Debby Lawson, co-founder and COO of Fastizers, had first intended to land a job at an oil company or bank. She found herself working at a bakery in Lagos, Nigeria, after completing her university studies while applying for jobs.
Sharing her journey with How We Made It in Africa, the entrepreneur revealed that she had an idea when the bakery staff had to stay up late to complete a big cookie order; she realized that she could bake the cookies herself and deliver them to her sister to sell at her workplace. She went shopping for the ingredients for her first batch of cookies with 960 naira ($1.28).
Taking advantage of the oven at her workplace, she first began with 20 packed cookies, then 30, under the name “Fun Cookies”. Soon, it became difficult for her to balance her bakery job and her cookie business, so she quit her bakery job to focus solely on her cookie business.
She was forced to use her sister’s oven instead of the company’s, which she quickly outgrew due to the high demand for the product. “Sometimes I’d be in the kitchen at 2 a.m. baking cookies. But when you’re doing something you love, it really doesn’t feel like stress,” said Lawson. “Seeing the progress, from 20 packs to 50 packs to 100 packs per day… It was exciting,” she said.
Gbola, her then-fiancé, pushed her to relocate to a larger building so that she could handle the expansion of her business. In 2011, she rented an affordable property after heeding his counsel. In an effort to aid his fiancée, Gbola went out into the street to introduce the cookies to sellers. He gave them the goods for free and only asked that they sell them. The cookies had sold out on the same day. These exhibitors’ feedback indicated that the market had received Lawson’s cookies with open arms. Soon, she was supplying more than 100 retailers daily.
When the organization reached a yearly revenue of roughly 200 million naira in 2013, it felt it was time for a larger production facility. They used their own funds to buy the property and the building for the factory. They’ve since built a second factory, and their combined facilities can now produce 30 tons of snacks per day.
Aruwa Capital Management, a private equity firm, invested $2 million in Fastizers in June, helping to partially finance the company’s ongoing effort to increase its production capacity. Currently, more than a dozen Nigerian states carry Fastizers’ products. The company’s growth outside of Lagos, according to Lawson, was largely organic and required little work on their part.
The Nigerian snack food industry is valued at $883 million and is expected to reach $1.5 billion by 2024, according to figures cited by How We Made It In Africa.