Olagoke of SoFreshNg On Pioneering A Healthy Living Food Chain Business In Nigeria.

Olagoke of SoFreshNg On Pioneering A Healthy Living Food Chain Business In Nigeria.

Every known food market in Lagos is pretty much a farmer's market. Still, there is a difference in the food quality in the farmers' markets in urban areas like Lagos and the rural regions like smaller towns on the outskirts of Nigeria.

Farmers Market

Farmers' markets may be indoors or outdoors and typically consist of booths, tables or stands where farmers sell their produce, live animals and plants, and sometimes prepared foods and beverages.

 So Fresh
So Fresh

So when Olagoke Balogun started So Fresh in 2010, a business model no one had ever seen, it was a big deal in a place like Lagos, where shopping for fresh vegetables and foodstuff was not a comfortable or easy task. With the support of his wife, he has been able to build one of Nigeria's first-ever healthy living food chain businesses. With over 15 shops already up and running–The So Fresh brand has become a powerhouse with some of the best salads, smoothies and healthy food options you'll ever see.

We had a chat with the founder Olagoke Balogun, who is a loving husband and father; he's very kin to marketing and operations, and sometimes he is a strategy coach. He previously used to work at a major oil company, but he quit to follow his dreams, and he has not looked back ever since. His business So Fresh, is one of the most popular healthy food restaurants in Nigeria, and Lagos, especially right now. You can learn a thing or two from his business story.

Get an Account number for your business
Get an Account number for your business


What is the So Fresh story?

It started a few months after graduating; I dreamed of starting my food and retail business, like a modernized farmers market. This idea was birthed out of my roots; I grew up in a small town in Ilorin,  where I often ate fresh vegetables and fruits. So this made me think, why not bring that healthy lifestyle to the urban market.

The major problem I wanted to solve was the regular Nigerian market's harsh conditions. A major part of my childhood was tagging along with my Mother to the market to buy foodstuff, and I realized that it was not something I liked; the hot sun and all, it wasn't the best experience. So a way to solve that problem for me was to create a space where people could come and shop for their natural food (fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices etc.) needs comfortably.

What pushed you to create a food chain that caters to healthy foods only when other food chains stuck to African Cuisine?

This was both market and customer-driven; when So Fresh started, customers would walk in on several occasions asking if we made fruit juices, smoothies and food packs. And we weren't doing any of that, so quickly, we decided to match the demand; we got a juicer and mixer, and we started selling salads and a bunch of other healthy food options.

So fresh
So fresh

What does healthy living mean to you?

It is a lifestyle; what we eat has a powerful impact on our well-being and productivity; eating well is what renews our body cells, organs, etc.—and recognising that what you put into your body defines your body. And it doesn't only boil down to just-food. It also speaks to our physical state and wellness.

What does your work day look like?

My work day usually starts at 7:30 am, and I begin by reviewing my schedule and calendar for the day. At 8:00 am, I have a meeting with the team leads at the admin office; it usually takes up to 15-20 minutes. Then, it is meeting after meeting, then reviewing and responding to emails. My work days tend to end at 4:30-5:00 pm

What are your favourite things about your company?

The part where I can bring my ideas to life; so in the early days of So Fresh, I was very involved in the layout of every store; It was enjoyable to design the first set of 10 stores we launched, and I am very design-oriented. But essentially, the best parts are when I can share my thoughts and ideas, and then it comes to life

What are your least favourite parts of it?

Honestly, the documentation, the paperwork and all the other legal stuff. The formalistic parts of it all are not fun at all. But thank God my wife is a lawyer; she rescues me there all the time

So fresh
So fresh

Where was the first-ever So Fresh store located and What was the experience like bringing your business idea to life?

The first-ever So Fresh store was located at Ogba; it launched in November 2010. It was a great experience for us; we conceptualised the idea for 9 months. After that, we researched and proceeded to get the store, which we launched with some of our close friends. It was a perfect experience.

What is the thought process like in creating So Fresh food menus?

The menu has definitely evolved in the early days–it was just my wife and I researching different food options, thinking of creative ways to localize them to the Nigerian audience. But as the brand has grown, we now have a product development team in-house that does all the nitty-gritty parts. From listening to customer feedback to what our sales data shows, we test out the products, usually only in a few select stores, then gauge how the customers like them until we can ascertain if it is a product that customers want.

How do you determine your product prices?

We always look at our inputs–what it costs to make the product and how much it costs to deliver it to the consumer in-store or at the convenient locations. Then we proceed to put a decent markup on it to cover other associated costs; these different parameters determine our product pricing.

What are some of the craziest experiences you have had since building your company?

Okay, so there are times that we go to some store locations to check in with the staff to see how business is going. But, unfortunately, this one time, we got to one of our locations where none of the staff showed up at all; the stores open at 7:00 am sharp, and way long after the opening time, no one showed—no explanation, nothing. So it was a rough couple of days managing the store by ourselves.

We have had a soldier walk into the store and threaten to beat up our staff. But there have been many other crazy days as well, some with customers, some with staff—it happens every once in a while.

So fresh

What are some lessons you have learned from running your own business?

I have learned quite a few things over the years, but consistency and persistence are some of the surest ways to success. So if you ask me for my secret to success, I will probably tell you it is showing up every day, improving on what we did yesterday and thinking of ways to make it better.

Another thing is never to underestimate the value of people; there's only so much that one person can do. So you need people’s help to achieve anything of worth and value that will be really significant with a wide impact. Working with the right people always wins; I see my staff members as team players in the business.

Lastly, it is not sufficient enough to only have passion and interest in something to be successful at it, and it is the same with business. Liking baking, for example, is very different from understanding and speaking the language of the business of baking.

Check out their official website

So Fresh. Healthy Food, Made Fresh Daily
We serve you the best of Fresh, delicious, nutrient-rich and healthy food, made from 100% natural, wholesome ingredients everyday.
So fresh

Scale With Kippa is a weekly series where we discuss the peculiarities of running and scaling businesses in Nigeria. This month’s episodes focus on the lives of small scale roadside in different industries who are growing year on year using all available resources.

Measure the growth of your business in a click
Measure the growth of your business in a click

Hafeedoh Balogun

Hafeedoh Balogun