Happy International Women’s Day!! This day celebrates the women who have paved the way for us. The women who dared to dream big dreams and overcome every obstacle in their way so that our world would be a better place today. The women who lift us up and help us to shine brighter. Let’s celebrate the women around us this International Women’s Day and beyond!
In honour of International Women’s Day I interviewed Folayemi, owner of Yemides Kitchen. Folayemi is a self-made business owner who has founded an amazing business. Not only is she a great business owner, but she’s also a great friend and role model who inspires those around her. I wanted to hear more from her and her business to get a behind-the-scenes look at how she manages to do all the great things that she does.
Can you give us a short introduction to who you are and the type of business you run?
My name is Folayemi Ojo and I wear several hats. I’m a lover of God, wife to an amazing husband, Gospel minister, certified project manager, youth advocate and avid entrepreneur with a passion to provide value and positive impact to my generation and those to come. I’m the founder of Yemides Kitchen, an Afro-Caribbean catering and educational company in the UK that provides both catering and private dining experiences for clients, as well as opportunities for people and communities to learn and develop interests and skills in the culinary arts of Afro-Caribbean cuisine.
How have you been lately?
Personally, I’ve been good and I really can’t complain. The past year has been challenging to say the least but in it all I’m doing my best to adapt, be flexible, and see things from an optimistic perspective which has been good also for my personal development and wellbeing too. Honestly, business has been quieter over the past year with Covid-19 and the lockdown measures, it was definitely a shock to us all. However, I believe it served as a wake up call to many businesses and entrepreneurs around the world and has given us a glimpse of what the near future might look like in terms of digital transformation and how the world would be run.
The pandemic has made me introspect about how necessary it is for businesses to be able to shape-shift. Personally, I have been reshaping and identifying different arms of my business that I can improve or create more of to ensure that my business is staying relevant and current amidst all types of climates, be it in a pandemic, economic crisis, unrest – I want Yemides Kitchen to always be in a position whereby it’s solving problems for our clients as well as thriving in our industry.
One of the ways I’ve been able to adapt quickly in terms of immediate response to the pandemic and lockdowns is by strengthening the logistics side of the business. I have been able to take huge orders (meal preps) and safely deliver to clients outside my immediate environment in a timely manner without bridging any of the lockdown rules. This has taken the pressure off many of my clients as many of them were working from home and juggling multiple priorities during the lockdown. Additionally, I was able to tap into an aspect of the business that I’d wanted to do for a long time but didn’t have the time as of then. I wanted to put out more educational content around cooking for all ages so I piloted some virtual cooking classes and short courses which allowed me to share my love for cooking to a range of different audiences that I probably wouldn’t have reached. I also started providing clients with tailored WELLBEING cooking classes to help alleviate stress, anxiety and depression. This has been an eye opener for me and it’s something I’m working on more this year in establishing as part of what Yemides Kitchen can offer – so watch this space!
What has your experience been like being a black woman starting your own business from scratch?
Firstly, starting a business from scratch has its challenges and all the emotions you feel isn’t something anyone can fully prepare you in advance for BUT it’s been an inspiring and humbling journey to say the least and I wouldn’t change it for anything. For me, I had to learn by failing; I made efforts to get a mentor in the food space to guide me through the business of it but to no avail. When you first start, it’s really you who is the company, you are the founder, social media manager, customer support, delivery staff, chef, sales person, brand ambassador and every other position needed to run the business. It’s definitely taught me how to be even more organised, creative and adaptable to every situation.
Being a black woman running a food business from scratch has been quite rewarding in many ways. Aside from my clients positively affirming me with their amazing feedback and reviews, I’ve been told by others, especially other black females, how much I inspire them. To me, that’s everything. If what I’m doing and the challenges I go through by running Yemides Kitchen, inspires one or two black people that they too can start a business or they can do that thing they love, then I’ve accomplished my goal of impacting my generation.
What inspired you to take that first step and start up your business?
Whenever I get asked this question, people always laugh when I tell them the truth. I actually started it because I needed some extra cash at university. You know university can be very expensive and in my first year my student finance wasn’t great. When I realised people loved my food and were more than willing to pay for it, I had to leverage on that to meet my needs instead of giving in to social vices. So, I actually wanted some financial independence and cooking for others was a way I could do that.
Is there anything you would do differently if you were able to start from the beginning?
Oh yes definitely, I would put more thought into what the business should accomplish beyond just making cash but something larger than myself – thinking more long-term and timeless impacts.
How do you stay motivated?
Having the bigger picture in mind definitely keeps me motivated. When I think of where I see Yemides Kitchen in the next 5-10 years, I get so excited about it and it helps me keep going. Having some kind of plan or road map on how to achieve this also helps me stay motivated because I can track where I am and how much more I need to do or put in to get to my destination. I’d say also having a wealth of people in your circle who encourage, uplift, affirm and support you through the entire process and I’ve been super blessed to have a very strong support system around me.
What advice would you give to women aspiring to become business owners?
This is one of the best times to start a business in all honesty so my one advice to any young girl, lady or woman aspiring to become business owners is simply to start now, fail fast, take those learnings and build upon that. You’ll keep improving and learning as you go but this won’t happen until you start and accept that failing fast helps you get to your goal quicker.
What do you suggest could be done to support female business owners?
Support and belief in female business owners. I know that there’s loads of support now for female-led businesses and organizations or help aimed at women of colour, but this wasn’t the case say 2 years ago. It took a global pandemic, BLM protests for such responses to happen. So, I’d definitely say that more support and mentorship specifically for female-led businesses is so great and we all need to believe that female business owners can be successful too.
What are the 3 most important lessons you have learned running your own business?
Stay in your lane, master your own craft and your uniqueness and the value you bring will shine through! Success is more to do with building those around you and being a positive voice in your space! Customers are part of your business circle, treat them like family!
Do you find it hard to take time off from working to rest?
Honestly, finding that balance between work and life is difficult to achieve especially when you have a regular 9-5 job and a business to run simultaneously. Prior to starting the business, cooking was purely what I did to relax and de-stress because it’s something I enjoy. After it became a business, it was more than just something I enjoy, it became an actual service to others. So many times because of the type of person I am, I’m always planning, thinking of new ideas, ways to improve, be better and offer the best experiences to my customers. This is great because it keeps me on my toes, but it can also be exhausting because I find it hard to switch off when I try to relax etc. However, it’s something I’m consciously working on each day. I’m practicing being more kind and understanding to myself and being very strict on my daily schedule by factoring in some time to rest. Now rest can be in the form of a short nap, watching my fav series, quick stretch, painting, taking a walk, or anything else that gets me moving, away from my screen and focusing on another thing.
Is there a particular phrase or statement you live by?
Oh yes, there are a few actually. The main one for me which I often remind myself of daily is ‘Focus on the things that you can control and have faith that God has got you covered regardless – YOU ARE DESTINED FOR GREATNESS’.
Do you have any new projects coming up? / Have you just completed a project / reached a milestone?
Yes and Yes. So I’ve just finished writing an Afro-Caribbean inspired children’s cookbook called Ola’s Kitchen Diaries. The book is one of 4 that I intend to write showcasing easy afro-Caribbean inspired recipes that I grew up eating and those I’ve picked up on along the way. The children cookbooks combine storytelling and cooking to inspire and up-skill young people’s cooking skills as well as encouraging relationships building between parents, guardians and young people. Please do look out for these as they’ll be available towards the end of March.
Check out more from Folayemi and her business!
Youtube: YeMides’ Kitchen