TANIMOWO Lanre Bashiru is the gentleman behind Labash, a cocktail and catering company that has become a household name. ENCOMIUM Weekly, in this interview took him up on his 14 years in the business and his projection.
When Labash started 14 years ago, did you envisage it will go this far?
The dream of any businessman is for the enterprise to grow beyond his imagination and for God to crown his effort. It wasn’t my intention neither my doing, I never thought it would grow to what it is today. I give God all the glory.
What will you say is your staying power over the years?
It depends, one has to be humble all through life and business. Another secret is what I will call external isolation, I have so many recipes that have been personalized which no other person can fathom. I mean in terms of the business, it is just like Coca Cola, other cola drinks may come up but none can ever be like it.
As a pioneer in this business, how does it feel when you see people who used to be under you copying the same business?
I usually challenge myself even if people don’t challenge me. When I started, I envisaged that such a thing will happen, people will definitely come up with their own thing even if it means copying, they will eventually challenge you. If you don’t have that in mind in the Nigerian concept you are making a mistake. There is no business in Nigeria that people will not copy but if you have it at the back of your mind that people will copy you, it will keep you on your toes and make you want to stay ahead of others rather than being pushed out of business. When Labash started, we looked at the business as a free entry and exit, so we were challenging ourselves on equipment, staff orientation, office layout, setting up an outdoor business and many other things which other people are still finding difficult to copy. The mindset of a leader is always at alert to compete with others.
What is the greatest challenge you encounter in this kind of business?
It is about finance, we have so many things out there that we can do but because of the financial implication, it might be difficult. All the equipment we use (the orange machine, sugar cane machine, mango machine) were all imported. We are trying to spread our tentacles to other areas that our services are required, and it all requires money.
Muslims are fasting now, there is already artificial scarcity of fruits which are your raw materials, how do cope with the high cost?
We cope in the sense that we have chains of vendors and suppliers in different locations. The timing for harvest varies from place to place, the time we harvest some fruits in Lagos is not the same time they are harvested in some other states. So, we have contacts in different locations, we also preserve our raw materials. I will say it is the preservation that keeps us in the business. Despite the artificial scarcity, we don’t hike the price of our services. So, one way or the other, the scarcity does not affect us. We have our fixed prices and we don’t go beyond that. We preserve our products and we have suppliers.
What are the qualities that make a successful businessman?
Whoever wants to lead must lead well with all the requirements, you have to be optimistic about business because if you are not, you will doubt your ability to succeed. To make a successful businessman, you must be able to carry your followers along. Education is another thing, the knowledge you have of that business will propel and guide you through your presentation, comportment, arrangement as regards the administration in your office, your negotiation and so many other things. A lot of employers don’t carry the people that work with them along.
Can you tell us the greatest mistake you ever made?
I will say sourcing information, its quite difficult to source information. For instance, if someone is getting married, it can be difficult to get the contact person, sometimes it might even be late. Loosing such business is what I try to avoid.
Can you tell us the best business decision, you have ever made?
I will say my going into this cocktail business. I worked with NEPA for some years.
You don’t really have a related background with what you do, so what aroused the interest for cocktail business in you?
It is just God. Aside that, when I was in school in Manchester, I met a friend who happens to work in a bar, he was always mixing drinks and I was always fascinated, I looked at it and thought it would be a good business. I wanted to set up the business in England, but I was told it would not be worth the while, so I decided to bring it to Nigeria. When I started, I did fruit juice for a few people in galloons so that they could take it when they are unwinding. That was how it all started, people saw it as interesting, I thank God today that it has blossomed.
So, what is new about Labash?
We are trying to upgrade our staff, we find out that there is a lot of unemployment out there, even the employed are having problems with efficiency. For them to be more efficient, the stress they go through has to be reduced. They are surrounded by a lot of things, the environment is stressful, they inhale a lot of things in the cause of their work, generator fume, fume from vehicles. Some go out very early in the morning and return quite late at night, even when we inhale petrol, it can disturb the nerves. We have our in-house doctors who can prescribe the fruit for any ailment and we will prepare and package the juice for the client. For instance, someone with sight or vision problem needs a lot of carrot juice. All these ailments have different food and drinks that can cure them. If a client wants to loose or add weight, it can also be taken care of by Labash. We want to bring out services to your door steps, no matter the location. We also have herbal drinks as well. Our herbal products are mixed with fresh fruit juices based on the prescription the doctor gives. We want to serve as a dispenser and a pharmacist to our clients. We have already started, we have one at Ikoyi Club, golf session. People have even started placing orders for it, we thank God that the response is impressive.
We also have our eatery on the Island where clients can walk in to get their snacks and fresh juice, we do home delivery as well. The eatery is called Labash.
How do you charge for your services?
It depends on the order, some may say its fresh juice but it could be either alcoholic or non-alcoholic, so it depends, but we charge moderately.
What is the height you want to take Labash to?
In our mission statement, we said we would be a catalyst in the industry. This is what we have been doing, we have proved to other parts of the world that Nigeria has the best citrus, we have showcased Labash at exhibitions in other parts of the world despite the fact that we bought the equipment there, the juice proved that Nigerian citrus is better than the ones they used fertilizer to pollute. We also look forward to going international, creating employment for the youths.
Not much is known about your family, can you tell us about them?
My wife is a friendly woman, she is Modupe Taibat Tanimowo, without her, Labash wouldn’t have existed. We have four children, my first child is 16, his name is Ibrahim Olakunle Tanimowo, we have Ololade Khaliq, Basit and Alim.
Can you tell us about yourself?
I am a Lagosian, my father is from Abeokuta but my mum is from the Oniru family of Lagos and that is where I belong because I am closer to my mum.
- THIS STORY WAS FIRST PUBLISHED IN ENCOMIUM WEEKLY ON TUESDAY, AUGUST 31, 2010