Lola Ojabowale: Building By Accident, with a Purpose
Lola is an expert in building with no-code. Her journey to selling that expertise isn't clean-cut, but she's learned so much more along the way for her failures.
Lola Ojabowale is making for others. She never thought that would be the case. Between creating her own comb in college and building a meal-planning software that was inspired by family, she learned some valuable product lessons. Today, others are demanding her skills, and she’s capitalizing big-time.
A First Foray into Entrepreneurship
Lola’s parents taught her the value of running a business. Both were in real estate, which allowed for both control and flexibility. Watching them strive daily to build, grow, and sell was a driving factor in her childhood. She learned from their hard work.
Lola headed to college in New Hampshire, full of ideas but not sure where to take them. During her Junior year, she finally had the chance to let one of them shine.
Lola describes her college experience as a slow one. There wasn’t a lot of action, but there were a lot of people interested in hair care. Everyone knew somebody who had a hack for getting a certain hair type to look its best, or a certain style to “pop”. Lola has curly hair, of course, and she knew that she had struggled to find a great comb for it. During a Product Design class, she needed an idea to work on. A hair brush fit the bill!
As an engineering student, Lola had access to technology for design. She took advantage of that, going from idea to a rough prototype, and watching the brush evolve into something totally different from her first dreams. She utilized AutoCAD, a product design software, paper models, and a machining shop at her school to create her prototype.
Lola overcooked the brush, turning it into something far more than necessary or even useful. She loved the process though, and realized that building things was something she truly enjoyed.
After graduating from University though, she headed to Atlanta, Georgia, where she worked for an industrial distributor. Lola wasn’t building anything. She knew this couldn’t be long-term.
Meal Planning, Plus More
Five years into her industrial distribution career, Lola’s Dad got sick. His illness came with all kinds of dietary restrictions, and it got Lola thinking about building him a solution.
Lola quit her job to chase the dream, but it wasn’t an easy choice. Her parents, while always encouraging entrepreneurial ideas, knew that it was a hard path. They saw the stability of her job and shared with her the benefits there that they didn’t have. Money isn’t everything though, especially to a young entrepreneur, and Lola was ready to try herself on the more difficult path.
She joined an incubator, Square One Startup School. She learned how to utilize nocode tools and to code more in order to build extensions for her meal planning product, Refolo. The idea was simple, but the implementation complex: a user could plan out meals, choose groceries, and get those groceries delivered, all in one app.
Two years and $10,000 later, Lola admitted defeat. She earned her battle scars and plenty of friends along the way, though - and her expertise in new tools would become more valuable than she ever dreamed.
The Third Time Pays for All
Refolo may not have made it, but Lola knew she was on the right path. All during her time building the tool, she would get questions from others about how she was doing it - was she a technical founder? Can she code? How do you plan out the product design? Founders with far more product success were coming to Lola to ask her how to create a workflow and how she set up different parts of her app.
Those questions started turning into requests to build.
Lola had no plans to start an agency, but Lunch Pail Labs was born regardless. Lola is the primary builder for contracts they receive, and brings on contractors occasionally to help build when she needs a hand.
Lunch Pail Labs is now featured in no-code marketplaces and new work is regularly brought to them via referral by satisfied customers.
In 2020, Lola would have laughed at the idea of building things for other people. Today, Lunch Pail Labs has revenue of $25-30k each month. Her family’s worries have been abated in the best way - and she’s just getting started.
If you know you want to work independently, go for it! Don’t put a lot of pressure on a particular outcome, but rather let your commitment be to learning and building for yourself.
Be honest with yourself up front. If you’re building a business for a lifestyle of freedom, it will look very different from optimizing for potential to have a big payout.
Lola isn’t doing what she imagined, but she knew that she always wanted to build. And build she does. Lunch Pail Labs has seen tremendous growth. I’d wager that Lola is going to be on the list of people to know when it comes to Bubble, her visual development tool of choice, and its extensions.
It’s not rare to see a founder fail on her first or second attempt. Where we’ve seen Lola excel is in creating relationships with others. She gave away her knowledge until people demanded it at a scale that required her to charge. You can do the same. Lola may not be building tools for herself today, but she’s still building - and she’s making a heck of an agency along the way.