Opeyemi Hamzat is a student of Ladoke Akintola University of Technology studying Crop and Environment Protection. She is the CEO of Coldbox, a business startup that solves the issue of wastage of fruits and vegetables as a result of poor storage of these agricultural products by providing a solar-powered cold station at a reduced cost. This helps increase the income of the farmers using their products about 50% when compared to farmers in the vicinity who do not use their solar-powered cold room. InterviewStories got her to tell her story and here is what she has to say.
Can we know you?
My name is Opeyemi Hamzat and I am the Cofounder and CEO of ColdBox Nigeria.
How did the idea for your business come about?
My mum was a trader in Ikotun market in Lagos state and this gave me a first hand a particular this meant reduced income for her and the little she made was not able to cater for us.
My mum tried several frozen vendors but always ended up unlucky. It was either they were too expensive or the location was too far away from the market or occasional power failures or something worse. Meeting my partner in 2017 who happened to be an engineer, led us to think of innovative ways to tackle this problem at a reduced cost. We discovered that we could leverage renewable energy to cut down costs while meeting with market standards for our nature of business. It was at this stage the idea of ColdBox came alive. However, we fully commenced operations in 2019.
What was your key driving force to become an entrepreneur?
I believe that no one should think about being an entrepreneur without having a problem-solving mindset. This for me has been my drive. I do have experience with other businesses but what usually drives me to an idea is when I see an unmet need.
How did you come up with the name of your company?
Well.. that was kind of easy. Our solution was practically all about cold storage of fruits and vegetables and it came in the form of a box. So we decided to call it COLDBOX.
How did you raise funding for your venture?
This was one of the tough parts for us. Initially, we had to bootstrap for a certain period, especially when we were trying to find product-market fit. Our parents complained that what we are venturing into is going to need a lot of capital and they can’t support it. We were lucky to have side projects that enabled us to build up our savings to finance our idea.
How many hours a day do you work on average?
I work between 10 to 12 hours daily
What have been your challenges so far?
Filling this gap in the supply chain is not without its own set of challenges. One of the biggest is educating farmers, retailers, and wholesalers on the advantages of using refrigeration and changing the way they traditionally operate. Securing our equipment against theft and running an all-cash business also poses challenges.
How do you define success?
Success for me is simply the achievement of one’s goal, whatever that goal might be
Talk about failure and starting your own business, should most entrepreneurs think that they may fail?
Yes, all entrepreneurs should think that they might fail. This keeps you realistic and on your toes and motivates you to work hard. If you think that it’s going to be easy or that you’re entitled to success, you probably won’t work hard. My first experience in business was difficult. Despite all of my shrewd planning, I wasn’t prepared for many of the surprises my first business threw at me – like how to not be shy with customers, and charge them. I broke even in my first year and watched my living expenses eat up my small life savings. But I was stubborn and determined as hell, and I spent every moment of every day making sure that it would work. I refused to fail and I did everything I could to make sure that I didn’t.
Have you ever turned down a customer?
Yes, we have turned down certain customers. The key is finding balance and knowing when you need to let them go. The biggest factor is if they value our services and what we provide. There needs to be mutual respect. If that respect is not there you do not have a good business relationship. Also when you let them go it is important to frame it the right way. You always have to be professional.
If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting, what would it be?
Make your future! Create and be part of something bigger than yourself. Nobody is going to give it to you; you have to work for your dreams. There are no guarantees on success. To win big you have to take calculated risks. You will find that nothing great just happens on its own, you can’t sit on the sidelines and wait for it. Be ruthlessly persistent and have a razor focus!