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Enterprise: Joba Foods and Bakery takes ‘Agege Bread’, other Nigerian specialties to Chicago, in US

Olugbemisola Olawumi, a Nigerian entrepreneur, Posing with Loaves of 'Agege Bread' in Bucktown, Chicago, United States Photos: Block Club Chicago

*Nigerian-born Olugbemisola Olawumi, who operates Joba Foods & Bakery, opens a retail store in the Bucktown neighborhood, Chicago, United States, discloses hers is ‘only Nigerian bakery that is in Chicago, if not in Illinois, and we are the only Agege Bread that is on the market’

Alexander Davis | ConsumerConnect

Olugbemisola Olawumi, a Nigerian entrepreneur, has opened a retail store in the Bucktown neighborhood, Chicago, United States (US), after expanding her wholesale bakery business in recent years.

Olawumi operates a bakery selling the West African country’s bread, meat and chicken pies, cookies and other sweets, has been operating Joba Food & Bakery at 2039 N. Western Avenue, baking at the Bucktown space for the past several years, reports Block Club Chicago.

Joba Food & Bakery Office in Bucktown, Chicago, United States

At the centre of the business in the neighbourhood is Olawumi’s fresh “Agege Bread”, which she calls Nigerian-style brioche.

ConsumerConnect learnt though the brand of bread is found everywhere in Nigeria, her home country, but can difficult to come by in Chicago.

Olawumi said: “It’s a staple that cuts across socio-economic status in the country, because every table pretty much at some point has Agege Bread.

“It lends well to pretty much anything.”

The Nigerian businesswoman reportedly opened the shop for retail customers December 2022, adding new items and a range of drinks, such as Maltina, a malt beverage popular in Nigeria.

Olawumi also explained the store serves as a hub for Joba’s wholesale business, which sells to about 10 grocery stores in Chicago, and a few more in the suburbs in the American country.

In regard to how her business added bakery to the menu, Olawumi disclosed she had long cooked for friends and family, but didn’t set out to become a baker when she relocated to Chicago, US, from Nigeria about 20 years ago.

However, that began to change when a pastor at her church in Rogers Park, where Olawumi also lives, suggested someone start a Nigerian food business.

Olawumi’s first product was “moin moin”, a Nigerian bean casserole, which she noted proved popular in her community, according to report.

She further said: “In the Nigerian community, from church and friends, I said, ‘I now have a business,’ so people will do parties, and [moin moin] is a good party staple.”

Olawumi later started making meat pies, which she had for sale at the Bucktown store, before making Agege Bread.

Entrepreneurial challenges

According to Olawumi, it wasn’t easy at first. She  revealed that some of her first attempts ended up in the trash before she perfected her recipe.

“I did trial and error in my own mini lab, in my kitchen and all that, getting the right texture. “Calling experts back home, I was like, ‘okay, is this supposed to look like this?” she stated.

Since starting to bake bread 2017, demand has grown steadily, Olawumi said.

Aside from Chicago and suburbs, she also has had stores in Wisconsin and Indiana reach out to stock her loaves.

“Joba Foods & Bakery is the only Nigerian bakery that is in Chicago, if not in Illinois, and we are the only Agege Bread that is on the market.

“There are Agege-style breads, but this is the real thing,” she said.

Joba Foods & Bakery is open 10 a.m.- 4p.m. Thursday-Saturday, report said.

Looking ahead

Olawumi soon plans more offerings at Joba Foods,  including ‘moin moin’ and ‘akara’, the fried “cousin” of moin moin, she said.

As the Nigerian businesswoman continues to operate in Bucktown, Olawumi stated she wants to both provide Nigerian staples to her community in Chicago, while also diversifying the neighbourhood’s food scene for people unfamiliar with the African country’s cuisine.

But there’s also a more basic function Olawumi sees for her business: making people happy.

“Somebody can come in here, grab a cookie, and that makes their day. Somebody comes in with a smile and you talk to them and they feel better,” she said.

“Just making our neighbourhood, our city, a better place.

“One cookie at a time, one pie at a time, one Agege Bread at a time.”

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