It is commonplace to hear people talk about how Africa produces the world’s largest amounts of cocoa but holds very little market share in the global chocolate market but Oluwajare- the Chocboy- is changing fast redefining that narrative.
Oluwajare Fola-Bolumole, Is the CEO and Chief Chocolatier at The ChocBoy Brand -A Nigerian chocolate company
The Mechanical Engineering graduate from the University of Ibadan has always been a big business enthusiast. “While in the University, I ran a rental service, renting projectors and plastic chairs to departments and fellowships. I also started a network of lesson teachers. All I was about was identifying needs in my environment and sort out ways to solve those I could within my personal capacity. I sold clothes and I had a lot of interest in computers. I had learnt web design while I was in JSS 3 so I also designed website. I am a strong lover of music and typical me, I like to turn what I love into a business so I learnt music production and produced a couple of beats for upcoming acts in the university. I had always loved to create things from what I love.”
The company’s name Chocboy evolved from what people generally called him in the University when he started selling imported chocolate to people who had birthdays and for valentines. “It is short for Chocolate Boy.”
The business was cofounded by Oluwajare and his wife Oluwabunmi Fola-Bolumole Nee Tokun in 2012 and located in Ibadan, Nigeria.
The ChocBoy brand is a chocolate brand that makes chocolates, chocolate treats, chocolatey desserts and all chocolate derivatives. With a vision to turn around the fact that Nigeria grows cocoa, exports it and then imports the derivatives. “We are constantly working to refine cocoa and use every part of it for everything it can be used for.”
“The idea started as a casual conversation in my then girlfriends (who is now my wife) room. Her friend was travelling out to the US and she told her to help buy some chocolates as a gift and I said she should buy a lot more that I will sell it all the next year which was a month away. That is how it all started. I packaged all the imported chocolates and sold them in different packaging for valentines. This was 2011.”
“Starting was very interesting because we basically were importing products then. Funding was basically from friends, family and personal savings. Product development started when we decided it was enough, we were no longer going to be importing products which we had been doing for 3 years. I decided I will learn how to make them myself. Very limited resources were online to learn from but I practiced as much as I could with what I could find. A lot of trial and error and product sampling with family and friends.Eventually I had an opportunity I saw on a training in the US. I signed up for the training and I went to New York to learn chocolate candy production.
After the training, I came back to Nigeria to come and adapt all I had learnt and modify it for our unique weather condition. Product development took 8 months and by December our annual chocolate party which by then we had done for 3 years, we tested our products with over 4000 people who were in attendance in Ibadan. By the next year April 2016 precisely, we officially launched the products (our chocolate bars). We have them in Milk, White and Dark variants.” Oluwajare says.
“Typical start up challenges. Funds, fear of product acceptance, getting the word out adequately with little funds, power, storage and the likes. Currently we are only working with 5% of our knowledge capacity and this is limited in terms of funding. Loans can be processed but we will need a longer time before we commence paying back so we look out for investments and grants which give us longer time for proof of concept on the larger scale.”
The Chocboy plans to eliminate Nigeria’s dependence on exporting cocoa and importing the derivatives to refining, processing and exporting finished products of cocoa
hence they are proud to have transitioned from being an importer of branded chocolates to being a producer from all the raw materials available here in Nigeria as well as Launching of their chocolate spread and chocolate syrup products.”Value addition might really be more expensive though probably more rewarding. I personally like the whole chain. From the production to value addition I want to do it all.”
Advice to young Agripreneurs
Value addition is lucrative, very lucrative if money is your drive but painstaking if making it quick is how you want to get it. That is the pure truth. Know well that the need for food will never runout or reduce in this world so no matter what part of the chain you want to belong, you are likely to be in high demand for a very long time.