Reel Fruit’s 10 years of audacity – Affiong Willliam's journey to building Nigeria’s largest dried fruit snack company!

Posted by Daniel Idowu on

We’re big fans of Affiong Williams at Value Africa.

To learn about Affiong, the founder of Reel Fruits, read 10 quotes that showcase her persistence, vision, and audacity in building a world-class company from scratch. These quotes have been selected from various articles available on the internet.

1. From 0 to 860 stores in ten years.

"We had to build the market for our products by making sure that we were everywhere where people are, in stores, and pushing our products and distribution around the country. That has been the journey that we took in the past 10 years to be where we are today. We’re currently in over 860 stores nationwide and I’m very proud of myself and the team for achieving that feat – a product that was not in existence 10 years ago can now be found across the country." 

Affiong speaking to Business Day in Dec 2022.

2. Substance over style - then came the rebrand

As you can see below, our packaging design…umm progressively deteriorated (to put it mildly) as we chose launching and distributing new products in the market as quickly as possible over brand uniformity. In summary, we didn’t have the time — nor finances — to make the investment in brand uniformity.

We felt our former packaging had become dated and unrepresentative of the caliber of company we are building. Not only was it very scattered, our once ‘innovative’ packaging had now become obsolete and boring. It was clear we needed to do something visual to maintain our position in the market.

After deciding to re-brand, we realized that a simple brand refresh wasn’t going to be enough. We had come to a point in our journey where we needed to rethink on our mission, vision, culture and our core values and reflect that in our new brand identity. We went through a process of workshops, culture surveys, focus groups to finalize and agree on who we are and what we stand for. We then decided to reflect this in our new brand identity, which was brought to life so beautifully in the most comprehensive brand book prepared for us by our brand agency, Evoke Lagos.

Reel Fruit's company blog, keeping it 'reel': why we rebranded

3. Building for the world.

 “I chose to start this business because I saw the gap in the market for people who want healthier snack. Also, it was important to make these goods look and reflect the quality in the production. So, I wanted to have a Nigerian brand that could be on any shelf in the world.”

Affiong speaking to Ghana Business talks in 2016.

4. Being persistent when raising capital

"When I look at other founders that have successfully raised, one common thread is persistence. Most of those who have raised successfully have a minimum five years’ track record in their line of business. I started ReelFruit nine years ago and worked towards this funding round for the past five years. At times, I was spending three to four full days a week focused on fundraising for months at a time, supported by a full-time team. Just building the data room (all of the necessary financial, operational, and other data investors need for their due diligence) took months of work. This all has to be balanced with keeping the day-to-day operations going. I’ve seen a number of entrepreneurs having to retreat from fundraising because they are spending too much time away from running the business."

Affiong, speaking to James Torvaney, in how we made it in Africa

5. Lesson’s learnt

"I think in the early days, I struggled with sharing my vision with the team. I felt that if I kept sharing my vision about becoming an end-to-end business with huge manufacturing and global exports, while we were still working from a one-bedroom in Yaba, they would think I was out of touch with reality. So I usually kept a lot of that stuff to myself."

But I found that when I started sharing more, being open about my ambitions, the team rallied behind to help me reach them. 

I think the other thing I’ve learnt is being more audacious. Of course, I’m typically a bold person personally, but in business, I was very timid, always expecting the worst. And it sometimes showed in the way we did business. But I’ve gotten bolder about what we can and can’t do. I think that boldness has caught on with the team, so I’m proud of myself.

6. Battling the unemployment crisis in Nigeria

I came back to Nigeria to start a business because I saw there was an unemployment crisis in Nigeria. There are a lot of you talented Nigerians who don’t have the opportunity to get decent and meaningful work. I believe it is companies like ReelFruit who are moving Nigeria forward in terms of creating jobs, buying materials from s farmers reducing unemployment and most importantly reducing poverty.

USAID video on Affiong’s Secret Sauce.

7. On being selected as a Veuve Clicquot's Bold Woman Award Winner

As this year’s Bold Woman Award winner, you will travel to Reims, France, the home of Veuve Clicquot for an immersion in the history, tradition and luxury of the Maison. What are you looking forward to during this trip? Do you have any expectations?  

I am really excited to be getting this experience. I look forward to learning more about the history of Veuve Clicquout as well as meeting other amazing entrepreneurs from across the world. I look forward to the connections to be made. I also look forward to the champagne.

Did you ever believe you’d make it all the way when you were announced as a finalist? 

Yes, I did think my chances were good, especially because I think my entrepreneurial journey and story mirrors that of Veuve Clicquot quite closely. I thought there was a good fit and I am glad I won it all.

What does being a Bold Woman mean to you personally?

It means being determined and undeterred in all that you want to achieve. It means standing firm in your purpose and being a ‘doer’ who goes after one’s dreams, despite the challenges ahead.

Affiong speaking to The Guardian NG, after winning her Bold Woman award.

8. Pivoting from juice to dried fruits 

The first plan was to produce fruit juice as a means to cut down on post-harvest losses for fruit farmers. However, Affiong knew that she could not afford to build a fruit juice factory at the early stages of the business. So, processing dried fruits came as an alternative business idea which could also help achieve the same goal. As a dried fruit snack, the product also did not require power to preserve it, and this meant that the Nigerian sector issue would not be a problem.  

Profile on Affiong Williams by Nairametrics, 2023.


9. Transforming an industry; inside Reel Fruit's plan to revitalise Nigeria's Mango sector

At ReelFruit, we will only succeed in scaling our dried fruit snack business if we can make mango farming prosperous for farmers.

We’re thrilled to announce that we’ve received USAID grant to launch an agro-extension services program that will support over 200 Nigerian fruit farmers.

By hiring field agents, we’ll teach our partner farmers the best agricultural practices to produce a consistent supply of high-quality mangoes. We aim to buy 750 MW of mangoes – or 38 twenty ton trucks –  in the 2022 season alone.

A constant stream of mangoes will not only keep our new Ogun State factory at full capacity, it will also dramatically increase the incomes of our partner farmers. Just like Ghana – whose mango sector was transformed by strong buyers – we hope our ambitious plans will revitalize Nigeria’s struggling mango sector.

Reel Fruit company blog on - USAID grant.

10. Ten years of audacity – from apartment to factory. 

The journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step. ReelFruit documentary telling their story from an apartment in Surulere Nigeria to offices in Lagos, Port Harcourt and Nigeria.

Reel Fruit documentary produced to celebrate ten years of Audacity.

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  • Loved reading about the woman behind the delicious snacks. What an inspiring journey. So glad you brought them to the UK.

    Funmi on

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