Ade Fola-Alade, co-founder of Baking Intelligence, an online knowledge marketplace for serious bakers. He is a first-time founder in his mid-20s, a Nigerian student immigrant to the UK, with a Master’s degree in Cyber Security & Big Data from Loughborough University London. He runs the business along with his Accra based mother and brother.
Where did your business idea come from?
Baking Intelligence was founded when we realized that a lot of people wanted to learn to bake but not on YouTube or Instagram where they had no contact with the teachers. We created bakingintelligence.com as a place where you can simply log on and immediately get all the videos you want, but also interact with the instructors. You can ask questions about specific recipes, you can share your recipes and outcomes with the rest of the community. You can get advice and even business tips.
Baking Intelligence was founded when we realized that a lot of people wanted to learn to bake but didn’t simply want to do so YouTube or Instagram where they had no connection with the teachers. We created bakingintelligence.com as a place where you can simply log on and immediately get all the videos and learning content you want, but also interact with the instructors. You can ask questions about specific recipes, you can share your recipes and outcomes with the rest of the community. You can get advice and even business tips.
How did the family business get started?
Ours is a very interesting story. My Mom’s been a baker for quite a while now. She started her own baking business, opened a cafe and built quite a reputation for herself. After a while, people started asking her to teach baking. She got loads of DMs all the time on Instagram.
So in January of 2018, when we were making New Year’s resolutions, she said ‘Hey I want to build the business. I want to start training people but I want to do it online through WhatsApp and Facebook groups’. Initially, I thought it was a silly idea. Why would I learn to bake through a WhatsApp group? But the more we talked, the more I realized there was something in it. We put our heads together and with my technology expertise we created the very first Baking Intelligence app and even before it was launched we had about 200 sign-ups.
What is your market niche?
Originally our USP was that Baking Intelligence was built by Africans for Africans, tailored for African tastes and a hot climate. Our customers think ‘Hey, here’s someone that looks and thinks like me. Teach me how to bake!’ They want to relate with someone, want to feel like they know you, not some YouTube celebrity that probably wouldn’t talk to you if you asked a question. The company operates internationally across the African continent, with students from Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Zambia, and within the diaspora.
How has Covid 19 impacted on the business?
Covid 19 has been crazy for us. All of a sudden everyone was stuck at home and it seemed the world turned to baking. We’ve seen a huge spike in interest and had to hire more staff to cope with the number of people we’re onboarding. We’ve also seen a surge in our international sign-ups from Australia, Malaysia, the Caribbean and pretty much all of the English speaking world, so the global appeal of our offer has become evident. As of May 2020, we have 3,500 students signed on to the platform, up from 1800 in 2019, a year on year growth of close to 100%, with more expected, while growing our Instagram following to 31000.
How has OneTech supported you?
I signed up to the OneTech Fast Forward pre-accelerator programme in February 2019, and that was life-changing. It took founders from idea to pitch to understanding how to get their businesses to the next level. We got access to different mentors coming in every week from all sorts of spaces such as startup founders or investors. It was a real diversity of thoughts and ideas. Each week was a new eye-opener and made me realize ‘Gosh, I’ve got so much more to do’. It exposed me to the startup community in London. It changed our mindset from being a small family ride to becoming a scalable business that could have a real impact
I think it’s amazing work that OneTech has been doing. I came to London as a student immigrant. I had no connections within the startup space. Everything I knew was from the news or anecdotal. Through OneTech I’ve met some really amazing female founders and loads of people from BAME backgrounds who are doing incredible things.
What is your advice to underrepresented founders?
Through programmes like OneTech you can start to see people who look like you and come from similar backgrounds or have similar upbringings, being successful. I really do think that changes your mindset. Get on board and see how much you can unlock your hidden potential.