Not many bakers have survived the harsh economic climate of Nigeria. Therefore, when you find one that has not only weathered the storm, but is also raising a set of professionals in the industry through the Fylgapp Bakery School, it is important to turn the spotlight on them.
Mr Olumide Sanda shared with NewsBreakers on this edition of SME Showcase how his initial investment of N200 in teaching how to bake bread has empowered about two thousand people and yielded huge profits.
Twenty years down the line, Fylgapp Bakery and Bread School, is going onward and upward, raising a new generation of bakers and creating jobs. A trained Industrial and Personnel Manager, Sanda’s unflinching passion for food production, particularly bread baking, has grown beyond baking to the point where he can groom and “teach bread with everything within” him.
Fylgapp Bread School emerged in 2004, driven by the huge opportunities in the baking industry and the fulfilment that comes with raising a generation of entrepreneurs that will influence the economic growth of the country. The Fylgapp boss explains his motivation for going into the business:
“I wanted to raise money to purchase something, and I said, let me teach people. I advertised in my church, printed fliers with N200, and five people came and paid me N5000 each. It was as if I had hit a jackpot. N25,000 with an investment of N200! It was attractive.
“But along the line, I discovered a lot of people needed to be trained. I didn’t know much myself, so, I had to equip myself, learning at two bakery schools, and through personal development.”
Over the years, Fylgapp Bread School has trained about 2000 people within the shores of Nigeria and beyond, in the art of baking. Sanda said, “Among them, some have started (their own bakery) and some come for training and get distracted and lose the flair and passion. If you don’t have passion for it, you won’t do it. But those that have passion for it have started; I can boast of a lot of students, who by doggedness and determination, started, some with half bag, 10 kg, and so on. The whole idea is you getting your own cut in the market.”
According to him, bakery is a growing and profitable business in Lagos, giving the increasing population in the megacity the chance to be gainfully employed. However, he lamented that while some bakeries are scaling the hurdle of producing 1 bag of flour per day to 20 bags, many have gone down the pan, either because of loss of passion or other factors. Nonetheless, the Lagos Business School-trained baker stressed that lack of patience and expertise are the clog in the wheel of a baker’s progress, enumerating the importance of training and starting small, climbing up the ladder one rung at a time.
Sanda’s experience in the business has also taught him the importance of adequate planning and management in the execution of business ideas. He believes that investing so much money in a business as a start-up is not the best.
He said: “Some other ones come and want to start very big, and in the process of starting big, you will definitely crash. It has to be a gradual build-up, because you don’t have the money to keep pumping in. So, if you start big, you’ll see yourself pumping money from other sources, and before you know it, you don’t have where to pump the money from again.
“Start small, grow the market, see what the market potential looks like before you put in all your money. Once it grows, it can be sustained, but if you start big, it can’t be because it’s like you are forcing the market on people.”
Speaking on the significance of training in attaining success in whatever venture one aspires to enter, he said, “People come to us to write business plans, and the first question I ask them is: have you been trained? I say look, I prefer you undergo training and you may not even need us to prepare a business plan after you are trained. From what you have learnt, you can go back and write one. If you pay me for a business plan, I collect good money from it, depending on what I want to package for you. But if you are trained, you know it yourself; you are equipped. So, by the time you ask questions in class, do your research, and get a business plan template, you will know what and what to write. And you will be putting things down based on the practical, not what somebody else told you.
He also emphasised that bakery owners should have a deep knowledge about what goes down in bread production: from material costing to sales, overhead cost and general bakery management. This he believes will help rescue the business from sabotage by workers.
Illustrating this, he said, “All flours are not the same. You might be lucky to get the ones that can absorb more water, and the more water it can absorb, the more loaves you can get from the bag. If you have the knowledge, your baker will not dictate for you. But if you don’t know it, your baker will know it and could be making an extra four loves per bag on you. And if you are baking 10 bags a day, that is 30 loaves, and he will pocket the money.”
Youths should come into Bakery Business
Mr Olumide Sanda believes that the key to reducing unemployment is for youths to think entrepreneurship, taking advantage of opportunities around them. Although the establishment of the Fylgapp Bread School is to empower youths, Sanda said the company has not yet seen the expected turn out of young people to learn.
He said, “Interestingly, I started this training because of young people, but I have not seen them yet. I started the training as a young person, and I thought I was going to see a lot of young people. It seems young people are looking for corporate jobs and when they get into the corporate industries, they discover the need for other streams of income. Whereas, there are opportunities in bakery. People want to walk into a bread shop and buy their loaves of bread fresh. That is an opportunity.”
