(left to right, Seun, Seyi)
Brothers Seun and Seyi Abolaji were born in Nigeria before relocating to the U.S as young children. Seun who studied Pharmacy at Colorado University recollects how during his younger years he was nicknamed ‘the candy man‘. In his first display of entrepreneurial ability, he would sell assorted sweets at marked up prices to fellow pupils whilst at school. ‘I don’t know why they didn’t just go down to the store’ he says, ‘I guess I provided them with access.’
After attending university, the brothers moved back to Nigeria. Initially, they tasked themselves with reviving a struggling family business selling Ekuru (a local produce made from palm kernel cake ), which ultimately failed. As the saying goes, if at first you don’t succeed why not try again? This is exactly what they did.
Conceiving the idea
After the palm kernel business fell apart, Seun described the beginnings of what would be, Wilson’s Juice.
‘We began thinking about doing orange juice. But one day I saw fresh lemons in the market and said to my friends, “Wow. I haven’t had lemonade in a while.” So we made a fresh batch and a neighborhood kid walked up to us and asked what we were making. We let him taste some and he liked it. He came back a few minutes later with four other people and that’s how it started.
From Idea to reality
In 2010, with just 2000 Naira (equivalent to $5 at the time) the brothers began buying and squeezing fresh lemons into plastic cups to sell to people.
‘We started off with a plastic lemon squeezer and we would hand squeeze the fresh lemons. We would sell lemonade in cups and we actually made pretty good money doing that. We had eleven people working with us but it was hectic. We just couldn’t make it quickly enough and it was hard to keep track of what we sold so I suggested bottling it. We made our first ten bottles and only sold two. Our staff wanted us to just stick to cups but I insisted on bottling the lemonade and it soon caught on.’
‘We were initially using recycled bottles, but we wanted our bottles to be distinct. We had a mold created in China, which we use to produce our bottles here. Everything is produced in Nigeria; the bottles, the lemons, the hibiscus flower (zobo) we use for our pink lemonade, and the pure cane sugar. It’s all natural and all Nigerian.’
Frequently asked question
We are often asked “How did the name Wilsons come about?” Our surname is Abolaji, if you were offered ‘Abolaji juice’ would you buy? We had to ask ourselves, would Abolaji be relevant in the East or West of Nigeria? in Ghana? We did not want to be local Ota champions. We needed a name that was more universal. Ultimately, we decided on Wilsons in honour of Seyi’s former soccer team mate.
Success so far..
Today, Wilson’s Juice produces about 24,000 bottles of lemonade daily in a factory which employs 30. The company currently has a multi-million turnover(N). In 2016, the Seun and Seyi won an honorary award from the All Africa Business Leaders Awards which promotes remarkable leadership and game changers of business in Africa.
We are excited about what the future holds for these young entrepreneurs!
To follow the brothers on their journey, check them out on: