Custodian Interview: Shake Bar

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Shake Bar

The Shake Bar is a unique and creative start up which focuses on providing desserts for events , specializing in milkshakes, cocktails and crépes like nobody else. The Shake Bar hopes to open their first store in the near future ensuring they become Lagos’ first milkshake bar.

Hello Damini and Damisi, How are you today?

Damini: I am fine thank you.

Damisi: I am very well, thanks.

Good stuff. How did the Shake Bar come into fruition?

Damisi: At first, our vision for the Shake Bar was actually to focus only on crepes. You see how you go to stores in England, America and Canada and inside the malls there’s usually a small crepe stand in which you can put whatever you like into it. This is what we originally wanted to do, because we felt there wasn’t anything like this in Lagos. At the beginning of our second year in University, we lived right opposite a milkshake and crepe shop, and we used to go there like everyday to get a milkshake and a crepe. When we saw the set up of the shop, we really liked the idea of it. After some discussion, we agreed to break into the market and see what the reception was. So, we saw an idea that already existed in the UK, and decided to prototype it in Lagos.

What challenges did you face in making this Shake Bar business legitimate? 

Damini: I think our vision changed quite a bit, because like Damisi said, in the beginning we were mainly focused on having a store that would sell strictly milkshakes and desserts. I think it was in the summer of 2015 that we actually went around looking at stores, designs, and spaces. But we found it difficult to find the space that would accommodate the vision we had. After speaking to a good family friend, she advised us about going into the events industry.  We then spoke to a few event planners, and they helped us bring the shake bar to weddings, bridal showers, and all different types of events. We started focusing on events more, I guess this was a change in vision, because we shifted from prioritizing having a store. Its been going really well, so that’s what we have been doing since. In the near future, however, we would love to have our own store.

How was the reception you received last summer after all the events?

Damisi: I think the reception so far has been really good. At first when we started we were nervous because we weren’t sure if people would like it. A lot of people would tell us that everyone is trying to get into the healthy scene in Lagos! Laughs! They said no one wants to be drinking super sweet milkshakes. This discouraged us but then when we offered it to people, they really liked it, and it seems like everyone’s guilty pleasure! People find the idea of Shake Bar really cool, because you can literally take any chocolate, candy bar or biscuit and mix it into a milkshake, and it will taste like your drinking a liquidized version of that particular sweet treat – if that makes sense

A lot of your events seem to be at weddings, is the older crowd your primary target?

Damini:  I think it’s quite difficult to have a specific target group when you’re working in the food industry because in a place like Lagos, literally, everyone likes everything. I could walk into Ice Cream Factory and see a range of people from 10 to 50 year olds. So, we try and keep it as wide as possible. But where we are now, in terms of events, it does happen to be a bit more of the older crowd we are catering for, which sometimes makes it more difficult because a lot of them don’t indulge in sweet things like milkshakes as much as our age group does. However, at weddings as well, we do find a good number of people in their twenties and early thirties who are more familiar with what we are providing.

Shake Bar

How are you dealing with the problem of affordability?

Damisi: That is a definitely an issue we discussed a lot before we got started. I think our main problem was that, because we import all our chocolate, candy bars from England we had to consider a ton of shipping costs. So we had to figure out how to balance out making the milkshakes affordable, despite the fact that had actually spent quite a bit of money on the ingredients. We are not primarily focused on the profit at the moment; we are more concerned with breaking in and putting our brand and products out there. So we also look at the market prices and take note, and compare it with ours.

Damini: Just to add onto that, I think because it’s a Lagos- based business. Pricing is a very interesting area especially if you are providing for a wedding or an event. If you don’t go through event planners, but the clients themselves, you have a lot of people who are trying to price it down, or claim they can get it somewhere else for cheaper. It’s quite difficult to explain to these grown people, especially because we are relatively young and new to the industry. In terms of costing and affordability, I think it’s a very difficult area. People in Nigeria rarely want to pay for quality so I guess that is something were still trying to work out.

Is it just you and Damisi who make the milkshakes?

Damisi: Damini and I make the majority of the milkshakes when we can, however, if there is a really large event we have a book of instructions and ingredients that our well-trained staff use as a guide to make the milkshakes, to ensure consistency.

Shake Bar

How do you resolve conflicts of interest whenever they do occur?

Damini: I think the way to resolve it, is to weigh out the pros and cons in everyone’s point of view. It’s just me and Damisi in the business, but I have other sisters who also add their input, and obviously my parents are a big factor, becuase they are the ones helping us financially. It can be quite difficult sometimes; initially when we first started, Damisi liked a specific logo which had a face on the cup of the shake bar, and I didn’t like it because I thought it was a bit too childish. It was something we had to go out and ask a lot of people, then came to the conclusion that we wanted the logo without the face. Everyone’s opinion is valid, and I guess it’s important to learn to compromise.

