Interview with Ojuolape Arojo CEO Applecart Nigeria

Who is Ojuolape Arojo? 

Ojuolape Arojo holds a Masters in Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Management from Imperial College London. Her passion for entrepreneurship was ignited when she teamed up with her school mates to start up a business while still in secondary school. Since then her commitment to solving problems has brought her through a path that arrived at Applecart, her current start-up.

How did your childhood and teen years go? Your experiences.

My childhood and teenage years were great. A lot of my time was spent with my family both nuclear and extended. You know how Christmas was in those days, your mum would measure your foot-size with a broomstick and go shopping. You’d wait all day for her to return with the items so you could try on your new shoes and pretty dresses. Those were some exciting days! But of course, a great amount of my teenage years were spent in school as a boarder but holidays were always something to look forward to.

Growing up, did your parent influence your career choice? If yes how did you handle it?

My parents did not out rightly ask me to study a particular course. They did however offer guidance. I remember a heart-to-heart I had with my mum when I told her the courses I was considering. She encouraged me to explore courses in line with my strengths and academic interests while also considering what would be relevant in the job market. Ultimately, the decision rested with me but I had valuable advice.

As an undergraduate how did you cope with the pressures of Varsity life and still managed to graduate as the Best Female student in your graduating class with a First Class?

Hmmm. Interesting question. I am Christian and a person of deep convictions. Some of my friends would say I am a lady of principles. The bottom line was I had my interests and I pursued those. Plus I had attended an amazing fellowship on campus- we were friends of each other and we shared great times even when one person was low on cash and the other was buoyant; nobody had a problem being generous. Imagine hundreds of people cheering you on and holding your hand through a journey, for me, that’s exactly what it was.

We are aware that you are the Founder/CEO of Applecart Nigeria. Can you tell us what Applecart is and what prompted the idea? 

Applecart is a grocery shopping service. What we do is to buy foodstuff (uncooked) for our customers and deliver to their homes and offices. You know how Lagos can be with traffic and long work hours, we simply do the market trips and deliver fresh. As for what prompted the idea, I have personally found grocery shopping to be stressful. Carrying a hundred and one bags is not an easy task so for me this was solving a personal need. On top of this, while in the university, I saw someone try to bring this idea to life and that opened my mind to the possibility.

What has been the major challenges of Applecart Nigeria since inception?

I’d say a logistics. For us, it’s important that we deliver items promptly to our customers and that can be really challenging.

How do you feel being the Founder of Applecart? I mean has anyone ever been taken aback when they realized Applecart was founded by a Lady?

That’s a funny question. I’d like to say being a founder is a rosy journey but really it’s not. I find it thrilling that I get the chance to deliver value to customers but as with everything, there are mountains to surmount. I guess because of the nature of the business, people are not often surprised to find out my company was founded by a lady. What usually surprises is them is that I chose to be an entrepreneur despite having remarkable grades that they believe could land me great jobs.

Who is Ojuolape Arojo aside being the CEO of Applecart Nigeria? 

Ojuolape is someone that absolutely loves baking- bread, cakes and the likes. She’s can also be extremely playful and mischievous.

Do you think you have ever been disadvantaged because of your gender? 

I would say that gender disadvantages exist especially when a culture places more value on the male child. I have been disrespected because of my gender but I don’t believe I have been disadvantaged. In fact, I would never permit anyone to place me in a position of disadvantage simply because I am female.

What were your fears at the start of your company? Was there ever a time when you felt this idea won’t materialize considering the economic state of Nigeria? 

The interesting thing is when I started off, my fear was that we would not be able to deliver as many orders as we would receive but of course being in business albeit for a short time, my concerns and aspirations are continually evolving.

It seems as though the entrepreneurial spirit has been in you right from your teen years as is evident in your participation in Junior Achievement scholars’ team where you created a business venture that made up to 300% returns on investment. Can you tell us a little about the business venture and how you discovered your love for entrepreneurship? 

