Peju Ugboma: Mum, Gourmet Baker and Business Woman
“I have chosen not to see my actions as failures but as learning curves” – Peju Ugboma
The importance of innovation in entrepreneurship cannot be stressed enough. It gives the market an opportunity to try new products and solutions. This is what Peju Ugboma, founder of I Luv Desserts Limited, has achieved with her line of easy bake frozen cookie dough. We now have access to fresh cookies whenever we want and the “lite” version for those of us watching our waistlines will be launched this summer. Worthy of note is that Peju is a pioneer of this class of products in West Africa. Her business also includes an event catering arm which won awards in 2012 and 2013. Please, read on to know more about Peju and I Luv Desserts.
NMO: Tell us about yourself.
PEJU: My name is Peju Ugboma. I own and run I Luv Desserts Limited, a desserts and sweet treats catering company. We are the pioneers of “Frozen Cookie Dough Range” in West Africa. I am married with two beautiful daughters.
NMO: What were you doing prior to starting your business?
PEJU: Prior to starting I Luv Desserts Limited eight years ago, I worked as the Lead Business strategist for a Travel and Insurance company. The team and I worked on coming up with dynamic ideas for the company.
NMO: How did the idea for “I Luv Desserts Limited” come about?
PEJU: I Luv Desserts was borne out of curiosity or shall we say admiration for super chefs. My favourite TV station at some point was Food Network, which I could sit and watch it all day. I found it fascinating that they could convert simple ingredients like flour, sugar and cream to fabulous looking desserts. I started experimenting in my kitchen and I found that I really enjoyed it. So naturally, when I was leaving paid employment, I decided it had to do something I enjoyed. It had to be either baking or travelling. Travelling couldn’t have worked out at that point because I just got married and it didn’t seem right to me. I opted for baking but first, I needed to learn properly. I then started taking classes in and out of Nigeria to learn all about desserts. Eight and half years after, here we are.
NMO: Tell us more about “I Luv Desserts”.
PEJU: The business has evolved quite a bit now and a lot more people are open to desserts both at home and at their events.
NMO: How do you go about marketing your business/brand?
PEJU: I say it to everyone who cares to listen that, my customers are the best thing since sliced bread. Word of mouth remains my biggest and best marketing tool till date. It spreads like fire. I have customers who have taken it upon themselves to market I Luv Desserts at every given opportunity. So, word of mouth and social media. In the past 2 or 3 years, social media has raked in the highest number of clients for us.
NMO: What were the challenges you faced when you started?
PEJU: The major challenges I faced when I started out were 1. Convincing people that I could handle their orders…you know assuring them that I could deliver on whatever promises I made to them at the point of ordering. 2. Adapting all that I learnt from culinary school in France to what was available locally and buying produce at a reasonable price to be able to make a profit 3. Convincing people to try different desserts from what they were used to.
NMO: Do you still face any challenges e.g. Competition?
PEJU: Some of these challenges are still there but they are better managed now. And oh yes, competition is real too but you just must focus on your own race, otherwise you would realise that you are fighting unnecessary battles.
NMO: Where do you see “I Luv Desserts Limited” in the long term?
PEJU: In the future, I want to be known as the Martha Stewart and/or The Mrs Fields of Africa. These are women who have done excellently in their chosen fields.
NMO: What are your bestsellers in your product range?
PEJU: Our bestsellers are our cheesecake range and cookies. I feel it depends on the crowd being catered to. Some of our older crowds will stick to things like cream caramel and gateaux because it’s what they are used to.
NMO: Are your children big fans of your products?
PEJU: My children love desserts and sweet treats. I am however cautious of what I let them have these days. If I allow it, they would ask for desserts after every meal.
NMO: When did you first become a mum?
PEJU: I became a mum in 2009.
NMO: Please share your experience with us.
PEJU: Nothing can compare to the feeling of becoming a mum. Nothing ever! It was too surreal for me. I had had four miscarriages and a myomectomy before I finally had my first baby.
NMO: What was your most useful baby product?
PEJU: Most useful baby product then was ori… good old ori (Shea Butter) did wonders for both me and baby.
NMO: How do you balance family commitments with your business commitments?
PEJU: Balancing family and business commitment was hard initially because I didn’t want my baby out of my sight even though I had my mum and mum in law around. I had to chill at some point because it was wearing me out. The first day I left her with her Grandmas, I was probably calling every 20 mins to be sure she was okay until my mums threatened that they would turn off their phones if I called again. It was much easier after that. When I finally admitted to myself that I had capable hands, work life was much easier.
NMO: What is the best advice that you received that has helped you as a mum?
PEJU: Best advice that I received that has helped as a mummy is accepting that no two children are the same. You must treat each child as their own person.
NMO: In your opinion, what skills are required to be a successful entrepreneur?
PEJU: To be a successful entrepreneur, it is very important to have all the following in the right mix. Grace + resilience + innovation and creativity + patience
NMO: What have been some of your failures, and what have you learned from them?
PEJU: I have chosen not to see my actions as failures but as learning curves. There is a time for everything, running ahead of your capabilities helps no one. I have learnt to be patient.
NMO: How would you advise someone who would like to start their own business? If she is a mum?
PEJU: If you are starting out your business, the best piece of advice I can give you is to prioritise. What is more important? For me, family time shouldn’t be compromised on, there will be days you would have to make exceptions, but, find a way to make up for it. I always say start small and dream mega.
To contact I Luv Desserts Limited:
telephone: 08166300500, 08099351000