Bolemataz is a brand set to revolutionise how bole is sold in Nigeria. Bolemataz is an environment-conscious brand.
As popular as bole is in Nigeria, it’s sold and served differently, in different parts of Nigeria. In the Eastern part of Nigeria, it’s mostly served with beans or mmanụ nri (some palm oil sauce). In the West, it’s served or eaten alongside groundnut. In South-South, it’s served with some oil or peppery sauce alongside some “badass” (for lack of a better word to describe the taste of the) roasted fish.
Roadside sellers of bole sell in takeaway packs or wrapped in some old newspaper. But, Bolemataz has decided to give some prestige to the way they sell and package bole. Bole from Bolemataz comes in some nice package that may leave you wondering who sent you some pair of nice shoes. Who doesn’t like a nice pair of shoes? *winks*
Bolemataz which presently operates from a residential building in Egbeda is run by Sarah Akenbor and her partner, Lemo Ayodeji. They both take turns in making the delivery. You can make orders from their IG page, WhatsApp or any of their social media handles. And your bole would be delivered to you at home, at work or wherever you want it. At a very affordable price. And yeah, the bole is served in several ways.
For someone like me who didn’t grow up in Lagos (and not a big fan of eating bole and groundnuts), Bolemataz is the best option. And best believe the taste is just as great as its look. I’m sure you’d want to know why 21-year-old Sarah Akenbor, a graduate of animal and environmental biology took to making bole, and the journey so far. You’d find out in this exclusive interview. While at it, just place your order (if you are in Lagos) and be sure it would arrive by the time you are done reading this. Enjoy!
VUN: First, talk about yourself and how Bolemataz came about.
Bolemataz: My name is Sarah Akenbor. I am 21years, a graduate of animal and environmental biology from the University of Benin. During my time as a student, due to the dearth (the sellers were not constant) of roasted plantain on campus, I sought to do something about it and the idea was birthed in my mind.
During my first semester in the final year, I saw a poster of someone who had started and decided to lay it rest for the meantime as it was even my last session in school. I tried to get something kicking when I graduated. But, I started learning a different skill on the grounds that I had a short time before service.
Upon my return from service year, I decided to take the bull by its horns and do something about this dream. Here I am today operating on the online space after trying to launch Bolemataz in a university campus specifically the University of Lagos.
VUN: What has the experience been so far? Lessons learnt and the challenges?
Bolemataz: So, we are going to be two months in operation in November and we can only but thank God. We currently, still operate in a residential space. But, we are planning to get a physical structure to aid visibility very soon.
Lessons? Still learning. If it’s worth doing, do it, your future self will thank you.
Challenges – we’ve had challenges with delivery (across Lagos) to our amazing clients as we currently engage in the home and office deliveries. Another challenge is with visibility; to be seen by potential clients.
VUN: How do you handle the challenges or at least intend to handle the challenges?
Bolemataz: My partner and I take turns in delivering our products. Some clients go all the way in sending across their own delivery bikes or even coming to pick up from our place of business.
VUN: You could have delivered your bole in the normal takeaway packs that others use, but you took a different approach to the package. Why’s that?
Bolemataz: For visibility, we try to maximize the online space via Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. We are currently working on building a website too. The world is currently evolving, and as an environmental scientist, I strongly believe in growth. This is why I embraced paper bag packaging, which has been researched to be environmentally friendly and healthy to the final consumer in the long run. It is also very classy and beautiful.
VUN: Doesn’t it mean more cost?
Bolemataz: The health of our clients is of integral importance to us at Bolemataz not minding the cost. On the long run, paper packaging actually is cost effective.
VUN: How did your parents, family and friends react when you told them you were starting Bolemataz?
Bolemataz: Bolemataz is a journey headed towards clarity, is what I believe. Graduating at 19 from the University and then telling your parents that you want to do business specifically roasted plantain doesn’t get you a lot of back pats. But, I am grateful for my parents, family and friends. They are everything and more, I always say.
