Daily Independent Online.
Friday, January 23, 2004.
Legal practitioner to yam flour seller
BY Dele Alao
Her small stature and
smartness tells her determination, strength and courage to succeed in life.
Today, Mrs. Gbonjubola
Awojuyigbe Onawoba is the Managing Director of Wandy Foods, a fast growing
foodstuffs enterprise located in Maryland, Ikeja, Lagos where she produces
Wandy Honey, Wandy Chilli pepper, Wandy ground rice, Wandy plantain flour,
Wandy beans and other items on the
label of Wandy Foods. From there,these products find their way into
Supermarkets and other sales outlets in the State. Mrs. Gbonjubola Awojuyigbe Onawoba, an indigene of Ikere -Ekiti, in her late 30s,
did not study Food Science Technology or other related disciplines in food
processing. A peep in to her bio-data reveals the hardworking mother of a son
as once a student of Federal Government College, Ilorin and a graduate of the
University of Ibadan with a degree in Law and a professional certificate from
the Nigerian Law School.
After graduating with
a law degree, I went to the Nigerian Law School and did my mandatory National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme
in a bank. I was retained. I
worked with the bank till 1992 when I started this my own business. I am now
seriously in food processing.
Born to parents who
were both teachers, Onawoba never for once in her life dreamt of becoming a
teacher. She said:”No, not at all. Not that I do not like those who live
by the chalk,but my interest in the profession is not just there.”
“I am from a family of teachers. My mother was a teacher in the Federal
Government College and she retired recently as the Principal of Federal Government College, Akure. My Father was an army officer. But he
was in the Education Corp of the Nigerian Army and one thing is this, I just
did not like to become a teacher. I just didn’t like it.
While she worked in a
bank for five years as a receptionist and responsible for customer services and later as Cashier
and in research and marketing services, Onawoba said she only practised Law as a profession for only one month. I read Law but I could only practice in
a Chamber for a month. I just knew I wasn’t ready to practice the law
profession, she stated.
Her journey to food
processing and sale could be attributed to the divine will of God.
Onawoba, a member of
the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), disclosed that whilst working with
the bank,she had a revelation that she had stopped work to sell yam flour
Said she: “ I
had this revelation that I was selling “Elubo” Yam flour in the
market and I told a friend of mine who is now in USA about the revelation. This
friend of mine made me to start doing what I am doing today. She really
encouraged me to start the business”
Continuing, she said:
“One day in 1993, she just came and picked me from my office and said we
should go to PAYLESS, which was still existing at that time and there, she
showed me how one can package some foodstuffs and said, why can’t you do
this? And I told her that I didn’t have the aptitude to do it. She then
said ‘Okay we would do it together. But I later found out that I was the
only one running round incorporating the company and doing everything. I now
went to her and said “but you told me that we would do it together? She just
replied, “look, I just wanted you to start this business, I am not
interested. I just really wanted to ginger you up. I know you are a hardworking
person. You know, I have already committed myself. I have got something on my hand.” I now
decided to keep on doing the business,
though I was still working at the bank.
It was when a crisis
hit her bank that Onawoba decided to fully yield to the divine direction.
“ It was later when the bank had a problem that I opted out and started
fully the business, “she stated,
On how her parents
reacted to her decision when they had really wanted her to continue her job in
the bank or at least, switch over to a another job with a better offer, She
said: “My late father
initially did not see any sense in
my decision to quit a bank job to sell yam flour, but he was not hard on me as
my mother did. My mother thought that something had gone wrong with me, she
started asking me if I had seen anybody like that in the family who is learned
as I do only to keep the
certificate and sell
“Elubo”. In Short, she was really angry with my decision. I could
remember she called me aside one day and asked me if I didn’t have
confidence again in myself”
With about N5,000.00,
Onawoba started Wandy Food , she had no fewer than seven persons working with
her and her annual turn over shot to not less than seven digits in Naira. But
this is not without some hiccups.
She explained: “There was the problem of getting workers to work with. Most of our youths
today do not want hard work. They think as money comes in every month, you
should increase their salary. They don’t even want to know whether you
are making profits or not.
The second problem is
that, the Nigerian environment needs to be improved upon to be more conducive
for people like us, the small and medium scale enterprises. You won’t
believe that though I have paid
N50,000.00 to NITEL,to date, I have not yet got the line. She explained the trauma she had to go through
before the National Electric Power
Authority, (NEPA) could secure her a three- phase meter to operate her machines even after payment of about N46,500.00.
Onawoba said it was
difficult differentiating between her business and her private life. But a book
she read late last year changed that attitude.
“Before, I took my business as my life. There was a book I read sometime late last year. Through
that book, I just found out that, my business should exist on its own while I
exist on my own”
And for those who may
think that Onawoba has any regret for shunning the wig and the sweet aroma of
new notes in the bank, she said: “I have no regret whatsoever.
have any regret whatsoever. I am happy I read Law because when I meet people,
when I talk to people one-on-one, I tell them what I do and what I read and
gain some respect from them. The only thing I used to tell people is that I
wish I had discovered the vision God had for me on time. I am happy I worked in
a bank. It broadened my scope. I could see that God made me to go through all
that I went through to prepare me
for the future. There is no where
I go to today that I don’t attract attention,despite the fact that I am a
yam flour seller. I do not attract disdain simply because I sell
yam powder, particularly when they discover that I read Law. So I don’t
have any regret whatsoever” Onawoba, who described herself as an avid
reader of books on marketing, leadership and business, says her philosophy of
life is that nothing is impossible.
“If you can
dream it, if you can see it,you can work hard to achieve it. I don’t
believe anything is impossible or that something is too difficult. If you can
pray, if you can work hard, then nothing is impossible”.
Onawoba, a member of
the National Association of Small Scale Industrialists, NASSI, urged the
government to stop paying lip service to the sub-sector and assist the sector
with funds. She lamented that many of her colleagues in the association have
gone back to paid employment because of lack of financial assistance and
unfavourable economic climate.
However she advised
Nigerians who are unemployed to take advantage of many untapped business
opportunities in the country. “I see opportunities everyday. And you
don’t need millions of naira or some thousands of Naira before you take
advantage of these business opportunities. I just want to encourage women to
sit down and think about what they can do best and start doing it,” she