Bonix is derived from my maiden name, Bola Oni, with an ‘X .’ This household name is known for supply of drinks, event planning, empowering young entrepreneurs and women, e.t.c.
I am a woman who, for three decades, has grown to understand this industry, in and out. Experience has shaped me, passing through the good, the bad, and the ugly. My grit and resilience have built me up to make this brand, Bonix Drinks, stand the test of time.
So, celebrating thirty years in this business is a clarion call to other entrepreneurs on the verge of giving up. I admonish that you stand firm and let the experience shape and mould you to become a better person.
Rome was not built in a day, neither was the Bonix Drinks Empire. It didn’t just pick up in a day and flourish. I faced obstacles and challenges and at some point, wanted to give up, but I pushed through, and so can you. It just takes sacrifice, commitment, dedication, and most importantly, God; to make it work.
Hence, this book serves the purpose of telling the tales of my journey so far and letting people see that I am also human.
Get comfortable in your seat because this will be a rollercoaster ride, and remember to be open-minded. Each chapter is packed with something to motivate you.
CHAPTER ONE- IN THE BEGINNING
I was born on a lovely weekend, Saturday, the 6th of June, 1970. It was probably a sign that I was to be an owanbe person, in a catering way. I lived with my family at Ebute Meta, Lagos state. My childhood days, I can boldly say, were my formative years in becoming an entrepreneur, and they became more daring as I advanced.
It started when I was just a little girl in primary school. My mother sold food, and that involved a lot of physical chores, which required more helping hands than just hers alone. It was so much stress for her. She had to go to the market to get food items that would be needed, wake up as early as possible, and prepare the food to be ready on time for customers. To top it all off, my Mother’s health condition was not so good. I saw all of this; it wasn’t a good sight. My heart was heavy, and I had to devise a means to be more valuable and resourceful for my Mother.
I confidently went to my school Headmistress in Marywood Primary School,
Ebutte-Meta. I told her my Mother asked that she fixes me up for the afternoon session in school so that I could help her out with selling in the mornings. I couldn’t tell what came over me to take that step, but I knew I had to do something. Fortunately, my Headmistress agreed to it!
With the readiness to help, I woke up earlier than my Mother and prepared the food- rice and stew. When my Mother wants to work, I’ll tell her to rest while I handle it. I was only nine years old, and one of the many things that stood out for me was the fact that I was money conscious – more business-minded. Unlike my Mother, I ensured that everyone paid for his or her food before I handed it to them. I didn’t support eating on credit, but the customers got accustomed to that method and cooperated with time.
The Oyingbo experience
With time, my Mother was able to secure a space at Oyingbo market. At this phase, I started hawking water and soft drinks like Tandy, Crush, Surge, Coca Cola, e.t.c. This experience was the basis of my formative years as a firm woman who knows and holds her own anytime. My Mother warned me that I should never go into anybody’s house to sell anything; if they couldn’t come out to buy, they could keep their money.
It didn’t stop at just that. My Mother was far-sighted enough to know that one could get friendly, and she made it known never to sit on any man’s legs. I understood all of this as hawking in the streets of Lagos was a challenging thing then. There was also the tough-up foundational training. My Mother would tell me that if anyone, especially men, beats me, I should retaliate rather than cry home or fear them. No man can survive on the street of Oyingbo without being a fierce person.
This continued for years until after my primary school education, and my Mother saw the need for me to go to my village in Kogi state to assist my Grandmother.
Living with my Grandmother
This was the start of exercising my business nature traits. My Grandmother was a prominent businesswoman who was into buying and selling foodstuff. She reached out to my Mother that she needed help, and my Mother thought it was time I put to use my resourcefulness.
So, she took me to my village, Ekinrin-Adde, to stay with my Grandmother.
