Michael Onalimi is the founder of The Jungle Food Company, a business which produces a range of sauces called "Flavour Safari Sauces". The range combines African spices with fresh Irish ingredients, creating a truly unique result. Michael is currently participating in The Food Academy Programme, a collaboration between The Local Enterprise Offices, Musgraves and Bord Bia. He tells us a little bit about his experiences of starting a business and becoming an entrepreneur.
Could you tell us how you came up with the Idea for The Jungle Food Company and your brand Flavour Safari?
Cooking and blending Spices is something that I have always loved from an early age. I grew up surrounded by a wide variety of Herbs & Spices as my mother owns a small food store back home. Starting my own Business has always been a dream of mine and being in a position to combine two of my biggest passions in life, food and sales has literally been a dream come true! It was something I have always thought about and envisaged but I guess it was just a matter of this being the right time for me to start my business.
What sets your brand apart from others on the market?
My brand Flavour Safari is Ireland’s First African Inspired Sauce Range. They are a unique range of sauces that combine some of the freshest Irish ingredients with the finest of African spices, creating a new flavour sensation. All my products are also certified gluten free and Suitable for Vegetarians. Not only did I strive to create sauces that are a totally new taste experience but I also put an extreme amount of effort into my branding, from jars to label design and functionality, every little piece of what I have created is unique to Flavour Safari alone and every little part, contributes to the overall brand concept and creates the unique brand image and brand identity that I was trying to achieve. Flavour Safari Sauces are a new Irish product, made right here in Laois that I really believe have the potential to be a leading competitor in the sauce industry going forward.
What's the Link to your Website?
Twitter: Flavour Safari @FlavoursUntamed
How did you go about starting your own Business?
First and foremost, it all started with an idea. Once I had a clear idea in what I wanted to achieve, I went about finding out what I could do to make this concept/idea a reality. I enrolled on a course in Entrepreneurship with The Innovation Academy, UCD and this was where I developed my knowledge base on how to take my idea from concept to reality and really learn to think as an Entrepreneur. I then progressed to participate in Bord Bia/Musgrave Food Academy and this was where I really moved my ideas forward and began to shape the brand that I have today. I found Food Academy extremely beneficial, from providing me with an informed insight into various aspects of securing retail placement, the advice and skills to be shelf ready and meeting and engaging with other small Food Producers, to having the opportunity to pitch and showcase my products to a major player in the Irish Retail Sector, which is an invaluable experience for a Small Food Producer like myself and opens a route to market that may have otherwise been inaccessible. I'd highly recommend the Bord Bia/ Musgrave Food Academy to any small producers ready to take that next step to getting their Products onto the shelves in the Irish Retail Market.
What was your greatest struggle in starting your own business and how did you overcome this?
I would probably say finance. Not only raising the funds necessary for starting a business but also various other aspects of finance that you might not even think will be an issue when you are starting out in a new business, for example: Mark Ups, Margins, Costing & Pricing Points, which are things that aren't exactly shown to you, so these can be quite challenging.
In my case, I was fortunate to qualify for an Innovation Voucher from Enterprise Ireland which was extremely beneficial to me when it came to my product development/research costs.
What's been your proudest moment so far?
Seeing my sauces, labelled and in jars, ready to go on the shelves is probably what's been my proudest moment so far. Being in a position to see what I have created, from concept to actual product, is a fantastic feeling and it absolutely spurs me on to do even more!
What are your future plans for The Jungle Food Company?
My Products are now in SuperValu as I secured a Shelf Placement with them via Food Academy. This is a really exciting opportunity that Supervalu, The Local Enterprise Office and Bord Bia has given me and I am really looking forward to working with them and really value their support.
In the future, I also hope to have my products stocked in local and national independent retailers in Ireland/UK as export is also one of my main aims for my Flavour Safari Products. I am extremely proud of my brand and I am looking forward to promoting them in Ireland and on a World stage.
In the long term I hope to supply to other large retailers such as Tesco, Dunnes Stores, Marks & Spencer’s, Waitrose and online retailers such as Ocado, combined with direct online sales on my website.
I will be showcasing my sauces/products at well renowned International Food Tradeshows both here in Ireland, UK and overseas and I will also approach the foodservice sector in regards to supplying my sauces.
There is always an opening to develop and extend my product range going forward and who knows, also maybe branch into new ventures along the way.
Could you tell us a little about a day in the life of an Entrepreneur?
Some might describe it as working double the hours for less pay but its worth more than you could ever imagine.
It can be quite hectic, trying to find the right balance especially when it's your first time being self employed. There are many aspects that perhaps you would have been used to in a Team/Office environment such as separate departments for bookkeeping/Accounts, secretarial duties and logistics that are now your sole responsibility and this can take a lot of effort to adjust to but nothing is impossible, it just takes time and practice.
With the right plan, you can establish an effective routine that allows you to best manage your time and resources and keep check of your progress along the way as this is something that you cannot afford to neglect as it's your responsibility to make sure that everything is progressing as it should.
How do you find a Work Life Balance?
Sometimes, it's not always easy to strike the perfect balance, especially when you are just starting out in your new business. The most important thing that any entrepreneur should remember is that if you overwork yourself it will inevitably catch up with you one way or another and what's not good for you is not good for your business. That's why it's so important to try to make a little time to unwind whenever you can. Quality time spent with your family not only frees your mind but it also lets you remember the reasons why you work so hard to make your business a success and this in turn spurs you on to work harder. That's not saying that it's always possible to take time out from a busy week but I guess you just need to know how to judge when you need to take a small step back which in turn will benefit you and your business.
If you were to do it all again, would there be anything you would do differently?
In starting a new business I've made a few little mistakes along the way but these are the things that actually allowed me to learn and grow as an entrepreneur and I don't think I would actually change them as I found the learning curves taught me a lot. I've spent quite a lot of time in making sure my brand is exactly on point in terms of design/quality and I really feel that the time and effort spent shine through in the finished result. I think if I were to do it again I would definitely be more organised and focused and I would probably be a lot faster when it comes to getting things done but I don't actually see anything that I would change as I feel that if you're going to do something well you need to give it 100% regardless of how long it takes you to get it right. If you persevere, you will succeed.
Can you tell us how The Local Enterprise Office has helped you and your Business?
LEO Laois have been a fantastic source of support to me and my business so far. They have constantly encouraged me along the way and believed in my products from the start. They know how passionate I am when it comes to my brand. I hope I will in the near future provide jobs for the local economy here in Laois as this is a big part of my business objectives. I hope anyone starting a new business or even with just an idea realizes the benefit of approaching their local LEO for advice, training, grant support and much more as I couldn't recommend them highly enough.
What are your Tips for anyone thinking of starting their own business?
First and most importantly......start and keep going! An idea is just an idea until you do something about it! It can be daunting to think of all the work involved or you might question yourself and if you're making the right decision in taking that leap as an entrepreneur but if you are determined about what you want to do and how you want to get there, you will get there....you just need to take that first step and start doing something about it.
I can honestly say that starting my own business is one of the best and most rewarding things I have ever done. It's challenging, time consuming, expensive, and frustrating at times but it's also exciting, rewarding, educational, exhilarating and one thing is for certain, it is all worth it!
No one said it was going to be easy, if it was everyone would be doing it but I genuinely feel that being an entrepreneur and having my own business is something that I was always going to do and if anyone out there feels that this is something that they want to start just go for it!