He added that these opportunities abound in Lagos and outside Lagos. Disagreeing with the common ‘no money’ ideology that has held many bound from launching the ventures, in his opinion, raising the capital is not a challenge as the Bank of Industry has allowed access to low interest loans.
Furthermore, the baker decried the mind-set that bakery business is for the illiterate because of the notion of ‘Agege bread’. The popularity of smart and viable bread shops has over time proven the falsehood of such idea. Fortunately, almost everything is available at the beck and call of this generation, including the social media, Sanda noted. Hence, anyone anywhere can learn anything including baking by just going online.
Bakers in Training
As a corporate social responsibility, Fylgapp Bread School’s programme called Bakers in Training is established to empower the less privileged. Bakers in Training is a paid internship programme, in which selected persons are trained on bread baking.
Sanda said, “We partner with individuals to buy one bread box to support the bakers in training. We train them for two months and help them get jobs. We encourage the women to apply for loan to start their own bakeries.”
Sanda added that most of the beneficiaries of this programme have been women who have been divorced by their husbands, and ladies who have been victims of sexual abuse and other emotional challenges. This, according to the business owner, is social entrepreneurship, which is aimed at ameliorating the socioeconomic conditions of the people.
Facing the Challenge of Electricity
Speaking on the challenging situation Nigerian industrialists find themselves because of lack of basic infrastructures such as electricity and an enabling environment, the industrial management expert stressed the need for the government to revisit its policies.
He said, “They should change the policies. We are working with obsolete ideas. The population of Nigeria has grown beyond when the power was stable. They should come up with policies that will affect the common man. I think that the way telecommunications was approached is the same way power should be approached.
Sanda added that it is pertinent for the country at this time to move beyond just power distribution into more of power generation.
“At Winners’ Chapel, Canaanland, they generate their power. At the Redemption Camp too, they generate their power. Let the government bring in investors and split power generation. Let them give it to investors. Lagos alone is a viable place for investors. If they give them a vast land around Sango, and let them distribute, people will pay. We won’t need generators, petrol. A lot of people have died in the course of running petrol generators because of carelessness. Nobody has ever taken the government to court, whereas it’s supposed to be government’s responsibility to provide basic amenities.
“All an economy needs to boom is basic amenities: good roads, water and power. We spend money on power in business, and the profit margin goes back to power, buying petrol and servicing the generator. What the government is doing is power distribution, but what we need is power generation. The same people that have been generating power are still the ones there.
NewsBreakers team was fortunate to interact with some of the graduating students, both from within Lagos and as far as Onitsha and other parts of the country, during one of the batches of training. Among these students is a PhD student of Geography of the University of Lagos, Mr Ezeifedi Julius Ugonna.
Being strapped in an apron (not lab coat), and stained with the dirt of flour and oil is the last thing to expect from a doctorate degree candidate. But for Uganna, acquiring a skill is as important as reading books.
“I want to have a skill outside my academics. My academics is different, skill is different. I’m going into bakery business as a skill in order to finance my studies. In so doing, we will bring in other innovative (ideas) into the system.”
Happy to have attended the training, Ugonna said, “Now, I can bake bread on my own. I have mastered the equipment and all that is needed. I did not regret coming to this place. I saw them online. I can now set up a bakery business and manage it by myself.
Encouraging young people to acquire skills, he added, “Nigeria today goes beyond looking for jobs. Try to acquire skills outside your certificate. The certificate is just there as a catalyst to help you transfer knowledge into any skill you are acquiring.”
Also, Titilayo Ishola is a student turned staff of Fylgapp Bakery and Bread School. Sharing her testimony, she said, “I actually had interest in bakery, but I needed to learn beyond just mixing water and flour together. So, I went online, looking for a bakery school and I got to know about this place. I came for my training last year (2017) August. And I came back to work with him (Mr Olumide Sanda).”
“Training others is the experience I needed. Before I came back to work with him, I wasn’t doing anything relating to baking. But when I came back, I had to train people over and over, attending his lectures, and following him for seminars. All these are making me more confident and gaining more.” She added.
To be on the level, Fylgapp’s ‘calling’ to raise a generation of bakers is indeed revolutionary and ground-breaking. This is not just established in its 20-year experience as a trainer, but also in its wall that is filled with plaques and testimonies of thousands who have benefitted from the training.