Adewale Rabiu, a Nigerian who moved to Ontario in 2016, founded the Canadian company Grey Matlock Bakery in 2018. When he arrived, he observed that Agege bread, a staple of Lagos cuisine, was missing. He immediately started looking into possible business options. Now, the business has grown to have a presence in more than 350 locations nationwide, two bakeries, and four franchisees.
In 2016, Adewale Rabiu and his family relocated to Ontario, Canada, achieving a lifelong dream of theirs to reside overseas. Rabiu upon arriving in Canada was able to land a job with Rogers as a senior business analyst. Despite his success in the telecoms sector, Rabiu’s primary love was entrepreneurship, and he yearned to launch his own company.
The Rabiu family rapidly discovered that, despite the sizeable expatriate population, there were no Nigerian bakeries in their new hometown. They particularly missed Agege bread, a giant rectangular loaf of soft, fluffy, elastic sweet white bread; that was produced and delivered in Lagos. It became clear that there was a chance they might build a successful company if they could corner the market for Agege bread.
Establishing the first bakery
Understanding the market’s size, distribution channels, and the most effective means of delivering the product to consumer was the first step for Rabiu; who had previously held jobs in sales and marketing.
He began talking to several local retailers that catered to the African and Caribbean community; in order to determine how many loaves they would purchase from the bakery.
Equipped with that knowledge, he next conducted more study on the procedures necessary to establish a firm in Ontario, including the necessary licences and registrations. The issue of money then arose.
Rabiu knew that he would not be able to get grants from the Government and didn’t want to take a bank loan so he raised capital from his own savings.
The firm was registered, space was rented, and equipment was bought once finance was in place. Rabiu took an annual leave in 2017 to return to Nigeria and study the Agege bread baking process. When he got back, the business started looking for bakers, but they had no luck.
Although everything was in place he struggled to find people to employ. As a temporary solution he taught his wife everything he knew about baking and they started the business together. Rabiu went on focus on his bakery full time in 2019.
A tiny batch of 14 loaves served as the Bakery’s first batch of commercially made bread in March 2018. With more batches being sent to more retailers as the days went on, the company’s presence naturally grew.
After operating for four months he finally found a professional baker that he trained in the Nigerian way of baking.
The Nigerian Baking Method
Agege bread can be purchased in Nigeria on the streets of Lagos; typically torn apart to scoop beans or soup.
Despite the bread’s popularity, the Bakery quickly found that consumers continued to choose to buy pre-sliced loaves from bigger supermarkets since they saved time and effort when packing lunches for school or the office. To meet this demand, the business started selling sliced Agege bread under the moniker Butterfilled. The original name was sometimes difficult to pronounce for potential buyers.
The bakery’s plans for growth
More than 300 Afro-Caribbean businesses statewide already sell the bread. More than 50 locations of major grocery chains, including No Frills, Real Canadian Superstores, and Loblaws, also sell it.
Canadian provinces like Quebec, New Brunswick, Manitoba, Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, and even Saskatchewan receive bread from the original bakery in Brampton, Ontario. In addition, Grey Matlock developed a second bakery in Calgary, Alberta, with distribution all the way to British Columbia.
Despite having two locations, the bakery realised that they needed to adopt an alternative to supply more clients. This is when they decided to expand by franchising the business.
Grey Matlock thus took the wise choice to grant franchise licenses to interested parties.
They are currently allowing those who would have been our competitors to develop our brand. In accordance of the license agreement, each of the four franchise sites in Ontario pay royalties to the business.
While the bakery’s best-selling item is still the original Agege bread, the Bakery has expanded its selection. This now includes additional bread and baked items, such as whole wheat bread and bread buns.
Rabiu has lofty ambitions. Questions from as far away as Australia have poured in thanks to a recent viral video. To compete with brands ( including Dempster’s and Wonder Bread), his major objective is to establish a national Canadian bread brand.
The following phase is to grow by opening franchisees in the US. The UK has shown some interest as well.