A speech by Mrs. Kehinde Kamson, MD/CEO of Sweet Sensation Confectionery Limited, delivered at the official Press briefing for the unveiling of her memoir,
Pots, Pans & Spoons and the launch of the Sweet Sensation Education Support Scheme (SSES)
VENUE: SHERATON HOTEL, IKEJA, LAGOS
DATE: 8th of August, 2011
Gentlemen of the Press.
I thank you all for taking time out to be here today. I consider your presence a privilege and I feel very proud to know that you are here because of the love in your heart for me, my family, sweet sensation and everything the initiative we are here to launch represents.
I can stand here today and say a lot of things that would make me appear ingenious, determined, visionary, bigger than life or more special than the average person on the street but I dare not. I dare not because I’m here only because of God’s special grace. I consider this time an opportunity to acknowledge that important truth.
Over two decades ago, I was faced with a career choice dilemma. I had just quit my job as an accountant with an oil servicing firm and had concentrated on a small business I had been running ‘by the side’ called Citicates. That small business was all about baking (and selling) cakes and pastries. The dilemma had to do with my being torn in-between returning to my accounting profession - which apparently seemed more secure and respectable – and going ahead to totally focus on my small cakes and pastries business – which didn’t seem in any way, prestigious.
To be rid of the dilemma, I did what I thought was the best thing to do in that situation: I fasted and prayed. My young inexperienced mind simply thought that If I could get some kind of divine guidance, then I could be confident that the outcome of my decision, no matter the challenges along the way, would be positive.
The guidance I sought came in the form of a dream after 7 days of fasting and praying. The dream was clear, powerful and unique. I was convinced it was exactly what I had wanted: a divine leading. The dream pointed me in the direction of my less preferred choice in terms of respectability - the small cakes and pastries business. But I had what I had desperately needed – an unshakeable conviction that I was headed in the direction God wanted me to go. Please don’t get me wrong, I was not in any way your religious, spiritual or ‘closer to God than all else’ person. I wasn’t and I’m still not. It is just that somehow, my late parents (God bless their souls) succeeded in planting the consciousness of God in my heart. A consciousness that makes me appreciate God’s role in the affairs of man. For that, I will be eternally grateful to them.
That dream led me on the path that brought me right in front of you at this very minute.
The path wasn’t easy though: 10 years at the backyard shed of my matrimonial home, setting up the first Sweet Sensation shop at a tiny guardhouse at illupeju, daring the odds to establish at the high brow Victoria Island, bulldozing – and I mean that literarily – our way into Opebi and returning to illupeju to move to a bigger site. On and on we went from one shop to 25 – praying, planning, building, fighting, overcoming fears and doubts, raising money we didn’t have, and managing difficult challenges. It has been a long, tough path to toe.
At almost 50, (Six days to go. Laughs) I have learnt that many times in life, we have more in us than we realize; we can do more than we realize; and there is more for us than we have grasped. The key is God’s grace, for that is what can help us to be what we can be, do what we can do and get what we can get.
These and more are the things I have shared in POTS, PANS & SPOONS. It’s a memoir that I hope would convince someone that ‘All things are possible’ if we believe. Pots, Pans & Spoons is a book that sums up many of my life experiences and some of the most important lessons I have learnt in about 50 years. It tells the story of one of the biggest miracles of all times – the humble start and growth of Sweet Sensation (laughs) from a backyard shed to where we are today. I hope my story and that of Sweet Sensation would inspire you.
The Sweet Sensation Education Support Scheme (SSES)
In the 1970’s, I was also a student at the great St. Anne’s School, the best Secondary school in Nigeria (up school!!)! I was young, shy and had no idea what the future held in store. But here I am today, largely due to the foundation the good Lord gave me the privilege of acquiring at that school.
The birth of SSES is very much like that of Sweet Sensation’s. It is ‘humble’ and ‘accidental’ in many ways. For many years, I had various opportunities to support young people eager to be educated but unable to afford their education costs. The supports came largely in the form of finance and that went on informally for a long time. I had a list of young people that looked up to me monthly for support in order to progress with their education and I always felt blessed to be in a position not to let them down.
On the other hand, Sweet Sensation as an organization had also extensively engaged in Corporate Social Responsibility projects. Most of Sweet Sensation’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives had been geared towards children and children related institutions especially schools that care for less privileged children and those that serve ‘challenged’ children by providing products and financial support.
Some of them include the following:
- DOWN SYNDROME FOUNDATION, SURULERE LAGOS
- DR E.I.P EBOSIE FOUNDATION, MARYLAND IKEJA
- LITTLE SAINTS ORPHANAGE, ONIPANU
- EVA ADELAJA JNR. & SNR. SEC. SCH. IFAKO GBAGADA
- LAGOS STATE UNIVERSITY TEACHING HOSPITAL, IKEJA
- MODUPE COLE MEMORIAL SCHOOL FOR MENTAL & PHYSICALLY CHALLENGED, AKOKA
- LAGOS STATE REMAND HOME FOR GIRLS, IDI ARABA
- CAMBRIGDE COLLEGE, GRA IKEJA
- CHRIST REDEEMER SCHOOL GBAGADA
- PERIODOT SCHOOL, CRYSTAL ESTATE
- CHRISLAND SCHOOL, OPEBI IKEJA
- SUNNYDALE SCHOOL, GRA IKEJA
- ABIOLA INT’L SCHOOL, OPEBI IKEJA
- CTC INT’L SCHOOL,GRA IKEJA
- M.D. NURSERY & PRIMARY SCHOOL, OMOLE IKEJA
- MY DREAM SCHOOL, KETU LAGOS
- BLOOMINGALE SCHOOL, IKEJA
- FUTURE KIDS, IKEJA LAGOS
- GRANGE SCHOOL, GRA IKEJA
- HALLMARK SCHOOL, AGIDINGBI IKEJA
- SUNNYDALE SCHOOL, ILUPEJU
- HELPERS MONTESSORI SCHOOL, IDI-IROKO,IKORODU
- L.E.A.R.N, SURULERE
- OMOTOLA CHARITY EVENTS, GRA IKEJA
Earlier this year, I began to think of how to create a structure that would enable more children and institutions to be supported financially in terms of education. I thought about how to formalize all that I had been doing as an individual and also all that Sweet Sensation had been doing in a less than structured way. That was when the idea of the Sweet Sensation Education Support Scheme (SSES) was birthed. My thinking was that it would serve as a platform not just for me and Sweet Sensation to help thousands of children but also for other people and institutions keen on investing into the future of our children and inevitably, our nation.
Fortunately, when I presented this idea to our senior management team, there was quick and unanimous buy-in so we decided to set up a proper structure which we called SSES, that will be self sustaining and much more effective in contributing to the lives of average Nigerian children that are willing to have access to a qualitative education but are unable to due to inadequate financial support.
We set up SSES to support students in:
- Primary Schools
- Secondary schools
- Tertiary institutions
- Vocational schools
- Schools set up for the handicapped
Sweet Sensation intends to provide such students (and the institutions that focus primarily on educating them) with product and financial support.
THE SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM (PRESENT)
The 2011 SSES Scholarship program which is the maiden edition of this cause is aimed at providing scholarships to students of public schools in Lagos who fit into the mission of the scheme aged between 11 and 18. It is a first step in an extensive scholarship program that will be giving out up to N100, 000 per student per year in value covering: books, uniforms, bags, shoes, exam fees, lesson fees, excursion fees and other schooling expenses.
Some students, who are all here today, have already been selected for the 2011 SSES Scholarship program based on a strict selection process handled by People and People, a professional consulting firm, hired by Sweet Sensation to oversee the entire selection process
The public schools from which the students have been selected were chosen based on proximity to certain identified Sweet Sensation outlets within Lagos.
The vision of SSES is to support at least 5, 000 Nigerian public school students who are from low income families over the next ten years. This, we believe, will have a spiral effect in the 5, 000 families they represent and in our nation as a whole. Sweet Sensation plans to collaborate with its customers and other stakeholders to make this happen.
I wish to invite you to join hands with us to support our children and hence secure the future of their families and our nation as a whole.
I thank you once again for coming.
MD/CEO, Sweet Sensation