I attended Baptist Secondary School, Ekinrin-Adde, because education was no joke to my family. Alongside schooling, I was a significant help to my Grandmother as I was basically the one who went to the market to buy her goods. I went to Pategi market, Lokoja, OjaAgbesun in Ikare-Akoko, Omuo-Oke, and Abajo and to Abuja (yam market) just to mention a few.
I frequented Pategi market so well to buy dry fish. By 10pm at night, I would travel with other market women to Pategi from my village, and we would get to the market around 5am. Abaji in Abuja was my major deal for buying yam, my Grandmother would hire a whole lorry, and we’d fill it up with yams to take back to my village for sales. I bought and sold in many markets around my village for my Grandmother, which was a well-taught experience.
There was a time I was traveling to one of these markets with three elderly women at night. Most times, my Grandmother puts me up with people who can be like guardians for me at different times in the market so that I won’t be alone as a teenager. So, on this fateful journey, the lorry suddenly came to a halt. At first, I wasn’t sure what it was, but I had my suspicions. My suspicions were confirmed when I looked at the women and heard coarse voices asking us all to get down. We were attacked by armed robbers. I was scared as they matched us out of the lorry, but I held myself together.
We were laid faces flat on the ground. If anyone attempted to peep, the robbers would hit the person on the back with a machete. They didn’t hesitate. That was how merciless these robbers were. Fortunately for me, the robbers thought I was with one of the women because I was a very young girl, then I was about 15. This assumption made them skip me while asking the other women to give up all their money.
None of the women knew that I wasn’t robbed, and I didn’t know how to tell them that I got away, unlike them. So, I just kept mute, pretending we all shared the same predicament. When we got to the market, we all explained our ordeal to the market women. They were kind enough to let us purchase goods on credit with a promise to pay as soon as possible, though we were not strangers to them.
When I returned to my Grandmother, she was in awe of the whole incident. She was thankful to God primarily that nothing terrible had happened to me. I counted it as my luck and solidified the notion that God was with me. I was so lucky because I was brilliant, which helped with my business craft. I was good at dealing with money and meticulous in spending. I was also tall, beautiful, and attractive. So, I utilized all of this to be valuable and resourceful. I was pretty popular in my village, majorly for being a helping hand to my Grandmother. I was called ‘omo-eleja’, ‘Omomamosaeleja’.
Between 1987 and 1989, I attended The School of Health Technology, Offa, where I studied Community Nursing. I successfully combined my education with running errands for my Grandmother.
How it all started
After my education at Offa, I finally returned to Lagos. Then, my Mother secured a lock-up shop in Tejuosho market. She sold drinks because she was asked to quit the cooking business due to her health condition. I helped her here and there as I couldn’t leave it all to her. Somehow, I found it exciting and fun to do, even if it gets stressful. In 1995, I went further in my education at Great Ife- Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria. I bagged my degree in International Relations.
The God factor popped up for me again when a total stranger landed me my first breakthrough job in Minna. On a hot afternoon, some men entered the shop and settled for a drink. I could see how tired they were, and I was highly hospitable alongside selling chilled drinks to them. I kept checking if there was anything they wanted to get, so I could get it for them and they wouldn’t have to stress themselves.
After a while, one of these men asked if I could supply drinks at Minna for a particular event. This was for Babangida’s daughter, Aisha’s first marriage. Before then, I usually do home deliveries as a side piece without charges. I was well known in the market for supplying events, naming ceremonies or traditional weddings, e.t.c. After gaining customers’ trust, I gradually put charges for delivery (transport fare) and missing bottles. The customers didn’t mind as much as they got their drinks. Over time, I added chilling of the drinks to my service for them. I got a big iron drum and did the job for them. Indirectly and unconsciously, I didn’t know I was training myself.
So, I was more than thrilled when the Minna opportunity came. I quickly calculated how the gig would flow. Since my Mother was a significant dealer in Lagos, Coca-Cola in Lagos could collaborate with Coca-Cola in Minna for the job. I said yes! I spent two weeks in Minna for the job without regrets.