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Tooting's Young Entrepreneurs: Samson Opayemi

Tooting's Young Entrepreneurs: Samson Opayemi

2017-11-09 
| by Editor | Posted in News, Business & Finance

Continuing our series featuring some of Tooting’s great young entrepreneurs, we introduce Samson Opayemi, Co-founder of sustainable drinks company OOZE and Digilab Tooting team member.

OOZE Drinks fights against food waste by creating delicious sustainable drinks. The team sources misshapen fruit and vegetables that are overlooked – simply because of their shape –  and blend them into mouth-watering drinks. They don’t use any preservatives or additives – just 100% fruit.

The story started when Samson met fellow students Giuseppe and Valerie at Barking & Dagenham College, where he was studying a foundation degree in design. Their brief was to find an innovative way of solving a global issue – food waste. So they decided to focus on developing a solution, coming up with the idea of taking misshapen fruits that no supermarket wanted and blending them into juices. According to WRAP, around 40% of produce doesn’t make it to the supermarket shelves, simply because of aesthetic reasons.

It was whilst studying that Samson and his colleagues were encouraged by friends and family to turn this initiative into a viable business. They began striking up good relationships with local market traders who gave them boxes of misshapen, bruised and unsellable fruit for free, which they then blended into sustainable smoothies. The team tested the reaction by selling their juices at music festivals, in a local library café and at church, receiving great feedback with people suggesting other flavours they could try.

Taking note of this, they began to tweak the ingredients and scale up organically. They bought machinery such as blending equipment with their own money and started production in their local library kitchen, until they had to move out due to complaints about the smell of mangoes! They now have a kitchen in their local area as they look to grow further.

Samson, Giuseppe and Valerie
 

“The biggest obstacle to us expanding right now is the shelf life of our product,” says Samson. “It’s currently just 2-3 days, so we know we need to increase that to get the interest of major retailers. We are one step closer to solving this issue after having consultations with experienced food and drinks scientists in the industry, we now know the right combinations of ingredients we need to preserve our product for longer – between 14 to 43 days is the aim – so that’s the focus now.”

In order to help them grow quickly, OOZE Drinks has been successfully attracting funding through grants and winning awards over the past year. The were awarded a £500 grant from London South Bank University Student Enterprise Spark programme, a £2,000 prize from the University of East London at their Haberdashers’ Awards, a £3,000 grant from Lloyds Bank and won £5,000 in the Shell LiveWIRE competition. “We’ve built up a decent fund which will go towards a number of key areas, such as machinery to scale up, further research and development to fine-tune our product, finding the manufacturers we will ultimately need when we can’t handle orders ourselves, as well as sponsorship, travel expenses and marketing,” says Samson.

Alongside growing their business, the OOZE Drinks team want to teach the next generation all that they’ve learned about the injustice of the global food system and the role that sustainable business has to play in combatting this. “We want to make sure kids know that they shouldn’t throw away a banana just because it has black spots on it,” says Samson.

It was through his connection with Digilab Barking that Samson heard about the opportunity to be part of the new Digilab project here in Tooting, using his design skills to assist on various projects as well as working alongside Obed Yeboah to teach digital skills to the next generation in SW17. 

“I love working with people and am excited to build something from scratch and help others to learn and grow,” says Samson. “Just the other day, we were teaching a bunch of local kids how to code, edit pictures, create snapchat filters and more. I found that I was learning just as much from the kids as they were learning from me – they all think, learn & apply what I teach them differently – and they learn fast!”

“There’s a real deficit in digital skills in this country and the government are starting to recognise this, giving every Year 7 child a micro:bit (programable computer, smaller than a credit card) as a learning tool for coding. Our aim with Digilab is for it to continually grow and be such a success that we can replicate it elsewhere around the country. 

“And our aim for OOZE Drinks? To be bigger than Innocent!”

We wish Samson good luck as he helps take both Ooze Drinks and Digilab Tooting to the next level.

You can find out more about Ooze Drinks on their website and follow them on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. You can find out more about Digilab Tooting on their website and follow them on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. You can contact Samson at digilab@businesslaunchpad.org.uk

Based in the Trident Business Centre on Bickersteth Road, Business Launchpad offers free business support & counselling to young entrepreneurs aged 16-30 in Wandsworth. To find out more about Business Launchpad, click here.

If you’re a young Tooting entrepreneur who’d like to be featured in future articles, then drop us some details via email – we’d love to hear from you!

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