Last week, Kunle Adegbite, the MD/CEO of Sidewalk Bar in Lagos turned 40. Sidewalk Bar is located on Obafemi Awolowo Way in Ikeja, Lagos and there is Sidewalk Bar on Sanusi Fafunwa in Victoria Island, Lagos.
In this interview with City People Publisher, SEYE KEHINDE, the birthday boy talks about his life at 40.
How do you feel at 40?
I feel happy. I feel good. I thank God. I give God all the glory. To him alone I can give the glory of my life.
Looking back at your life, what will you say are the milestones or landmarks?
One of my greatest milestones was the decision I took early in life interms of accepting responsibility, getting married early. This is one of the things that has really helped me. Its good to embrace responsibilities that gave me that sense of responsility to take charge of my life. Marriage was one of the things that really helped me in life.
Being close to God has also helped. That is the motivation that I get everyday.
What was the attraction when you met your wife?
We met in school. In our 100 level days in the University of Ilorin. From the very first day we knew we were going to spend out lives together. The attraction was that she is a good girl. She was a girl then, she is now a woman.
She brought me to Lagos. I am an Ibadan person. I used to live in Ibadan. She got me a job in Lagos so that I can be close to her. That is the beginning of everything so I owe her a lot.
Tell us the story of Kunle Adegbite. Where were you born? Where did you grow up? And schools attended?
Orakunle Adegbite was born in Ibadan in 1979 into the family of late Alhaji ImranAdegbite. I attended Ebire Nursery & Primary School, I later proceeded to Government College Ibadan after which I went to the University of Ilorin. After my degree, I went to Dubai to do some Hospital Management Courses. That is how I started.
How did the Hospitality side of you develop?
I have always had this flair for hospitality business even as a young man. There used to be this Restaurant opposite my house called BISTO. That was when I was growing up. It used to be very popular then in Ibadan, at the challenge area. I used to go there to take drinks. I always say to myself when I grow up I am going to have this modern sort of Lounge, where people can unwind, where middle-class people can unwind.
When you came to Lagos and saw the challenges and competition in the Hospitality sector, what made you think you can do a Lounge/Bar and make it?
I saw those challenges as an opportunity so, I looked well and I saw the loopholes. I just explored the opportunities that are there in Lagos. I looked at Ikeja for example. I looked at the whole stretch of Obafemi Awolowo Way from Alausa to Ikeja Under Bridge.
There was no single pub or lounge. That was when I saw the opportunity and it led to my setting up the first Sidewalk Lounge & Bar on Obafemi Awolowo Way, Ikeja. The 2nd one came shortly after. And the 3rd is coming later this year. What we do at Sidewalk is to look at choice locations and business districts.
We look at a place that has a lot of working-class people around. We got in a good place in Victoria Island, on Sanusi Fafunwa, in Lagos over a thousand five hundred square feet. It is the biggest outdoor bar in Victoria Island in Lagos. It was just the grace of God that made us see that property and get it.
I know you have another job you do during the day.
How do you combine your 9am to 5pm job with your hospitality business?
Its about time management.
Fortunately for me, I have a job that I have control over. So I control my time. I have people that work with me. I have colleagues that can do the job. And I can delegate.
So it’s been tasking, but I am a young man. And this is the time to work. I have my good managers in my lounges that manage my business with little or less supervision.
How have you been able to build the Sidewalk brand into the big brand it is today, in just 4 years, and it has become a reference point? What is the secret?
There is no secret ooo. The Sidewalk as successful as it is has had its own challenges. In 2018 we had a lot of challenges because when we started VI, we had to concentrate and made V.I., stand well. Ikeja suffered a lot of losses in terms of customers, in terms of service. A lot of lounges were springing up here and there. This situation was not envisaged. Sidewalk enjoyed a monopoly before in the Ikeja area. But suddenly it became a little bit competitive. Having said that competition is good. It’s good for the customers. That was why we rebranded.
What are the lessons you have learnt in business? What are the realities that confronted you that other entrepreneurs can learn from?
The lesson that I have learnt is that as an entrepreneur we should learn to treat our staff well and nice. We should treat our Managers well also. To whom much is given, much is expected. If you pay less, you will get a lesser job. Staff motivation is very key.
What makes your outdoor bar different from the rest?
Victoria Island is different totally. It is a purposely built lounge. Ikeja is not purposely built. We are sharing the building with a Mall. There are other businesses in the Mall. But V.I. is different. We have a bigger kitchen. We have continental dishes there, they are 2 different kinds of lounges. It is now that we are trying to bring the 2 together so that whatever you have in VI, you will see in Ikeja. But the business environment is totally different.
What will you call the biggest challenge that you have faced since you started 4 years ago?
The biggest challenge is the market in Ikeja that suddenly became competitive. And I wasn’t prepared for it. Then, my focus was on V.I. I wasn’t prepared for the competition that came. It took us 6 months to figure it out ourselves. The truth of the matter is there is no business without challenges.
There are rumours that you are about to open another Sidewalk Lounge in Lagos. Is that true?
Its very true. We are working on it. Its a big and massive project. It’s one of the biggest. It’s going to be a landmark project in this country. For competition sake, I wouldn’t reveal the actual location. All I can say is that it will be somewhere in GRA, Ikeja. We intend to open it by 2019 December. It is something as big as the Lagos Country Club. It has a Lawn Tennis Court, Swimming Pool and other amenities that will be open to the public, all free. It would have an outdoor bar as well. It is for the middle class. It’s going to be a one-stop place when it comes to relaxation.