Enterprise Story of Deji Akinyanju
Mr. Deji Akinyanju founded Food Concept and Entertainment Plc in 1999 and serves as its Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director. Mr. Akinyanju started his career with Accenture (formerly Andersen Consulting) in London. He serves as a Director of Food Concept and Entertainment Plc.
After 16 years in the United Kingdom, He returned home to found one of Nigeria’s most successful food retailers. “I felt driven to go back and make an impact,” he said on his decision to return home.
Today, 42 year old Akinyanju heads one of Nigeria’s fastest growing retail chains valued at about $120 million. With about $2 million (N320 million) in seed funding raised from family and friends, he initially had a franchise deal with Chicken Licken, South Africa but quickly established his own brand Chicken Republic. In 2003, he opened a bakery outlet, Butterfield Bakery (a South African brand), which soon became Nigeria’s largest bakery. Deji also own Reeds Thai Restaurant in Lagos and the St. Elmos Pizza franchise in Nigeria.
He says that the market is being driven by the youth. “They want to associate themselves with modern brands and modern ways of eating.”
Since founding Chicken Republic he has grown it to over 70 outlets. When asked by CNBC
on how his business ventures became successful, he said, “When I started, I didn’t have much experience. If you have passion, the rest is easy to learn, but you can’t teach somebody to be passionate.”
However, success came with its burdens and challenges. In the early years, his company acquired quite a bit of debt to fund its expansion. “We had a strong cash flow but we also had obligations to banks and the business wasn’t profitable. We spent a lot servicing our debt.” In 2008, his company raised an additional $30 million to finance its expansion plans.
According to him, “There is still no strong brand across West Africa, so for instance if you were to go to Ghana you will find three stores run by a particular brand and if you were to go Ivory Coast, you may not find that brand in Ivory Coast, so we have this entire West coast market.”
“Nigerian brands want to be global brands,” he says. “And why not? We have a lot of foreign brands in our market. If you apply the right principles, it doesn’t matter where you come from, you should be able to fly anywhere.”