What was your parents take on all of this when you initially presented the idea of Shake Bar to them?

Damisi: When we first presented the idea to them, my mum was totally on board, but my dad was hesitant because he was not going to invest into a business without a long, detailed business plan (laughs). So he asked for a business plan, budget, and wanted to know what everything was going to be like.  At the end of the day they were both very encouraging. They just wanted to know what exactly we were going to do, if it was realistic, and if it would have been profitable! We also interned over the summer in the financial industry and most of the money we got from our internships we used to invest into our business.

Shake Bar
Oreo Crunch Milkshake

Is the Shake Bar active periodically? 

Damisi: For now it’s mainly over summer and Christmas. We are really really hoping to get our own store in the near future that will be active full time. However, we do tend to have events at random times of the year. Like I said before, we have a really well trained team who deliver at the same quality as if we were physically there.

You girls seem very hands on, so how are you managing to balance this with your academic life?

Damini: To be honest it’s actually quite difficult. When you actually start a business, it’s very stressful because you are getting numerous phone calls, emails and so. It’s always one thing or the other! It’s then hard to prioritize between education and your business especially when your business is in another country. However we found a good way of balancing everything. Thank God there are two of us doing the business, but we also have two other sisters that help a lot, and obviously are parents. Sometimes we just share the responsibility if things are getting hectic.

Shake Bar

Interesting. Shake Bar was a vendor at the Eat Drink Lagos Festival. How were the preparations for the event, the reception you got, and what would you have done differently?

Damini: EDL festival was something we were really excited to be part of. Both Damisi and I have been following Eat Drink Lagos since they launched. We found them really funny and interesting. We also have them on Snapchat. When we saw that they were having a festival we felt it was something Shake Bar would have excelled at. We had done other festivals before like Fiesta of Flavors. We didn’t expect that many people to attend the Eat Drink Festival. It was very very packed. The reception of the Shake Bar was good, seeing as, we have done exhibitions in the past, we were able to decorate and present our store very well. A lot of people liked the fact that it was pink, there were cool lights, and candy all over it. We were happy with it. In terms of what we would have done differently, I think we would have stocked up more of our products because we didn’t expect that large of a turn out. I think we sold out twice within the first two, three hours of the event. We ran out of Ice which was terrible, because we obviously wanted our milkshakes to be cold. We then had to explain to some customers that the milkshakes were going to be slightly warm. In order to maintain the quality milkshakes, we stopped selling for about an hour, so we had time to get more ice and candy products, although traffic inconvenienced everything! Another thing we would have done differently is get enough change. When we go to Nigerian restaurants and places, and they’re like ” Ah, Aunty we don’t have change” We always laugh and are confused about why they don’t have change. But at the festival we totally understood why restaurants don’t have change because it’s hard to predict the amount of customers we were going to get.

In 2016, what do you hope to accomplish with Shake Bar?

Damisi: This year, mainly just to have as many high quality events as possible. To improve the quality of our products, create more awareness, to start making plans for a future store. Also, just to enjoy the business more. I think one of the keys to running a good business is really enjoying what you do. We would love to attend more exhibitions and classes on cocktail making and milkshake making so we can bring more fun ideas to the industry.

With the continuous growth of Shake Bar, has your social life been affected?

Damini: When we had some of our events in October and November, it was fine. We were in and out of Lagos but everything was calm. In December, that was when our social life was mainly affected because obviously in Lagos, there’s an event every single day and we are still young, have all our friends, we want to go out and have a good time, but at the same time, we had a huge responsibility which was our business, so we had to do a lot of prioritizing. Let’s say we go to Vapors on a Friday night, the next day we would have to be up at like 7am because of an event or vendors meeting. I won’t lie, it was hard! Even at Eat Drink Festival which was on a Sunday, everyone asked if we were coming to Grill At The Pent, we were like we can’t handle it right now. As soon as I got home I just put my head on my pillow and literally knocked out!

Shake Bar

Do you have a website or blog people can check out Shake Bar on?

Damisi: We have an Instagram page called ‘TheShakeBarNG’ and that has everything we started doing. It has pictures from some weddings, Fiesta of Flavors and other events. It also has pictures of our products and flavors we offer. In terms of a website, that’s something we are currently working on. We had one, but because of issues with the domain name and getting a reliable web developer its taking a little longer than expected – unfortunately we are not IT nerds like that. Thank God for social media, everything is on there!

What advice do you have for other youths looking to get into the food industry?

Damisi: Honestly, I think the best thing to do is research. Market research is important. For example, if you want to start a cupcake company, go to the top companies around your area, ask them how they got started, ask them about the ingredients used, ask them how profitable it is. Just generally ask them how the business is going, and reach out to as many people a possible. That’s something we did, that helped us a lot. And lastly always believe in your product, don’t get discouraged.

Thank you so much Damini and Damisi. We at Culture Custodian appreciate it.

Ah, Thank you!





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