HERStory | Lola Adeyemi
Meet Lola - Founder/Chief Souper Woman of It’s Souper
Founded by Lola Adeyemi in 2018, It’s Souper’s Afro-Fusion Gourmet Soup and Sauce line was inspired by the fusion of cultures that exists in Canada, a yearning for authentic flavours from Africa, and a desire to share it with her community. Their mission is to make delicious tasting recipes made with high-quality ingredients and exotic flavours that meet the demands of today’s diverse world.
What made you choose your career path?
For a long time, entrepreneurship wasn’t my pathway. I came to Canada as an international student, finished university, and I started working. Canada is a country that really welcomes immigrants, so I got a work permit, and my focus was to become an executive in the corporate world. I became a Senior Consultant with the City of Toronto, and everything was great. But I started to feel a passion for starting my own company that was overwhelming that I had to answer the call.
What are the biggest barriers you have faced and how did you overcome them or are overcoming them?
Being a first-generation immigrant, the biggest barrier has been finances. I’m really just building my wealth now, and taking my savings to start my business was a huge risk. And no matter how calculated or frugal you are in starting a business, you are still going to make mistakes that will cost you money. One of the ways that I’ve been able to overcome this challenge has been applying for grants really actively. I was blessed to be able to have gotten two grants so far – one of which was lifechanging as it allowed me to be able to afford to change my packaging. But even with these grants, it’s still a continuous struggle.
Another barrier is access. A lot of times I’ve found in this industry, it’s sometimes who you know, and being somebody who is an immigrant, it still comes down to the fact that my network isn’t as diverse. A lot of times, I don’t know somebody who knows someone who works at a bank, or is a cousin of a brother who owns a distribution company. These type of things are also experienced by my Canadian counterparts, but sometimes they have access or connections that I don’t have. The way I have overcome this is by networking myself. I’ve pushed myself to not be shy, connect with people on LinkedIn, and always share my story and struggles so that I can better connect with people.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Just keep going – the struggles are going to come, but you’re going to overcome them, and you’re going to be an inspiration to people. My younger self dropped out of medical school and was so scared. I felt like I had disappointed everyone, and I wasn’t sure where I was going. But right now, seeing the inspiration that this brand has given to other people, like other African immigrants who message me and tell me how inspiring it is to see another African brand in stores, I would never turn back.
Why would you encourage young women to enter careers in manufacturing?
A lot of times, women are the decision makers when it comes to purchasing for households. Even for organizations in the corporate world, we make a lot of purchasing decisions. We’re the ones who know what is needed. We have the ideas; we know where the gaps are and ask ourselves why someone else hasn’t created this yet. If you realize there’s a gap in the market, create it – invent that product, create that solution. I really encourage women to do that and not wait for somebody else. Even if you’re not an inventor, even if you don’t have the funds, find a way to pitch your idea and get some funding to create it yourself.