The whole Innoson logo story reminds me of my 10 years sojourn in the smoothie and juice beverage business. It is an experience I have to share. Some of what I will share will shock you. I have restrained myself from talking about it but it may be a worthy lesson for others.
How did I start Smoothie Heaven? Purely by accident. My business partners & I had rented a store for our HITV business. We were ‘appointed’ sole distributor for some Northern states. We had approached HITV & they jumped at our proposal to help them develop the Northern region
In the end they intentionally delayed our agreement until
we had created a $1m a month market for them and pushed us out. The hilarious part is that once we had created the demand, all that happened was that we were starved of stock. Our dealers were approached from the backdoor
They were simply told your distributor does not have stock but we do. Come to Tino Electronics near Hilton Hotel to collect. But it is not N50k but N55k. If you recall it was a one year subscription model that was rolled out. We bought the full kit for N48k and sold for N50k
Long story short we walked away N5m in debt.
Back to the smoothie story…it was just 3 or 4 months after we rented the store so we had 8/9 months to go…or so we thought (another scam as we had been billed for 2 years for the price of one year by the management of the mall).
Anyway leave the story of the mall. Lets go back to the main story…we had 6 or 7 staff, 9 months left on our lease, we had no money but I was due to get my severance from NASS. So I called a meeting with my staff and said we had only two choices.
We can all call it a day and go home or we can do something new. So we had a brainstorming session…and they came up with all sorts of ideas…sell t shirts, sell phones, sell this, sell that. Each idea was interrogated and rejected.
Someone even said we could have a restaurant. In the end, we settled for a smoothie bar. Can’t quite recall how. But my cook at the time had made smoothies at home for me and they had proved so good even my friends abroad would come to Nigeria on holiday and be begging for sone
That is how smoothie heaven was born…I immediately took my small change from NASS and setup the store along with my partner at the time and that was the beginning of the journey. First challenge is that we were in a dead mall in Wuse zone 4. So no footfall. No customers
There was also already a smoothie bar in the great Ceddi Plaza that had been blessed with a cinema also and lots of activities. It was a mall that saw plenty footfall. So we had competition. Nevertheless we decided to so it our way. We wanted to make 100% fruit smoothies & juice
No ice, no yogurt, no milk…just pure fruit. It meant a bit of revolution cos Nija has a perennial power problem. Even our mall which was meant to have 24-7 supply was struggling. It mean me approaching a UK company for help.
Our location however was a big issue. It was DEAD.
It meant that we needed to market aggressively. So in addition to my core store staff i employed some marketers who stormed Abuja offices. Soon our brand was known all over Abuja thanks to our many friends and supporters and the sheer dedication of my team.
I remember one particular girl was magic…I had met her working a a club as a waitress and she just stood out. Freida she was called. I poached her and the girl was doing mad magic. One month she grossed N600k by herself…and earned over 100k that month in salary and commission
I don over gist….
Anyway when we started we bought a batch of cheap blenders that cost like £40-£99. We had a bunch of them and our smoothies were nice but they had strings of fruit in it. We kept changing blenders, tried even sifting the smoothies after it was done. Nothing
In the end my mum came to the rescue. A few weeks before she passed, she bought a blender and sent it to me as a surprise…it weighed a ton and looked expensive. I googled it and saw it cost like £700. My small mind said we an but 10 blenders with this money ooo.
So I sent it back…through my partner without ever using it. She arrived in London and went to see my mum to explain but called that night to say she was unable to see her cos she was in bed all day unwell. In short my mum died a day or two later.
As it was the last gift she gave me I asked the blender to be brought back to Abuja. I said I would keep it for memories. This was an awesome contraption as it solved all our problems and became a game changer in the business. It was revolutionary.
So smoothie heaven became a legend and people came from far and near. We first noticed menus were missing, then people sent spies…then staff were hijacked…soon our secret was everywhere and everyone was using our style and also our brand of equipment.
If I had knows I would have quickly applied for sole distributorship of the blender ooo.
Anyhow to end this story every single person I ever transacted business with be it a bigger brand, or a landlord wanted to steal this business. They frustrated all our efforts except for one person. Let me just call her YB. She understood the power and purpose of collaboration and she proved our friendship of 20 years plus was real.
They did everything to make sure we failed. From refusing to renew our rent, to witholding our share of revenue for months…and there is no host that I have ever partnered with who has not ventured into the same business. They killed us to steal what we had.
I believed so much in partnership and distinctive competence (stick to what you are good at) but the average Nigerian wants to be you..
They do not want to be like you. I was very humbled when people stole our menu and ideas… we must have been doing something right
But later on I saw sheer evil at play. Organisations who would make millions a week but keep our tiny 300k for 2 months until we had annoyed customers and suppliers. When I started smoothie heaven I did not want to be like my only competition at the time…I wanted to be me
That is probably why we ended up over achieving. I have so many customer stories and great experiences. We were proud to be 100% fruit, 100% healthy and 100% original.
This spirit of covetuousness is what has practically ruined Nigeria.
We dont want to create…we just want to copy what others are doing and take what is theirs whether we can do it or not. Let me salute my pioneer partners who built with blood and sweat@hush_smoothiesfor staying and remaining in the game. God bless your hustle.