Nigerian Immigrant Uses Business Community Resources to Launch Wakava Drink Brand

    The St. Louis innovation district and its many businesses and collaborative groups has spawned plenty of businesses.  But there is a new one that stands out, largely because the owner circled half the globe to get here, and found an incubator waiting for him and his new beverage business, Wakava.

    When you walk into St. Louis’ Innovation Hall, off in a corner, you’ll find what right now, is essentially a company of one.  His name is Olamide Adaboye.  He’s a Nigerian native building a beverage company in St. Louis.  Wakava sprouted, in a way, out of homesickness for food.

    “I was feeling I gained a little bit of weight. I felt differently due to what I eat,” he said. “I couldn’t really find what I really want and I know back home we have a lot of herbs that’s good for healing and the way my mom used to make the herbs.  So I feel I can do something unique with this recipe that my mom used.”

    His tinkering with mom’s recipe turned into Wakava, a cold brewed antioxidant drink.  How did it reach this point?  Let’s back up.

    Adeboye. says he had run a marketing business in Nigeria, then got into a tee shirt venture in Bangladesh and India. While traveling for that work he met his wife, a St. Louisan, at the airport in Thailand.  They dated, married, and soon Adeboye was moving to St. Louis.  Once here, he knew he wanted to explore a business venture.

    “Coming here, it’s really a big transition for me.  When I came to St. Louis I feel that I need community,” he said.

    He found one in the local innovation district.

    “Venture café is the gathering of entrepreneurs of different backgrounds, tech, bio science manufacturing. People in finance,” he said. “You know the unique innovation.   I’ve never experienced it before.  This is my first time.   When I saw this kind of community I quickly jumped in.”

    He joined another group called Square One, which supports entrepreneurs, and used them as a taste testing group.  It took three tries at the recipe to get it right for the American palate.  What he liked from home was too tart.

    “Definitely. It’s too tart for the Americans,” he laughed.  “We cold brew it to make it less tart and less acidic but keep the antioxidants in it.”

    Now he’s in the process of marketing his new drink and transitioning from online sales to distribution in stores.  He will be working out of a brand-new production facility on North Sarah Street.  He says he has St. Louis’ appetite for innovation, and of course his mom’s recipe to thank moving forward.

    “She’s so happy. She’s really like, “Really? Can you do that?  Because she knows I don’t know anything about beverage.  Creating beverage in your home is different form putting it in a store.”

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