether it could be commercial. And then the government ended up sort of demolishing all the stores that were there. So that was a huge loss for us a few years ago. Then we also had another property in a mall. And the property was in a very beautiful mall, but it was tied to the dollar. So the rent was tied to the dollar. And when we had the fluctuation of the dollar with the naira, it just did not make sense to have those, those two have that store. So I’ll give you an example when I signed to open up a store there, you know the dollar to the naira then was was about 260 Naira, but the very day we opened the store, the dollar was now 360 naira. So that was such a huge difference. And we hadn’t accommodated for that. So now I only get stores in locations where it is basically Naira based, which is our currency here in Nigeria. The third location was in a mall as well, but it was such a tiny little store. It wasn’t sort of street facing. So that was was tricky. So these days, I only focus on things that bring high traffic in terms of footfall. I focus on you know, naira based. I make sure it’s downstairs, because a lot of people don’t want to climb the stairs for cakes. Funny enough. So I always make sure it’s on the ground floor. And yeah, so that those are the pretty much on the parking is essential as well.
Do all your locations have parking? Yes, they do. Really fascinating as it relates to the currency in you paying rent in the dollar versus the naira and that being a challenge. Where the mall owners, were they US based companies, were they UK based who were were the Do you know who owned those malls?
Yes, it was it’s a South African.
South African. Yes. South African. Yes. From your experience in being a retail operator. What is working in Nigeria from a retail operation our malls doing well? Our Street locations doing better what’s working in Nigeria? Yeah, I
think smaller malls are doing well. You know, the large malls, they are beautiful. You know Everything is, you know, glamorous, and you know, there’s entertainment, but the rent is so high, because their rents are usually pegged to the dollar, that only a certain number of stores or type of, you know, high, you know, luxury brands can be there. And you know, your everyday man is not looking for high luxury. So, that, you know, is tricky, but the smaller malls sort of with, you know, six to 10 stores, those ones are doing better, I think.
And are those are those enclosed, like you go inside are those open air, like, there’s just a bunch of different storefronts with a parking lot.
They’re usually enclosed. Okay. So they usually, you know, homes that have been large homes that have been renovated and turned into a small little plaza or a small mall, when says I could have done the same with this property that we’re on, but we chose to keep it for ourselves.
That’s interesting, I haven’t been in a home that was converted into 10 stores, that is really unique, someone in the US has to do that. Well, that is really great story, I learned a lot, I haven’t thought about the currency, being pegged to the dollar, and how that might affect your rent. Anything else about choosing locations in Legos, that makes the retail environment interesting over there that we haven’t talked about.
I think also, you know, you have to decide what kind of customers that you have. And you know, be in the location that is closest to that type of customer. So for example, spot on, we have the island and we have the mainland, we have you know, stores on both both angles, you know, we are looking for high traffic areas where you could literally just walk off the streets, and oh, I forgot to the cake for my Grandma, please, you know, I want that one and just write Happy Birthday grandma on it. So you want that sort of, you know, you’re top of mind or people are driving down the street, they see you they start. So that’s, that’s very, very important. And then also the size of the stores that you get, depending on you know, we have different sizes. So this main one is quite large. When you walk into this, you know, huge display lots of different you know, standing stations, different tills, but then we have other stores, which are just, you know, quite small, a little bit of a finishing area at the back and then a storefront in front. So where we are is actually in Lekki phase one, the HQ is a high brow residential slash commercial area. And, you know, we found out that a lot of our customers want to sit down, and you know, take their time and order a cake. So we needed the area where you know, it’s like a cake consultation area, which is, you know, a nice little enclave that we have here. And you can sit and you know, all of that as opposed to other areas where it’s more about, you know, it’s quick, you know, give me that one and I’m off. So you don’t need such a large space there as well. But I think the sweet spot for us moving forward now is about 40 square meter or stores where we just do finishing of the cakes at the back and then you know the retail storefronts in the front of the store.
Thank you that cake consultation. I love that. I haven’t heard that term in the US. But that makes a lot of sense to me. sitting down and going over the cake that you want. I haven’t heard it named cake consultation, I’m sure in the wedding cake world in the US they probably call it that but I don’t know. But I like that you do cake consultations and you do training you for people who want to learn how to make their own cakes, that is all good ancillary parts of your business that help your business so kudos to you.
You are forward thinking. The last part of our show we call retail wisdom. I’ve got three questions for you. Okay, you ready? One what extinct retailer Do you wish you’d come back from the dead?
So I don’t know much about the US. But I did live in the UK and Debenhams. I’m quite upset that Debenhams has you know has just gotten gone under and it’s a department store where
sure they just got sold someone bought them when an online retailer bought them. Yeah.
Ah yes. So you know, I bought everything there growing up so that one is quite dear to my heart.
Yeah, I know. Now number two, and I’m going to use US dollars because I don’t know the conversion of the naira. What is the last thing you bought in a store? Over 20 US dollars? Clothes? fashion. I loved it. And was the brand a Nigerian brand?
Yes, it was a Nigerian brand.
Yeah. What’s the what’s the name? Aries cucina.
I buy a lot from Arias Kutcher. They use like local fabrics and local tie and dye and Batik and things like that.
Fantastic. Last question. If you and I were shopping in Walmart, and I lost you in the K, what aisle would I find you in
kitchen utensils, of course. There we go. Yes, we can never
have enough hands and trays and spoons. And you can never have enough. There’s always some fancy little device as well. So yeah, that will be in there.
That’s our show. Thank you so much for coming on. This was fantastic. I really appreciate it. Thank you. Thank you for everything. This was great.
Great. Thank you very much, Chris. It was real good.
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