Food + Family = Love
I stumbled across Mabel Akinlabi and her business, Browns Foods, while watching ENCA, and was happy I did. Last year we featured many female-led local businesses on our blog and we'll continue to do so this year.
Tell us a little about yourself and what you do.
I am a Mom, wife, friend, and entrepreneur who loves what I do. I founded Browns Foods with my brilliant business partner and husband. Browns Foods is a food production company that specialises in the production of Corndogs for retail and foodservice, we are the first company to Bring the beloved Corndog to retail.
How old is your business now?
Browns Foods is 3 years old.
How did you come up with the idea of and name for your business?
I have a daughter who for her 11th birthday requested to have a sleepover with 12 of her friends at our home. Altogether there were 15 hungry children in my house. She requested a fun party with lots of food, games, and movies. I ensured every child’s favourite foods were available that day, from pizzas to ice-cream. I even made my daughter's personal favourite, the legendary American camp snack, the s'more. As the day turned to evening I thought, “what food would be fun, filling, and different for everyone here?” I immediately thought about what fun new food I would’ve loved to have as a child and that’s when the idea to make Corndogs came to me. I took out some sausages from my fridge and realised I had some kebab sticks. I made some batter, served the Corndogs to the children, and the rest is history. They loved them, which gave my husband and me the idea to make them available to all kids and all families.
Because of the nature of our business and how the business came about, we thought it best to use a name that invokes family love, trust, and heritage. We want people to know that our family will look after theirs.
What is that “one thing” that 2020 has taught you and that you will be using in the future? How will you be doing business differently?
2020 has taught us at Browns Foods many lessons, but the ones that stand out the most are that you need to keep moving, pushing, building regardless of what is happening around you. Push until you absolutely can’t move anymore. We learned that no situation is permanent, the world we knew changed in an instant meaning it could take just one phone call, one encounter, one client for the life of a business to transform. How we will do business differently is being a lot bolder and knocking on doors we might have been hesitant to knock on, also, we will embrace change and not fear it.
What makes your business unique?
The senior management in our business are the founders, we have experience from the bottom up. We created all our processes and have been hands-on from inception. Our team on the factory floor and the team in our offices are in constant communication with each other. Top management decisions are always taken considering processes from the bottom up, we do not merely enforce strategies from the top down. Finally, we value the opinions of industry professionals and our staff.
Are you a solo-entrepreneur or how many members does your team currently comprise?
No, I certainly am not on this journey by myself, I know for a fact that I would not be where I am without my husband and business partner, who also happens to be our COO. We have an exceptional team comprising of production and packaging managers along with other critical members of our team. Currently, we employ 25 people with five of them acting in senior management roles
How do you market your business, and which methods have been most successful for you?
Having Browns Foods Corn dogs in retail stores has meant that consumers are exposed to our products, this visibility has helped greatly. We have however found that promoting our products on social media platforms and doing safe in-store promotions have proven the most productive.
What does a typical day look like for you? And how many hours, on average, do you work daily?
A typical day starts at 8am in the factory and will consist of regular factory floor visits, liaising with retailers, and new customers. Because Corndogs dogs are relatively new to South Africa we do regular store visits to check on product handling and distribution.
How has being an entrepreneur affected your life?
Being an entrepreneur has been one of the greatest honours of my life, it has taught my family and me lessons I believe I could never have learned under someone else’s employ. It also affords me the flexibility to grow, learn and explore.
If you could go back in time and start up your business all over again, what would you do differently?
I honestly don’t think I would do anything differently, I’m very grateful for the journey we have had. I might however be less fearful and ignore any comments that discouraged me.
What is one piece of advice you’d like to give to someone just starting?
You never know what is around the corner, you don’t know who you could sell to or provide a service that will propel your business forward, so in all, you do try your best to do it with conviction and passion and to the best level you can. it’s ok to get tired, it's normal to be discouraged. But never forget the conviction you had when you started and use that fire to fuel you.
Where can we find your business on social media?
Facebook page link: https://www.facebook.com/brownsfoodscorndogs
Instagram handle: @browns_foods
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