Tola James is a 24-year-old Nigerian and British entrepreneur who is the owner and founder of Nari Juice, a drink made from coconut palm sap. He is also co-founder of Go Getters Global, a network for entrepreneurs based in the UK with a passion for Africa and managing partner of investment firm Bridgewater Holdings. He’s raised £60,000 from investors and Nari Juice is stocked in some of the best shops in the UK. He talks about his Nigerian grandfather, his belief in God and what’s next for coconut sap.
Tell us about how you started the juice company.
As a child, I always wanted to be my own boss. Working for people was something that I knew could only be a temporary fix. I’ve always had this ‘larger than life’ mentality and the urge to exceed in life. Flying first class, having meetings in private jets and signing multi-million-pound deals has been a vision that has guided me throughout the years.
I’m always thinking outside the box and if a ‘good’ idea comes to mind then I write it somewhere. After not seeing my father for many years, I took it upon myself to travel to Lagos to see him. It was an exciting time for me; I met cousins, aunties and uncles and I had one of the most memorable Christmas celebrations that I can remember. My father is from a place called Ogun State in Nigeria, he took me on a tour across Lagos and through Ogun State to show me the work of my grandfather (God rest his soul).
I was inspired to see the houses and apartments that were built by my granddad during his time on earth. I left Nigeria feeling energized, inspired, motivated and my burning desire to succeed was as strong as ever. My granddad left a legacy that I took upon myself to continue the entrepreneurial drive and creativity that was passed down.
After arriving in the UK from Lagos, I laid on my bed reflecting on the direction I wanted my life to go, what I wanted to accomplish but most importantly how I would accomplish it… and then wala! My craving and love for palm juice turned into an idea that gave me sleepless nights.
As a strong believer in God and a firm believer in faith, I understand the importance of developing yourself from within: spiritually, physically and mentally. One of my favorite books of all time is Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. He informs his readers about the power of auto-suggestion which is the medium for influencing the subconscious mind. I quote ‘Be on the alert for these plans, and when they appear, put them into action immediately. When the plans appear, they will probably “flash” into your mind through the sixth sense, in the form of an “inspiration.” This inspiration may be considered a direct “telegram” or message from Infinite Intelligence. Treat it with respect, and act upon it as soon as you receive it. Failure to do this will be fatal to your success…’
I worked on my idea and three years later Nari Palm Juice was born. Nari is now sold across 21 outlets after one month of trade within the UK including Selfridge, one of the UK’s most prestigious and premium department stores.
What are you going to remember 2015 for?
2015 was an amazing year and I give all glory to God in heaven. I will remember 2015 for a number of things: I became a Churchill Leadership Fellow by being selected as one of 24 fellows taking part in a leadership development programme in the honor of the 50th anniversary of Sir Winston Churchill’s death, taught at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and the Møller Center at Churchill College, University of Cambridge. The Fellowship is based on the pioneering ethos of ‘Learn to Lead’ and the Moller Centre with the British Council and Churchill 2015. Through being a Churchill Fellow, I was blessed enough to get interviewed by the Financial Times.
However, 2015 will definitely be remembered for finally giving birth to Nari Palm Juice.
What or who do you think is going to blow up in 2016?
I think Nari Palm Juice will blow up and exceed everyone’s expectations in 2016… In fact I don’t think, I know!
What’s keeping you busy in 2016?
2016 will be a very busy year and my sole focus is to continuously build a brand and a team to effectively gain a large market share of the industry. So I will state the obvious: Nari Juice will keep me busy.