ENTREPRENEUR: How Mabel Akinlabi went from birthdays to big business
Mabel Akinlabi was hosting her daughter’s 11th birthday party when she came up with the idea of an extra treat, corndogs. Long a part of American cuisine, these consist of a sausage — usually a vienna — on a stick, coated with a thick layer of cornmeal batter and deep fried.
Akinlabi consulted Google for the ingredients and began mixing the batter. Soon she discovered that the corndogs were so popular she couldn’t make them fast enough.
Akinlabi, now CEO of Browns Foods, and her husband, Wale, who is operations manager, have taken corndogs to a new level. Their company, Browns Foods, supplies Browns Corndogs to Checkers stores nationally as well as to other retailers.
This month marks the company’s first full year in production; it’s two years since the business started. It now employs 40 people.
The couple have a background in broadcasting. They run a TV station called Urban TV, an Afro youth lifestyle cable channel that Mabel describes as similar to Vuzu and MTV, both youth-orientated channels. Urban TV is aimed at millennials and their successors, Generation Z, and is shown in some African countries.
“I love feeding my family and I couldn’t stop thinking how the children kept asking for more corndogs,” says Mabel.
She asked Uber Eats and Mr D which corndogs were available; there were none. “I thought: ‘How is this possible in this day and age?’”
Mabel bought some viennas (they’re always chicken) and yellow maize, made a batter, and using a braai skewer, dipped the viennas in the batter. She made a few corndogs for her husband and for her children’s lunches.
“My children said their friends wanted more. I realised people really like them.”
The couple knew they were onto something, but food production and retail were new to them. Mabel’s first stop was the head office of Shoprite, which owns Checkers. She was asked to bring samples, and half-an-hour after she had met the Shoprite buyer, Promise Mpele, she got a call saying the chain was interested.
Courtesy of Business Live – read full article here.