Edge of cliff moment inspires entrepreneur
Business Leader Magazine profiles Bristol based entrepreneur Dotun Olowoporoku.
Ask a business owner the biggest risk they’ve ever taken and most will tell you it was leaving the security of their day job to start up.
Not so for Dotun Olowoporoku, founder of meals.co.uk, his ‘edge of cliff’ moment was the night in 2004 when he arrived in the UK from Nigeria with £150 in his back pocket and the offer of a place at University, if he could finance it.
Nine years later, Dotun, 36, has achieved his dream of a PhD level university education at the University of the West of England and is currently focussed on his next ambition; to build and run his own successful business.
Change the face of takeaway delivery
Through his tech start-up meals.co.uk, he plans to change the face of the takeaway delivery market by bringing top quality restaurant food directly in to the homes of Bristol residents.
Like many of the most determined entrepreneurs, the catalyst for Dotun’s ambition was an early brush with failure.
After becoming distracted during his teenage year’s he was forced to re-take a class at school with his juniors.
As well as a steely determination to become a success (he ended up finishing top of his class), Dotun grew up in Nigeria, where tradition and a lack of work and opportunities has created a highly entrepreneurial culture.
Arrival in England
Arriving at Heathrow airport in 2004 with the promise of a place to do an MA at Middlesex University, provided he could finance it, 27 year old Dotun was determined to achieve.
Despite struggling financially as a self-funded student and spending Christmas with no food and getting down to his last twenty pence, he made it on to the course in September 2005.
Fast running low on money once again at the end of his MA, Dotun was determined not to give up and go back to Nigeria before having achieved his dreams of a PhD and entrepreneurial ambitions.
Faced with the prospect of his student visa running out, he decided to take another gamble and apply for PhD opportunities.
Little did he know at the time but a successful application to the University of the West of England (UWE) to do a PhD and a move to Bristol would also lead him to business success.
To boost his income whilst studying Dotun worked as a part time delivery driver for one of Bristol’s top restaurants, where he wasn’t expecting anything more than some extra cash in his back pocket.
But sitting outside the restaurant one evening, only having to deliver five or six orders a night, Dotun began thinking about how the restaurant could justify paying his wages.
When the restaurant asked him if he could work Monday to Thursday as well, Dotun saw his opportunity.
He said yes, on the condition he could employ his own drivers to do the work.
Seeing that another local restaurant was advertising for a driver, Dotun got in quick and suggested rather than employ their own driver and pay an hourly rate whether they had any deliveries or not, he could provide a delivery service from one of his drivers and charge them per delivery.
Running a restaurant delivery service provided him with the insight into a gap in the market and a rising demand for takeaway services from quality restaurants.
At the edge of the cliff once more in July 2012 considering giving up his job at UWE and dedicating himself full time to build the business, true to form Dotun decided to take the leap feet first and go for it.
Fast forward twelve months to August 2013 and the business, formerly FoodCouriers, has just re-launched as Meals.co.uk with twenty two Bristol restaurants on board and a growing team of four full time employees plus drivers.
Commenting on the success of meals.co.uk to date, Dotun said: “Since we officially ‘launched’ the business in September 2012 the response has been phenomenal.
Having lived in Bristol for the past seven years and worked in restaurant delivery, my gut feeling was that there was definitely a market for high quality, restaurant food, delivered direct to the home.”