Imagine your food tasting so good that delicious became your business’s actual name.
Akinwale Akinsitan didn’t just choose the name of Aladun Grills, his catering business—he earned it, purely because of how good his food tastes. “It is the name given to me by my uncle’s friend,” he recalls. “The meaning of aladun is ‘sweet thing,’ ‘good thing’ in Yoruba.” After cooking for family for several days and being praised for his aladun dishes, Akinwale says, the nickname stuck: “all my brothers, my cousins, even my wife calls me aladun.” And thus, Aladun Grills was born.
Currently based out of Akinwale’s home in Dallas, Texas, Aladun Grills caters Nigerian dishes to the broader Dallas community. We recently spoke with Akinwale about his path to Aladun Grills—here’s what we learned about his journey from “cooking is my hobby” in Nigeria to a funded catering business in the U.S.
“I love to be a man of independence,” Akinwale says: a value that led him to start his own business. After leaving his native Nigeria and a career in agricultural sciences, Akinwale moved to Texas, where he became active in his local church community and noticed a sizable absence of—and need for—the barbecue dishes enjoyed by his home country.
While Texas is legendary for barbecue, of course, its American iterations are primarily influenced by other regions’ flavors. As a result, Akinwale says, “I realized that a lot of Africans [in my area], they are missing the real taste of African food.” So he brought his cooking skills to bear and started cooking for his community, bringing barbecue dishes to his church on Sundays and making money “bit by bit,” he recalls, starting in June 2019. “And from there, people started knowing me.”
Today, Akinwale focuses, among other dishes, on those foods his community missed the most: like asun and suya, barbecue dishes that hail specifically from his region of Western Nigeria. The menu also includes dishes like jollof and fried rice, grilled fish, fried ripe plantain, and various African soups. His initial word-of-mouth recognition helped him to book birthdays, summertime barbecue gatherings, and other events. During the initial height of COVID-19, he pivoted to online ordering and pick-up from his home.
Funding from Lendio’s community of lenders, specifically Camino Financial, helped Akinwale grow Aladun Grills from a part-time hustle to a fully fledged small business. “I was hooked up with Lendio through the Small Business Association,” Akinwale recalls. Equipment financing has given him the flexibility to acquire new items fluidly, as his business has grown and changed. “When I got the money [from Lendio],” he says, “I noticed that I needed a truck, not a car.” Being able to pivot has helped Akinsitan grow even further, allowing him to purchase other crucial barbecue equipment as well.
While Akinwale still operates Aladun Grills out of his home, he says, his “future dream” is to raise the capital needed to open Aladun Grills as a restaurant and build his own website to showcase the business.
That’s what we love to hear: Keep that dream cooking!