Oluwakolapo 'Tobi' Smith ('17 M.S.) is bringing the culinary flavors of his native Nigeria into home kitchens one box at a time.
Hankering for such traditional dishes as egusi soup (made of ground melon seeds) and smoky jollof rice, Smith was an international student earning his hospitality management degree and working as a teaching assistant when he began laying the groundwork for what would become Adùn, the Houston-based meal-delivery service that he co-founded in 2019.
The company has since shipped more than 14,000 of its frozen meat pies, stews, side dishes and pastries to thousands of customers around the globe and has manufactured over 43,000 products since it launched. It aims to reach $1 million in sales this year. Meanwhile, he and co-founder Chef Bethany Oyefeso landed on the Forbes 2023 30 Under 30 List.
"This is definitely more than I ever thought it would be," says Smith, who as a graduate student blogged about the foods he craved.
Without a Nigerian restaurant near Denton, he began cooking some of the country's most popular dishes for himself and others. That eventually morphed into a full-fledged catering business and, later, a partnership with Oyefeso, whom he met via social media.
"Our goals are getting bigger every day. We continue to do our best to get these meals on every dinner table in the United States and beyond. The quality and flavor of these meals speaks for itself with our customers," he says.
Smith credits his College of Merchandising, Hospitality and Tourism experience for providing valuable life and business lessons.
"In the hospitality program I learned you have to be a person who cares about people, who cares about the way people enjoy things. You have to accommodate them," he says. "Those lessons have stayed with me and have permeated what we're doing now."