Studying one thing in school when your heart yearns for something else can be very frustrating. But this was the story of Luther Lawoyin who eventually had to drop out in his second year as a Geology undergraduate of the Obafemi Awolowo University.
After dropping out Luther immediately went into entrepreneurship and is now the CEO of Pricepally, an eCommerce startup with a focus on food supply. In this chat with TechNext, he shared how his interest in the food business was developed through time spent making confectioneries with his late mom.
“I was the last born,” he said. “And closer to my mom because of the age difference between me and my older siblings.”
The time with his mom helped him immensely and it was then that he developed a healthy appreciation for hardwork and learnt to get paid for his efforts. Along with his mom, he did his own experiments, making cakes and other snacks that caught his fancy while they both worked as early as 7am on some mornings.
When he started secondary school and found that he excelled at technical drawings better than some of his peers, he agreed to draw for them in exchange for some payment.
Almost every businessman has some failures before finding the right fits. Iyin Aboyeji had a great idea with Fora but couldn’t find a way to make the model work back in 2013 and had to change the business into what is now known as Andela today.
From a startup tracking people’s opinions to Potato Lagos, a foodtech outfit that delivers anything with potato inside, Lawoyin has had his fair share of failures. He left Potato Lagos after one year because of differences between him and his co-founder.
Being on the same page with members of a team is crucial to the growth of that team and it was a lesson Luther learnt as he moved to his next ventures which included Pass JAMB and Lucy.ng. Together with his wife, he launched Pricepally in 2019.
Tech is fast becoming an essential part of businesses when the founders want to scale the product or service. However, for the Pricepally founder, he considers himself a businessman who only brings in the tech when it is needed.
One of the lessons he learnt from his early apprenticeship with his mom, as he calls it, is knowing that anyone can make money if they give out value. Handling the logistics, customer relations, product development and money-managing aspects of the business with her taught him the rudiments of running a business.
Govt is the biggest problem for entrepreneurs
As one who is conversant with the dynamics of food prices and their availability in Nigeria, Luther is of the staunch opinion that the deficits of the government are the greatest challenges that entrepreneurs face in agriculture and other sectors in the country.
“It’s not about a present administration. The deficits that we have today date back to as far as 1960. The problems we have in agriculture are nothing new but they still remain a challenge for us,” he said.
There is quite a lot of substance to Luther’s submission. For instance, the same bad roads and lack of storage infrastructure that are major causes of food loss in the country many years ago have remained down to this day. Perishable foods like tomatoes and onions rot away when they are on the road for longer than necessary and when they are not adequately preserved.
A world Bank study shows that the country loses about 40% of its yearly agricultural produce to post harvest losses even though 12% of the population is undernourished.
Luther’s Pricepally is using tech to help farmers get access to data that tells them which produce is in more demand and where. With this data, the farmers will be able to make informed decisions and farm smartly.
However, farmers are still at risk of losing huge amounts of the produce because of the poor roads and other infrastructural deficit.
“The prices of food items will continue to rise until something is done at the infrastructural level,” Luther says.
To complement the efforts of farmers and agriculture workers, bans on import are sometimes used as a way of increasing demand for local content. This has been done with rice and some other produce.
Banning is not always a feasible option, Luther told Technext. “There should be a strategy in place to increase supply before importation is cut off. Not doing this will only increase prices and make things harder for consumers,” he said.
As he moves forward with Pricepally after the startup’s latest fundraiser, Luther says he is not limited to tech. He will innovate in fashion if he has a solution for the sector, the tech can always come in when it is needed.
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