24 Jul Oyebukola Oyeyemi: Follow Your Dreams
Oyebukola Oyeyemi is a graduate of Microbiology from the Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA), Nigeria. She is also a certified Health and Safety in the workplace fellow from the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) UK and a Certified Associate of Project Management (CAPM). She was selected among the top 1000 businesses in the Tony Elumelu FoundationEntrepreneurship Programme (TEEP) 2016 from over 45,000 applicants. She is also a member of FeedTheFuture women champions for change in Agriculture program and volunteers at several ‘not for profit’ organizations such as Playback Nigeria, Heal Health Initiative, Awesome Treasures Foundation among others.
Oyebukola is the founder/Executive Director at Oyecube Farms and the Vice Chairman/Project Director of ReachMe Network. Asides that, she runs a freelance soft skills training, project management, and HR service company. In this interview, Oyebukola shares the motivation behind starting her farm, Oyecube farms.
Oyecube farms originally started out as Oyecube Snails farm. Providing great quality food at affordable prices had been a family pre-occupation for as long as I can remember. My Dad and uncles were all farmers at some point in their lives and I always loved snails! It was a tasty delicacy that seemed to be available so rarely and in such small quantities at our dinner table. I always wondered why snail meat was only available in the market during the rainy season and why it was always so expensive? I had numerous “whys”! This curiosity drove me to research and I started reading voraciously on snails. During my research, I began to get answers to certain questions I had in my head.
So I began a snail farm. I am very concerned about my customers’ health, convenience, and enjoyment. Thus we have designed a snail farming system that provides a healthier source of meat protein snail and its by-product all year round. We do this by bringing the meat closer to you in attractive, hygienic retail packs at local malls, stores, and personal orders.
About Oyecube Farms
Oyecube Farms was founded in 2015 as a commercial farm with the vision to provide “Quality Agro products you can trust.” We operate from Ogun State, Nigeria and our goal is to have five products. Currently, we run a snail farm with the unique value proposition of making snail meat available all year round at pocket-friendly prices. We are able to achieve this by packaging fresh and clean snail meat in affordable retail packs that can be bought off the freezers at supermarkets, frozen food stores etc. to solve the problem of seasonality and scarcity of snails in the dry season in Nigeria. We practice controlled rearing of snails which promotes sustainable agriculture as against the indiscriminate harvest of immature snails from the wild which is common in Africa.
Oyecube Farms also has a crop production section & a grain cultivation section that currently cultivates aflasafe (Aflatoxin free) maize and Vitamin A fortified Cassava. We are presently running market research and feasibility study for our proposed Cassava processing plant. Our decisions are guided by the SDG goals 2 (Zero Hunger – End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture) and 3 (Good Health and Well-being – Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages).
Our target audience includes restaurant/eateries, high-end-event-caterers (private & Corporate), households), grocery stores (cold room), malls and supermarkets etc. within Lagos and neighboring states/towns. Basically, everyone who is keen on leading a healthy lifestyle.
I am a firm believer in going after dreams and personal development. So you will always find me attending training and events that better equip me. I get to meet people who are breaking the glass ceiling in their sphere and it helps re-affirm the belief that anything and everything is achievable. I also have awesome mentors, friends, and family, who will not let me throw in the towel because they hold me accountable, push and motivate me to keep moving.
Three women in business whose story keep me going when I feel like calling it quits are, Tara FelaDurotoye of “House of Tara”, Kehinde Kamson of “Sweet Sensation” and Ayodeji Megbope of “No Left-Overs”. These women started from the scratch, weathered all the storms and are still standing tall. My greatest motivator is God. The story of my life has been that of simply following God’s instructions.
Getting the word out
After receiving a seed capital from Tony Elumelu Foundation in 2016, I also sourced for funds from my family and personal savings. Oyecube Farms main strategy at the start was growing the business organically by leveraging on relationships and word of mouth marketing to gain traction before going into a full scalable marketing strategy.
We currently do a lot of search engine optimization (SEO), online advertisements on blogs with large traffic and reach, direct mail and business listings. We also do email newsletters describing developments and offers to business customers and households, word of mouth and referrals and product listing on agricultural produce sale portals and other online sale portals.
The challenges we faced at the beginning was funding, inflation, and security. After doing the market research, concrete snail pen construction design, the cost of construction and setup, we decided that owning our own property instead of
a land lease was the best because some of the structures planned for were immovable. We paid for the two acres of land in Ogun state because of the long term plan for expansion and addition of other products. When work was about to begin on the land, there was a hike in dollar exchange so items we had budgeted for were almost three times the initial budget. We had to re-strategize. We began to source for snails from other farms and resell pending when the funds for setup would show up.
I started applying for grants & sponsorship, solicited family and friends for support and later applied for TEEP. The business training, networking and mentorship benefit that accompanied it has been of great benefit to Oyecube Farms and me personally. The seed capital and fund raised from other sources was still not enough to cover expenses for construction on the farm considering that prices of items kept increasing. We also realized that constructing pens was not enough, fencing of the facility and providing security against theft at the farm location was going to gulp all the funds. So we began the snail retail packaging. Presently, we have our own pen and we sell live snails too but we are pushing the fresh clean snail pack more.
The other challenges are pricing and combating pests. I am grateful for mentors whose timely wisdom continue to help the farm avoid unnecessary mistakes.
On giving up
I have had several “who send me” moments. There was a time that we were testing sticker types for our packages that could withstand water and freezing without tearing up. All the printers we spoke to had no clue. I almost resigned until I spoke to a friend who introduced us to the world of water proof SAV stickers.
At a point, I couldn’t afford adequate security on the farm. I also had a big headache finding a delivery
company that will accept the snail packs because the pack had to at least still have some ice left when delivered. I eventually found someone via twitter.
My hope and aspiration for Oyecube farms is that we live up to our vision of being among the top commercial farms in Nigeria and Africa. My future plans for the business is to grow our products from just one major product to five. Another future plan is to get involved in the value chains of the five products.
Dear Business Toddler,
I will say follow your dreams. Don’t give up too early because there is always an option to restrategize. Also, that you failed while trying doesn’t make you a failure. Every dream is valid thus stay winning.
Founder, Oyecube Farms