Nigeria: A snack food company founded with 960 naira

Debby Lawson, founder and COO of Fastizers, speaking during launch of the company’s Nibit brand.

Debby Lawson, founder and COO of Fastizers, speaking during launch of the company’s Nibit brand.

Debby Lawson, founder and COO of Fastizers, a Nigeria-based producer of cookies and snack foods, had not initially planned to start her own business. Her original goal was to build a career at a bank or in the oil industry.

Upon completing her university studies, Debby found herself employed at a bakery in Lagos while applying for jobs. She enjoyed the role as she always had a passion for cooking. Her responsibilities included not just baking, but also being involved in several other areas of the business ranging from managing employees to handling marketing and accounting tasks.

On an occasion where the bakery team had to work through the night to fulfil a large cookie order, Debby was struck with an idea: she could bake these cookies herself and have her sister sell them at her office. With just 1,000 naira (equivalent to US$1.11 at the current exchange rate), she purchased ingredients for her initial batch of cookies. “I returned home with only 40 naira left, so I always say Fastizers started with 960 naira,” she reminisces.

Utilising the ovens at the bakery, Debby created her first batch of cookies, packaging them in simple paper. She handed 20 packs to her sister, who managed to sell them all by noon. Encouraged, Debby increased the quantity to 30 packs the following day, and these too quickly sold out. Debby believed that a name and branding might boost her cookie sales even more. She named them Fun Cookies, a product that remains Fastizers’ flagship today. Sales also slowly expanded beyond her sister’s office to include a few local neighbourhood stores.

Juggling her job at the bakery with her burgeoning cookie venture soon became too challenging for Debby. Consequently, she decided to leave her position at the bakery. With no further access to the bakery’s ovens, she transitioned her operations to her sister’s small kitchen in a three-room flat. Her baking commenced every evening following the completion of family meals. “Sometimes I’d be in the kitchen at 2am baking cookies. But when you’re doing something you love, it really doesn’t feel like stress,” says Debby. “Seeing the progress, from 20 packs to 50 packs to 100 packs per day… It was exciting.”

Read our full article on Debby Lawson and Fastizers: How this cookie company cracked the Nigerian market