Fueled with an ambition to create a platform dedicated to bringing professional singles together in Lagos, my friend Busola Ogunnaike and her business partner Nkechi Bakare, set up Caramel & Chocolate Love Concepts.
Starting of their business with a bang, the two ladies were semifinalists in a female entrepreneurs competition led by She Leads Africa(SLA) in 2014. SLA seeks to invest in Africa’s most talented and promising female entrepreneur and hosts an annual flagship program, which is a pitch competition targeted at female-led high growth startups on the continent and diaspora. Sponsors and supporters for the successful start-up company include international and pan-African businesses including GT Bank, Huawei, Etisalat, and Forbes Woman Africa.
Coming from London and Berlin, where dating apps like Tinder and sites like Ok Cupid are de rigueur, I was very keen to find out how a dating business thrives in a city like Lagos, which despite its cosmopolitan nature: is far more traditional and dare I say old-fashioned when it comes to dating. I had so many questions for Busola and luckily I was able to sit her down for a good grilling!
MFSL: What motivated you and your partner to start this dating service company?
Busola: I relocated to Lagos last year and quickly noticed that it’s very hard to meet like-minded Singles in Lagos. This is even more so, if you didn’t grow up in Nigeria, or you’ve spent the bulk of years abroad (which I have). When that’s the case, one tends not to have a network with a pool of eligible men or women you can dip from to date. Also going out socially in Lagos, I noticed more often than not, people stuck in their groups making mingling and getting to know new people that much harder.
Consequently, my partner and I came up with our company, Caramel & Chocolates Love Concepts, so we could create a space with an environment that facilitated mingling and interaction between Singles.
MFSL: How did you go about taking your first Singles event from concept to reality?
Busola: Once my partner and I decided we would do the event in February 2014, from doing research we decided to host the event at 355 Lounge as we felt it was a good match.
MFSL: What was your thought process when inviting people for your first Speed Dating event?
Busola: For that we tapped into our personal contact and targeted our friends we knew were open and adventurous professionals. We told those contacts to invite their contacts. We wanted the first event to be private and exclusive, so we didn’t do mass promotions.
MFSL: What were your thoughts on your first Singles Event?
Busola: We had it at 355 Lounge, which is a nice restaurant slash lounge in Victoria Island. It was on a Saturday evening and it drew a very diverse crowd, people from Lebanon, Europe and of course Nigerians, Indians etc. We put our entrance fee above N5000 which got each guest unlimited cocktails (until our tab at the bar ran out) and delicious finger food.
At the start of the event, people were slightly hesitant but as the night drew on they relaxed and got more involved.
About 20 people came to the event and we had a good ratio of men to women. It was actually an ideal number for a cozy event.
MFSL: This year in April 2015, your company hosted the Singles event, Dating In The Dark at Lotus Lounge at Pattaya, Victoria Island. How did that go?
Busola: Well for this year, we wanted to put more of a twist on the typical dating event, so inspired by the Dating In The Dark TV Show, we did a Dating In The Dark event. But for our event, the way it worked was it happened like a Speed Dating event in terms of the set-up, the big difference was each guest was blindfolded, so we were on hand to guide people from seat to seat.
MFSL: What difficulties have you faced so far in running the business?
Busola: A few include deciding on the right time for an event, for example with our very first event, the men came on time but the women didn’t and that wait can dampen the atmosphere/vibe of the event. Trying to convince people to actually come to the event can be challenging as it involves trying to break the stereotype that dating events are ‘desperate’ etc. However, we are working to address this through, developing alternate marketing strategies and creating more awareness.
Also, my partner and I have 9 to 5 jobs, so it can be hard to balance that with Caramel & Chocolates Love Concepts.
MFSL: Finally, what do you hope for your Caramel & Chocolates Love Concepts in the future?
Busola: Right now we are funding ourselves, in the future we hope to partner with brands. We want to be known as an organization that brings Singles together in unique ways. We also hope to not only host events for singles but to provide matchmaking services as well.
Dear Readers, here is your turn to take part in the growth of Caramel & Chocolates Love Concepts. I would love to know from you what you think the company should do event-wise to attract their target audience, i.e. Late 20 Somethings to 30 Somethings? Your feedback is essential and a great help to give Caramel & Chocolates Love Concepts more of an idea of what their target audience wants in their dating events. So what kind of Dating Games do you think should be played at their events? Which event spaces would you want the dating events to take place? What would you want as a side attraction at their events, i.e. a live performance, comedy routine etc?
Please note feedback is very much welcome from women or men from all over the world.
Like Caramel & Chocolates Love Concepts’ Facebook Page here- https://www.facebook.com/caramelandchocolateconcepts?fref=ts