Today is International Youth Day! It’s a day set aside by the UN to acknowledge the various issues regarding youths as well as to celebrate all the incredible things young people are doing to make the world a better place.
One of those young people is Shola Ladoja, the founder of Simply Green. Simply Green is a raw organic cold pressed juice company that not only makes some of the best juices in town (I’ve had them and I swear down, they are FANTASTIC) but also promotes a healthy and balanced lifestyle. We sat down with Shola Ladoja to find out more about him:
- Tell us a bit about yourself
SL: My name is Shola Ladoja and I am a farmer. I was a city boy living in New York City and never thought I would be a farmer at this age but it had always been my dream to live my life as a farmer and retire as a farmer. I went to visit a farm to relax for a weekend and that experience made we realise I could start living the life I wanted.
- Now please tell us about Simply Green
SL: Simply Green is an agricultural company which created Simply Green Juices -Nigeria’s first farm to bottle cold pressed juice. We have several organic farms and our main aim is to provide fresh vegetables and crops not commonly available in the market at a very affordable rate. We are changing the way youths see agriculture by adding value to what we grow and turning them in finished products that can compete easily in the international market. We are very confident our juices can.
- How did your business plan come to be and why focus on health?
SL: I created Simply Green primarily because I wanted to drink juice not knowing it was going to be a successful business. Before moving back to Lagos from New York, I drank a green juice almost everyday. But upon moving back to Nigeria, I couldn’t find any good quality juices, so I created one to cater to myself and other people like me who want good juices.
Our focus was not really health; it was more that we wanted a way for people to consume more fruits and vegetables easily. People think of vegetables and they think of a bitter taste so we hand-crafted various flavours of juice that taste amazing using only fruits and vegetables. We kind of realise we were making people healthier in turn.
- How do you source for materials for your product?
SL: Our materials come from our farms and other partner farmers around us. We keep everything local from our bottles to labels.
- Can you walk us through the Simply Green product creation process?
SL: We get our produce fresh from the farm field. Then, it’s into the factory where it is first inspected and sorted. We wash our fruits and vegetables with a bubble washer to get rid of impurities. After washing, produce is disinfected to kill harmful bacteria, germs and parasites then we spin out the water left on the produce from washing and disinfecting using a high speed centrifuge. When fruits and vegetable are completely dried, it goes through our cold pressed machine which extracts the juice from fruit and vegetable in the absence of heat, retaining almost all the nutrients found in the whole fruits and vegetables without the fibre. After extraction, we use a 3 mesh filter to make sure we have removed all the pulp and fibre before bottling and rapidly cooling to 4 degree celsius to stop the growth of any bacteria.
- What key factors helped you stay the course and get to where you are today?
The love for what agriculture is the biggest factor. I always want to learn more about agriculture which has helped me get where I am today. It doesn’t feel like work when I’m researching anything from new technology involved in farming to new organic practices- to me its daydreaming so it’s fun.
- What would you advise young business owners about the realities of entrepreneurship?
Its hard for sure, but if you are patient and keep pushing then you will definitely be successful. Being an entrepreneur gives me the freedom I want and I am finally able to do what I want with my life – farming.
- It’s International Youth Day- what would you tell your younger self to prepare for his future?
There is a time for everything. That’s what I would tell myself.
- The Theme for the international Youth Day is The Road to 2030: Eradicating poverty and Achieving Sustainable Consumption and Production. What does mean in lay man terms and how does Simply Green align with this?
To me it means creating opportunities and a conducive way of life without any negative effects to the environment and on the community. As an organic farm, we know we need to cultivate crops without harm to the environment while at the same time feeding people and creating more jobs. We know the importance of training our farm workers on how to use what they have to cultivate crops with higher yields while also replenishing the nutrients in the soil. By doing this, the farm workers later go out to create their own farm, have better incomes,create employment and feed the country. I think agriculture is the most suitable way of living.
10. So now can you tell us about the hardships, things that slowed you down, biggest failures, etc.?
This definitely wasn’t my first business idea, I had tried several things because I thought I could make money from them but I failed terribly. When I finally started Simply Green, I struggled with capital and the environment we live in is not really preferably to startups and small businesses. I find it very difficult to source funds for machinery which can not be found in Nigeria. Bad roasd while moving your produce from our farms destroying your tyres and vehicles. No power, high cost of diesel. I won’t lie, things are very difficult in the country at the moment but we have to keep pushing. I have a lot of products to be released but my biggest change now is access to forex to purchase machines I need for expansion of my company.
11. What do you see as an end goal for you and your brand?
Simply Green wants to makes quality farm produce in different forms, whether whole or processed, available to everyone in the country at a reasonable price. We are also very committed in changing agriculture by adapting modern farming practices.
12. Any final words of advice, encouragement, or even tips for the young business minded individuals out there?
It may sound cliche, but you have to believe in yourself. Only you can make things happen for you. You are 100% responsible for yourself.
Facebook : www.facebook.com/simplygreennigeria
Happy International Youth day from the Youth Banking Team at Access Bank!