Junior Achievement was definitely a fantastic experience for me. We had a team that had been selected across the 604 students in my class set. We needed to come up with a business idea, execute in a short time and deliver returns. I remember working hard to convince my classmates to invest in our shares. We sold those shares for N300 or so and that was big money in a secondary setting in those days. Ultimately we decided on selling toast bread, made on the spot with machines that we had brought from our homes, myself included. We also tried our hands at popcorn but that didn’t work out too well. Toast bread was a big hit especially with the boarders. We sold various variants- toast with egg, toast without egg, etc I remember we got a staff then and whenever I had some free time, I couldn’t wait to head to the shop to help with sales and production. When the academic year was over and we had to close accounts, imagine my excitement to hand over N1200 to everyone I had harassed to buy shares at N300. Oh! It was wonderful!

What would you say is your purpose on earth and when did you discover your purpose?

The journey to discover my purpose is one I am still on. I am constantly discovering new things about this life that God has so graciously given me to live.

Who do you look up to?

While I don’t have specific names to share, I have been inspired by various people especially in my entrepreneurial journey. Sometimes I read a book or discover a person’s story and it spurs me on.

What is thing that keeps you going in difficult times? 
Quite simply, faith

How did you get the opportunity to study outside the shores of this country? 

I got awarded the prestigious British Government Chevening Scholarship. About 40 of us were successful out of thousands of applications in Nigeria. Our scholarship was fully funded and covered tuition (school fees) and a monthly allowance for feeding and accommodation.  Globally, we had over 1800 scholars that year alone.

Would you say being educated contributed to your success story today? Imagine you weren’t educated and probably residing in one of those rural areas in North Eastern Nigeria where child marriage is encouraged and Girl child education is discouraged. Do you think you would be here today? 

My education definitely plays a role in who I am today. Child marriage is a practice that produces more harm than good. In fact, I don’t think it produces any good at all. I am an alumna of Queen’s College, Yaba, Lagos and my alma mater places immense value on the girl child. Attending Queen’s College taught me to be confident, courageous and extraordinary. Quality education plays its role in producing excellent females who in turn raise the next generation of good citizens and the society as a whole is better for this. Moreover, education empowers the girl child to pursue her dreams. Imagine a world where Margaret Thatcher wasn’t allowed to be who she was or Mother Theresa or Angela Merkel. The list goes on and on proving that women are making tremendous impact on shaping the past, present and future of our society.

What is your advice to parents and decision makers in areas where girl child education is discouraged and what do you think can be done to increase Girl child education in such areas and increase female participation in decision making in Nigeria? 

I have said it in the past that the case for women is not just sentimental but rather it is economic and societal. Research shows that organizations with women in their leadership positions perform significantly better than those without women. This is pure economics. The distinct trait women bring to the decision making table cannot be downplayed. But to get women to these positions of authority, the fundamental foundation is education.

What is your advice to teen girls in this generation

Start early to discover who you are. Don’t settle for being average i.e. a regular person in the crowd. No, God made you to be more than that. Wherever you find yourself, think leadership. Set the tone. Be at the forefront making impact. Understand your values i.e what you think is important and don’t let anybody take that from you. Friendships can often be temporary, just because you want people to like you, don’t give up on the things you think are important. You’d be surprised that at the end of the day, one or two years later, those things you thought were do or die may actually hold less meaning. Respect people but don’t be afraid to approach anyone, believe it or not, everyone is a human being. When you make mistakes, remember it’s a part of life for every single person. What you should do is consider what you could have done better then take those life lessons and apply them the next time you need to make a decision, that’s how to make your mistakes meaningful. Fear God, it’s the wisest thing you can do.

Final words to teen girls who are looking up to you either as a mentor or motivation? 
Have strong faith in God; combine this with hard and smart work and you’re well on your way to excelling.

        Thanks for acknowledging us,
    TOP Teens Team.