VUN: How did you meet your partner?
Bolemataz: I’d say, God, orchestrated the meeting cos he is a friend. I remember, I told you that I wanted to start the business in the University of Lagos campus. Because of the bureaucracy and the long neck involved in securing a space to do business; I had to seek other alternatives and try to find a way out. And get a solution.
One day, I was talking to this friend, I was actually ranting and telling him about this dream and all. He was like, “okay, how about we meet and talk about this dreams?” Then, we did. And then, he currently had some time in his hand. He is a PhD student, yeah, he’d soon be done. He was like, “okay, let’s do this”. The journey has been awesome. He was my friend before we became partners.
VUN: Sometimes partners who own startups and SMEs have issues. How have you been able to maintain a good working relationship with your partner?
Bolemataz: I’d be honest, it’s not exactly easy. I can’t just tell you it’s been rosy. We’d have our ups and downs days. Even though, we have been in operations for just a short time. But, what keeps us together is our wanting to do this together, trying to pull this off. And, having an agreement already on the ground, actually helps. So, that you do not cross lines, yes. We have been able to maintain a good working relationship by respecting each other and wanting only the complete satisfaction of our clients. That’s top priority for us. We try to maintain that.
VUN: What skills do one need to make great bole or make a business off selling bole?
Bolemataz: Customer service skills, marketing skills, advertising skills, leadership skills, administrative skills, (laughs). If we are going to be listing skills, we’d have so many skills. First off, there has to be a passion for serving people. Yes, that puts all of these things together. It’s like a bond holding it up together. I actually did a course with an experienced woman who has been making bole. So, I gained some hands-on experience. So, great bole is just awesome. It’s not anyhow bole. There are trade secrets to it. Bole is healthy, bole is amazing and one unique skill or one skill you have to develop or consider developing is your drive to serve people. That’s going to push you till you get your hands and your fingers burnt by hot coal. *laughs* You have to really really want to serve. This is pretty much for a whole lot of other businesses.
VUN: Talking about using an environmentally friendly package. A lot of brands in Nigeria aren’t going green yet. What do you think is the challenge and how can the brands be encouraged?
Bolemataz: We first have to understand that, pollution is a menace that we have to be awakened to. So, there has to be a lot of awareness as to how and to what extent plastic packaging has damaged our ecosystem. Like you earlier mentioned something about costing, we like to look short term, sometimes. Short term, you are thinking that “OMG it’s really really expensive to want to evolve into paper packaging for my product”. And there are products that you might not even be able to use paper packaging for. But, there are ways you can get around this. Some of us are not even aware of the effects, the menace that it causes, especially plastic packaging. It’s just crazy what it does to our ecosystem. Then, how can we encourage them? Awareness, awareness really! Then, grants to be given, so you can evolve to a much safe and environmentally friendly package. That’s what I think, yeah.
VUN: Do we expect that Bolemataz could branch into other businesses?
Bolemataz: You know, I said earlier that, Bolemataz is a journey headed towards clarity. So, yes, of course! We are excited about what the future holds and yeah. Sure!
VUN: Do you want to talk about the plans you have?
Bolemataz: I volunteer for organisations. This is me personally, that believes in young people. I write – I do freelance writing. I do a whole lot of other stuff. And I intend to pursue my education. I always say this, Bolemataz is going to lead us to some other things. I’m grateful for this opportunity to serve people on this platform.
VUN: Most female entrepreneurs identify as feminist, do you also identify?
Bolemataz: I believe in the woman community. I believe that no gender should be sidelined just because of their gender. I believe that women should be given equal rights.
VUN: What advice would you give other young entrepreneurs?
Bolemataz: You can and you should do it. You can do it. You should do it. So, you want your future self to be proud of your decisions today. Do not live the life of regret. Keep on pushing, keep on pushing. Above all, trust God.