Olubunmi Otufowora, a pharmacist with an MBA from the University of Lagos, is the founder and CEO of Boomsky Smoothies in Nigeria. She started out by selling smoothies to her office colleagues. These days the company’s smoothies and juices are available at several fast-food restaurants and supermarkets in Lagos. Jeanette Clark spoke to Otufowora about growing the business and dealing with cold-chain challenges.
Turning a craving into a business
Boomsky Smoothies began when the founder, Olubunmi Otufowora, blended fruit in 2008 to still her pregnancy cravings. She had no appetite for eating the whole fruit and opted to liquidise it instead. Her husband told her she had just made her first smoothie, a term unfamiliar to her until that day.
For two years, she mulled over the concept of a smoothie business before she took some samples into the office and asked interested colleagues whether they would like to place orders. Over a weekend in 2010, she withdrew 3,000 naira from her savings, bought produce, and blended and bottled it at home in her kitchen. The sales on Monday brought in 12,000 naira. “I’ve been blending ever since,” she says.
Slow organic growth before expansion
Otufowora registered the business – Boomsky is based on her nickname – but continued working at a telecoms company. For the first two years, Boomsky reached customers via word of mouth and events.
Then, in 2013, she pitched her preservative-free product to a quick-service restaurant. The restaurant insisted on a packaging upgrade before they would sell the smoothies. Otufowora complied, using money received from a federal government grant.
“It was the beginning of our expansion,” reveals Otufowora. It also kick-started the accreditation process with the authorities. Today, Boomsky Smoothies is accredited by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control and FIIRO-analysed (Federal Institute of Industrial Research Oshodi) for nutritional value.
Despite the products being listed in many quick-service restaurants, it did not immediately lead to large-scale production. Boomsky Smoothies were blended from Otufowora’s kitchen until 2017, when she finally turned her side hustle into her main business.
Moving out of the kitchen
Boomsky Smoothies currently rents a facility in Lagos on a long lease. With the funds received from a World Bank grant in 2019, the company expanded its production with additional equipment purchased. While the processing of the fruit is still a manual process, the blending and the sealing of the bottles are automated.
“The idea is to acquire our premises once this rental agreement expires,” Otufowora says.
Otufowora is adamant about keeping Boomsky Smoothies fresh and preservative-free. This poses challenges in terms of logistics and distribution.
The 11 flavours are supplied as chilled and frozen. “We sell the frozen version, with a shelf life of a month, to supermarkets,” she says. The fresh smoothies last around five days if stored correctly in refrigerators.
She decided very early on to invest in glass door display refrigerators after struggling with sales at the first quick-service restaurant. The restaurant stored them at the bottom of a cooler where no prospective customers could see them. “Investing in these chillers meant I could ensure visibility and control the temperature. This has assisted in pushing up sales.”
The erratic electricity supply in the country brings additional cold-chain headaches. “I have two generators and inverters at our production facility,” adds Otufowora. “I am considering investing in solar, but it is very expensive. We still suffer outages, which does hamper business.”
Raw material supply
The company has enjoyed little disruption in raw material supply over the years. Otufowora has fine-tuned her procurement strategy, understanding which fruits can be purchased during certain seasons and frozen for later use, or when to buy just out of season to get a better price.
This year, Boomsky purchased a truck for the collection of fresh fruit from farmers and markets, further simplifying and streamlining the supply side.
Sales channels: From supermarkets and restaurants to WhatsApp and Instagram
The channel with the fastest growth in sales remains quick-service restaurants. However, Boomsky Smoothies has been in talks with a third-party distribution company. Otufowora believes finding a successful model to maintain the cold chain would drive expansion outside of Lagos State, where the company currently sells its products in over 50 outlets as well as at schools and events.
“We know there is demand. People have reached out to ask about wider availability,” she says. “I think this is driven by an increased awareness around healthy living and eating, post-Covid-19, as well as the convenience factor of smoothies.”
“Covid-19 was a turning point. When everything shut down, we were making no sales. One day, I decided I would not sit around and wait for our demise. I sent out a WhatsApp chat to indicate we could do home deliveries,” says Otufowora. “We received several large orders.”
Boomsky’s strategy at the moment is that it will make every order happen, no matter how. Whether it is from the online store, via WhatsApp, a telephone call or even a comment on Facebook or Instagram.
Boomsky Smoothies CEO Olubunmi Otufowora’s contact information
Contact details are only visible to our Monthly/Annual subscribers. Subscribe here.