‘People believe that local food should be sold in a dirty and smoky environment’ – Mowunmi Onisasun
Tell us about yourself
My name is Olayinka Omowunmi, that is where the mowunmi from the brand name comes from. I am a graduate of English Language and Literary Studies from the University of Ado-Ekiti. NYSC brought me to Ibadan, and I decided to stay back.
What brought about the passion of cooking and the brand ‘ Mowunmi_Onisasun’?
My cooking. Well, what inspired me is that I hate to eat out. No matter how tasty or nice looking the food might be, I don’t get satisfied. I complain so much. I am very particular about food. So I prepare every food by myself. About the brand name, it was a friend that gave me the ‘onisasun’. she said I am not girly, i don’t do pasta that am a local babe, so tagged me ‘onisasun’. And when I was going to register, we had lots of names, ‘Onisasun’ was the only unregistered name.
What made you choose Ibadan, all the way from Ekiti State?
I was initially posted to Plateau State,but it was too far away from home, so I relocated to Ibadan. In the place I served, I was working on the topmost floor, and the only challenge I have there was eating. I leave home very early, so I don’t have time to prepare food before leaving, the only option I had was to eat at Shoprite, and it was very expensive. I also noticed that the people at that building wait till evening for the road-side food sellers. When I noticed this challenge, I wrote to my management, and I started bringing food to the office to sell. After a while, I got a space on the second floor and because we are not allowed to cook in the complex, I cook from home and bring it to the office.
On the reason why I choose Ibadan, Ekiti was a comfort zone for me (I would have had it too easy), Lagos was too expensive for a start-up like me(so to say); getting an apartment and getting a shop space, while leaving Ibadan might cost me losing my existing customers. So instead of going back to Ekiti, I stayed back, because everything would be for free, to use the shop and the likes. It won’t be challenging for me,it would be something I got on a platter of gold.
At some point, after three months of taking food to the complex, I knew that I needed to launch out, it didn’t take me too long to realize. So I stopped taking food there, and I started doing bulk orders. I cook soups of different kinds. And I started looking for shop space which took me like two years to get what I really I want.
How do you compete with other popular brands around? What is your selling point?
They are not my competitors to say. When I was going to open the restaurant, I went round and explored on things I need to work on. I took their weaknesses as my strong point. People believe that local food should be sold in a dirty and smoky environment. I got a perfect place and I wasn’t going to sell tush, I was going to make amala the Ibadan way, but not in a dirty environment.
Secondly, in Ibadan as big as it is,people eat out a lot but nobody sells with the local black pot. We sell with local black pots because we are Yorubas. When people come in and they say ‘onisasun’ what is so special about it?and we present the pot, they say ‘I want to eat from it’ and we charge them for eating from it.
And lastly, which is the most driving selling point, I am young. When people come here they ask for the woman and they are surprised that it is not actually a woman, and that she is not the iya olounje.
Tell us about other delicacies you offer here?
We do ofada, semo and egusi and lots of soup for outdoor occasions.
As a digitally inclined person, do you think you can use social media to promote your business?
Most of the people I met was via online before they came down here. So internet has been a very effective tool in promoting my business.
There is this common saying that food prepared on the firewood is usually sweeter than that prepared on stoves or cookers. How true is this?
It is not so true, because even with the table gas cooker you can make the ‘party jollof rice’ and if you are not told that it is prepared with the gas cooker, people will not know. The only thing about the firewood is the sweat, and you are punishing yourself.
One of the things my daddy told me when I was going to start is ‘you will get old on time because of fire’. But he had forgotten that was in the time past, now we are evolving, things has changed.
What are the challenges you have faced as a start-up business owner in Ibadan?
So far, it has been very challenging. The government is really draining us. Oyo State Government is not helping at all, they would bring charges of waste disposal, power supply and the likes. These are charges that we have paid, our registration has covered it.
Local government people too will come asking us to pay for the same thing every time which we have paid. They will say they are not the same person meanwhile we have receipts.
The environmental sanitation people will claim they are different from waste disposal people and they exhort money from us.
Below are some of the delicacies prepared by mowunmi_onisasun