No Hustle is Ever Smooth, Not even when it’s about Smoothies

From randomly selling smoothies out of the back of a friend’s kitchen, Smoothie Express has grown into a company with over 27 smoothie varieties and more than 50,000 cups sold in just two years.

The ‘Aha!’ Moment

After several not-so-successful dieting efforts, Tracy Owamagbe finally struck gold when a new smoothie detox she had come up with began to work very well for her. However, there was a problem; the smoothie took too long to make, and Tracy, living in Lagos Mainland and working on the Island, didn’t have so much time of her own. She tried waking up earlier than she used to, which was already before dawn, but the stress of dashing off to work so early and returning so late at night was just too strenuous for her. She was loving the smoothie though. Even though they would have loved to, the stress involved didn’t allow her colleagues copy her smoothie recipe for themselves. That was when the idea to make and sell smoothies first came to Tracy. Her friends and colleagues demonstrated a willingness to buy hers though, if she was willing to sell. “So, why not?” she thought. “What if I formulate dieting solutions for people eager to live healthier lifestyles but are held back by busy work schedules?”

Tracy was excited by her idea, and she did what most people who are excited would do; she called her best friend, Omowunmi Akande, her confidante since university days. Omowunmi herself was on the dieting path and so didn’t need much convincing. They had seen an idea that wasn’t peculiar to them alone, so they went for it. As far as they could see at the time, it was to be simple:  Make and deliver Smoothies across the Lagos metropolis for fees. Consequently, they set up Smoothie Express as a side hustle. Smoothie Express because the aim was to deliver smoothies to customers within minutes. True to their expectations, their products were well received, even prompting them to leave their regular jobs and focus on their hustle.

The-Not-So-Smoothie-Path-To-Success

Riding on the thrill of their dream, Tracy and Omowunmi individually injected N500,000 from their savings into Smoothie Express and started operating off the kitchen of a friend in Victoria Island, Lagos. Their ambition was to become a food and beverage company that provides credible diet alternatives to individuals seeking healthy and fit lifestyles. They incorporated the business in September 2014 and commenced operations in December of the same year. They bought a motorcycle for deliveries but it was taking too long to complete the registration process, so Tracy had to give up her car in the meantime. A little while after that, their friend asked them to move from his kitchen because their agreement to use it for only a month had expired.

Due to the lack of an operational base, they closed shop temporarily. During the closure, revenues ceased, but overheads like the salaries of their three staff continued to run. After three long months there was a development: they found a place where, in place of rent, they had to pledge 50% of their revenues. Out of options and desperate to recommence operations, they took up the offer and operated within that framework for eighteen months. The good thing was that the revenue from their business continued to rise, until they were able to break free from the laborious agreement and rent their own place. As their prospects grew, so did the need for quality control. “Customers expect nothing less than perfect food/beverage not withstanding anything all the time. So as a food company, we work extra hard to make sure there is quality control checks all day every day.

The Journey So Far

From randomly selling smoothies out of the back of a friend’s kitchen, Smoothie Express has grown into a company with over 27 smoothie varieties and more than 50,000 cups sold in just two years.  The business has expanded to include sandwiches, iced teas, and salads and it is steadily growing closer to branching into other major cities in Nigeria. “When we started, our long-term plan was to have at least 10 mini bars across the major cities in Nigeria and to sell at least 1,000 smoothies daily,” said Tracy. “While we are yet to have our 10 mini bars, we are already selling more than 100 cups of smoothies from one delivery location (not even a mini bar) daily. So, yeah, our dreams are gradually coming true.”

Smoothie Express and the SME MarketHub

One of the key factors responsible for the growth of their business is the SME MarketHub, an online vendors’ hub that promotes small businesses by offering them free online storefronts and extensive visibility. Their products can be viewed and ordered from their storefront here.

Smoothie Express at the GTBank Food and Drink Fair

Smoothie Express was also at the GTBank Food And Drink Fair held on the 30th of April and 1st of May, 2017 where they sold more than 1,000 smoothies over the two-day period. “The event was amazing,” said Omowunmi. “We made our biggest daily sales ever in those two consecutive days. I think it’s fantastic what GTBank is doing for small businesses like ours, because it is not always just about money to do business. It’s also about having access to customers, and we got so much of that at the GTBank Food and Drink Fair.”

Friends as Business Partners – A Blessing or A Curse?

It is believed in some circles – and with reasonable arguments too –  that friendship should not be mixed with business. Tracy and Omowunmi disagree. “I believe that the secret to a successful friendship and business relationship lies in making decisions logically and not emotionally; in setting a clear structure and having a concrete vision,” says Tracy. Omowunmi concurs: “Differences are bound to rise, but instead of relying on feelings, we both lay out our arguments and try to convince each other or meet each other half way. Sometimes we just agree to agree. The most important thing is that we share a common vision for our business, so I doubt any of us would ever do anything detrimental to Smoothie Express.”