Updated: 5 days ago
SEPT 15, 2021
Next up for our Meet Our Team series is Ayo Shonibare, co-founder of DG Brownies. Ayo reflects on his time spent as an investment banker and discusses the highs and lows of establishing a business.
What fuelled the switch from investment banking to investing in baking brownies?
When I began banking it was super interesting, but after a while, my role got really repetitive. I’m someone who likes to do new things, so I found entrepreneurship an exciting opportunity. When I met Daniek (DG), I had a lightbulb moment one evening when a friend tried her brownies, and DG Brownies was born.
Was this a risky decision for you?
A massive risk! I had a really stable life as an employee beforehand. When running your own business, it’s difficult to know what the future holds, particularly because of the pandemic. We are doing well, so I am optimistic.
Why did you choose to specifically sell vegan brownies?
Very cliché, but around four years ago I watched a documentary that highlighted why more people should adopt a more vegan or plant-based lifestyle. It really hit home. I grew up in an environment where everyone around me ate meat every day, including myself. Initially, I wanted to go cold turkey but I found that a little challenging, so instead I have reduced my consumption. I wanted to bring this into the business DG and I created too.
How have you found running a business with your partner?
Daniek and I are lucky as we were both in the same industry before founding DG Brownies. Investment banking taught us similar values; to be diligent with numbers, to be prudent, and to be forward-looking. All of these skills tie into entrepreneurship and setting up a business. We get on really well, we have a good foundation of core values and we make decisions as a team.
Is the brownie business all DG and yourself talk about?
I guess there is no way to draw the line between business and fun because we are doing something we love. Also, because the team is growing it’s really interesting to get to know everyone. I don’t even consider it work! In comparison, banking wasn’t something that we wanted to speak about all day.
DG Brownies in British Vogue
What does your day-to-day look like?
It really varies. So today, for example, we did a collaboration with a new brand called Finds, a video-based clothes selling app, like a cross between TikTok and Depop. Finds asked DG Brownies to sponsor their giveaway and goodie bags, so I delivered brownies to the event they were hosting this morning. Now I’m in the office and I have been working on another collaboration with Jealous Gallery in Shoreditch. Really a bit of everything and everything.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
Honestly, I think that we have opportunities to liaise and communicate with a range of different people from a variety of fields. As I said, we’re working with a gallery, and I’ve become friends with clients through these corporate events, which has been nice. I think the downside with banking from my experience is that you find yourself in this space where everyone’s a banker. And although that’s really cool sometimes, you don’t get to meet other people from different fields.
Orange Zest, September Flavour of the Month
Can you think of three challenging hurdles you have encountered when establishing a business?
Firstly, I think the most difficult element is not being able to predict the future. Recruitment has been challenging, but I am grateful for our latest team members, who contribute great ideas. Lastly, I would say COVID-19 has been difficult, but it taught us to think on our feet which is where our online business really blossomed.
Where do you see DG Brownies in 5 years?
I’m not sure if Daniek’s mentioned this, but she always says that she wants to run a brownie café. It would be nice to have a little café in a trendy area of London.
Have your expectations of running the business been met?
This is very naïve to say but I actually thought it would be easier. When I listened to YouTube and podcasts about building a business, the entrepreneurs made it sound so easy. Then again, I was listening to people from massive organisations who had the resources to employ lots of people from the start. Maybe I was listening to the wrong podcasts... DG Brownies is not quite at that level yet, but at the same time, I’m having so much fun.
Working From Home? Send a Co-Worker DG Brownies in the Post!
What motivates you?
It’s interesting as this isn’t really my thing but it’s become my thing... So, prior to meeting DG, I had never heard of Curaçao, ever. I love the fact that we can educate people on the Curacao traditions and culture. Obviously, that’s where Daniek, my partner, grew up and that motivates me quite a lot.
What was your first job?
I was a waiter at Chelsea football club, under an umbrella hospitality agency, Compass Group. Sometimes celebrities came in. Once, Rafael Nadal was in the suite I was catering for. I quite enjoyed it. I was working with friends, who recommended me the role, and there were about 10 of us going to work every Chelsea home game, so it was fun.
What is one thing that you would never do again?
Tricky question... I would never, although it’s not possible, go back in time. People say that they would change decisions that they’ve made or experiences that they’ve been through. But I find that a human being in the present is an accumulation of their life experiences. I’m quite happy making mistakes because it only gives me experience.
Outside of DG Brownies, where are we most likely to find you?
In an art gallery 100%. DG and I have been collecting art for maybe three years now. I love art, contemporary art specifically. We go to a lot of museums. So yeah, surrounded by art, talking to other collectors and gallerists, that’s where you’d find me.