Mariam Jimoh: Transforming Access to Cultural Groceries and Empowering Underrepresented Communities – Chief Original Gangstar
Word on the street is that you can find a Nigerian anywhere in the world. Sike! That is not just a word on the street, it is a social reality. Nigerians are blessed with adventurous and innovative mindsets that always get them hitting the road for newer territories to either explore or build innovative businesses that serve whatever community they find themselves in, and even beyond those communities. Because of this group of Nigerians and even Africans migrating to different countries, African restaurants and markets that sell African foodstuffs are beginning to spring all over the world. But the question is, “Are there enough to serve the food demands of the Nigerian/African communities in the diaspora?”
In today’s issue of Chief Original Gangstar, our COG is Mariam Jimoh, the Founder and CEO of Oja and a remarkable woman who is changing the way we access our favourite cultural foods. Mariam is not just a businesswoman but also a visionary on a mission to bridge the gap between communities and their cultural groceries. In this issue, we will be spotlighting her story, which is a testament to the power of innovation, determination, and a deep connection to one’s roots.
From Finance to Food Revolution
Mariam’s journey into the world of cultural groceries began in the corporate field as an M&A investment banker at Rothschild & Co. But it was her personal experience as a Nigerian living in the UK that ignited the spark for change. She recalled the frustration of not being able to find traditional Nigerian staples like yams, plantain, and okra in her local grocery stores. The options were limited, and the accessibility was a challenge.
Dissatisfied with the status quo, Mariam took a leap of faith. In 2018, she left her secure corporate job to embark on a mission to make these essential cultural foods more accessible. She founded Oja, a digital supermarket with a focus on African and Caribbean foods. The name “Oja,” meaning “market” in Yoruba, pays homage to her Nigerian heritage.
Bridging the Grocery Gap
Oja isn’t just a digital marketplace; it’s a cultural bridge. It simplifies the process of finding and obtaining those specific items that can be elusive in mainstream grocery stores. Mariam’s goal was to streamline the shopping experience and provide fast, convenient access to products that resonate with people’s cultural backgrounds.
When Mariam launched Oja in 2020, the response was overwhelming. The website couldn’t handle the flood of enthusiastic customers eager to explore the diverse range of products. Oja quickly outgrew its initial London postcode and expanded to cover all of Greater London.
But Mariam’s vision continued beyond simply offering food. Oja expanded its offerings to include a Halal range and beauty and haircare products, catering to a wide array of cultures and needs.
Investing in the Community
Oja’s impact goes beyond convenience—it’s also about empowerment. Mariam’s commitment to uplifting underrepresented communities is evident in her journey. Before founding Oja, she started the Women in the City Afro-Carribean Network (WCAN), a marketplace and network dedicated to the professional development of black women in the UK. This initiative helped thousands of black women access opportunities at prestigious firms like BlackRock, Clifford Chance, and Goldman Sachs.
Mariam’s dedication to empowering others resonates with her investors. Premier League legend Raheem Sterling recognised the cultural significance of Oja and decided to invest. He shares Mariam’s vision of connecting people with their cultural comforts and believes in the brand’s potential.
A Visionary on the Rise
Mariam Jimoh’s story is an inspiring one. From the world of finance to the forefront of a food revolution, she’s redefining how we access and celebrate cultural groceries. Her commitment to empowering underrepresented communities through technology and community-building is remarkable.
As we celebrate the achievements of Chief Original Gangstars, Mariam Jimoh undoubtedly earns her place among them. Her journey is a testament to the transformative power of entrepreneurship and the importance of staying connected to one’s roots. Mariam is not just changing the way we shop; she’s changing lives and reshaping the grocery landscape for generations to come.
Rosemary Kasiobi Nwadike
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