“Yes, 100%. We need to become the masters of our own destinies. The more we do this, the better our economy and futures become, and the more creative and advanced we become.” - Olaoluwa Fashola (CEO of Casa vegan)
What is your full name?
What is your age range?
Where were you born and raised?
What countries/states did you school in?
Did you go to university? If so, where did you go and what did you study?
Computer Information Systems – Illinois Institute of Technology
Business Management – Birmingham City University
In what countries are you based?
What do you do to earn a living and when did you start?
Currently, I am full-time on my start-up – Casa Vegan.
Casa Vegan manufacture plant-based alternative protein; using 100% natural, locally grown, locally sourced and up-cycled ingredients.
Our products are a perfect replacement for animal protein, they cook, look and taste like meat, but are more nutritious;
– Zero cholesterol
– Low unsaturated fat
– Higher protein
-Higher Fibre etc and have zero artificial additives.
What did you use to do before you did this?
I worked in Finance my entire life before my start-up, for firms like JP Morgan, OMX Nasdaq, TD Waterhouse, and Deutsche Bank.
Equipping me with experience across Business finance as a whole, management (people and business), global operations, and across the entire business set-up, having had the opportunity to be on a 2-year fast-paced graduate scheme with OMX Nasdaq.
What inspired you to move back home and start your business?
It was always my dream and planned to start my own business. However, I never envisaged it to be a plant-based protein business!
Growing up I was always very focused on how to improve my health and loved the food! I decided to try a plant-based diet after speaking to a friend and watching some documentaries about 3 years ago, and the results were incredible; I felt more energised, my skin looked better, I felt fitter and I still enjoyed my food (with the possibilities of still eating the same meals as I used to, but in a fresher and healthier way!). It’s been almost 4 years since and I never looked back.
Coming up to see family was very hard, due to a lack of plant-based and particularly plant-based protein options (to ensure food preparation in the right way) in Lagos. I decided to research using local ingredients to create protein alternatives that were 100% natural, healthier and provided that familiar African taste and cooking ability; using it in traditional soups, sauces etc.
Finally, losing my dad to cardiovascular disease during my journey solidified my desire to move back home, set up the company and ensure the products were available; to create awareness, provide options and prevent/reduce such diseases!
With 4 out of 5 Nigerians dying due to cardiovascular diseases, and Nigeria being in the top 10 countries affected by climate change; we need to take action now!
Why should anyone use your service/product?
All our products are 100% natural, using locally grown, locally sourced and up-cycled ingredients.
In addition, our key focus was on taste and nutrition, hence they have been nutritionally tested by an international food development agency, and are NAFDAC-approved.
We also place a high focus on Quality Control / Assurance throughout our entire operations; production, supply chain, and certification ensuring very high standards in everything we do!
Finally, our products are not only good for individual health, they are also good for our planet, by addressing key issues like reducing waste (through our focus on up-cycling), long-term sustainability, climate change, etc.
Tell us about your team
We are a team of 7, split across Management, Quality, Operations, and Digital, and are looking to build (Co-Founder, Sales, Marketing)!
Founder / CEO -Vegan, entrepreneur, with financial services professional with 13 years of experience, across global operations, people management, relationship management, strong interpersonal skills having lived and worked on three continents, finance and PnL.
Quality Control / Assurance: We have a trained and certified microbiologist with experience in quality assurance, and food safety management systems & a recent microbiologist graduate with field and laboratory experience.
Social Media, Content & Digital Marketing Manager: Experience in social media, content creation, and digital marketing.
Operations: we have a chef with cooking, baking and operational experience.
Food Development Agencies
Tony Elumelu foundation member – Access to mentors and a local network
Mentor / Advisor – Cofounder of Drink Baotic
What is something you wish you knew before starting your business?
The impact of Electricity and Energy on your business and financials… Living in the UK/US you never factor in how big a cost or impact this has until you are on the ground.
Also, just ensure you are mentally and psychologically ready for the journey, as there are a lot of hurdles you’ll need to overcome on the downside. I do however believe the upside is unlimited if you can persevere and get your foundation right!
Would you advise other people to start businesses or invest in Africa? Please also share the drawbacks.
Did you experience a culture clash with homegrown Africans?
Of course! Generally about the product, idea, concept and need.. all of which were/are expected. People don’t like change!
The initial challenge was product categorization for registration, as there weren’t any products to use as a benchmark! We had to educate and keep educating to ensure we were correctly registered and categorised, creating a clear path for plant-based companies coming after us. It wasn’t easy, but it never is for a Frontier in any industry.
Another key challenge is creating awareness and educating people on our products and why it is a very important “niche” for them as individuals/businesses, the country, the continent and the planet. Most new businesses just have to focus on growing sales!