Mr. Tunji Sunmonu is the Chairman and Chief Executive of Supreme Group, operators of the popular Butterfield Bakery, Sky Pavilion, Chicken Republic, MSI Waste Management and so many other business interest. All these are located in Abeokuta, the capital city of Ogun State. He is not a man given to ceremonies. When he decides to do something, he does it in full measure.
Nobody forgets the first time they meet Tunji Sunmonu; everyone wishes for an encore. Often, they remember his simplicity and his easy-going disposition. That is the hallmark of the Tunji Sunmonu brand.
Over the years, he has carved an enviable niche for himself in global business to the extent that his Supreme Group brand has become a force to reckon with in the Nigerian business clime.
He flaunts a stack of laurels to his credit and as a don in the business circuit, many accomplished business men have attained self-actualization and ascended the ladder of success through him.
Tunji Sunmonu is a man ahead of his society, a visionary, a philanthropist, an astute businessman and a true community developer buoyed by his remarkable success in the international business scene. Sunmonu decided to extend his magnanimity to his home state, Ogun State, by creating employment for thousands.
His first dramatic entry in the Ogun business terrain was the popular Butter Field Bread brand that changed the face of bakery in Ogun State and also took thousands of jobless folks off the street.
Despite the challenges of running a multimillion naira business empire in a particularly difficult terrain like Abeokuta, Tunji Sunmonu has not chickened out. Rather, he has opened up more job opportunities for the people of the state with the establishment of his magnificent Sky Pavilion event centre which also houses his Chicken Republic eatery and the Sky Bar.
Without any hype, Tunji Sunmonu, is perhaps the biggest private employer of labour in Ogun State. To demonstrate his commitment to the economic development of his home state, Sunmonu has just completed an ultra-modern automated processing plant that would concentrate on production of ice-cream, sausage roll and other confectioneries. The new factory is guaranteed to provide employment for thousands when it becomes operational in few months.
The unassuming successful businessman recently opened up in an interview on his business adventure in the Nigerian business environment and his winning formula.
Could you please describe Tunji Sunmonu as a person removed from the famous Supreme Group/Chicken Republic brand?
Tunji Sunmonu is Tunji Sunmonu. Tunji Sunmonu is a Nigerian, an African-American and a very dependable husband and a father.
A lot of people believe Abeokuta, unlike Lagos is a very difficult place to do business but it seems you have conquered the business terrain here. What does it really take to run a successful business in Abeokuta?
Let me just tell you, it is not easy to do business in Abeokuta. I am an indigene right, but I only come here during holidays. I left Nigeria about 20 years back. I did not envisage that I would ever come to Abeokuta not until I joined an association in the United States, the Egba Progressive Association. I began to have interest in Egba and back then, we started doing humanitarian gestures like publishing, building and re-modeling a building at technical school, Idi-Aba, Abeokuta.
We built a computer centre for them and a clinic through my association and since then my perspective just changed and I decided to bring my business back to Abeokuta to help the community and to help our people because we cannot depend on the government alone.
We have to help the government out, we have to do our own quota to help them out, and business-wise; I am not doing my business because of money. I am doing my business here because I want Abeokuta to develop. The development of the city is what I want and I know if development comes, business would thrive. It is not about profit. I know how much million dollars I have put here in Abeokuta and I know what I am supposed to be gaining.
Looking back at your decision to relocate back home to contribute your own quota to the development of your home state, would you really say your decision has paid off or do you have any regret?
I don’t have any regret. You can never have regret when you are coming to your home state. Sometimes, I sit back and regret and sometimes I just say ‘Ok, we are moving on’. I mean, with the kind of employees I have in Abeokuta, I see no reason to regret, even sometimes it gives me joy. Doing business among our people is tough, I would be honest with you.
Number one is PHCN, which is electricity. In any location of ours, we spend over two million naira on diesel. The other one is the work ethics of our people and that can give you high blood pressure. Also, our maintenance culture. Those are the challenges but right now Abeokuta’s economy is a little low due to the infrastructural projects Governor Ibikunle Amosun is trying to do which at the end of the day would be good.
Right now, the purchasing power is not there yet. We hope after all these infrastructure; the purchasing power can come back again.
Can you share with our readers the latest on the stable of Supreme Group?
Yeah. We are building an ultra-modern factory right now. In-sha Allah, it should be concluded at the end of the year. The plant is truly a processing plant where we will be manufacturing ice-cream, sausage roll and all confectioneries which are all automated.
You have so much on your plate from bakery to hospitality, oil and gas, eatery, etc. How do you balance such a huge schedule with your social life? How do you monitor your businesses?
I can tell you it is not easy. Anytime I go to US, I am always in my office and the business is moving. But here, it is tough, even if you are in the front of your workers. But I try to balance it up. I unwind by swimming and I also play golf.
Where do you see your business interest 10 years from now?
In ten years our aim is to go throughout Nigeria and sub-Africa.
What is the most important thing you learnt from doing business in Nigeria and your advice to fellow Nigerians in the Diaspora aspiring to relocate back home. What is the winning formula?
The winning formula is to be patient, be calm; of course, you will get distracted. If you get discouraged and run away, why are you running away? It is your place. Fight it out and keep fighting and at the end of the day you will get the result.
Finally, how would you like to be remembered?
As a gentleman, and as somebody that is there for people.
– DAYO RUFAI
- This story was first published in ENCOMIUM Weekly on Tuesday, September 17, 2013