Puff Puff Ministry Sisters. From left Marianne, 26, Lola, 29, Fola, 21, and Yossie, 27
Many bakers believe that the secret to a good dessert is a lot of passion and years of perfecting old family recipes. For four sisters from North London, their mother’s 20-year-old recipe helped them achieve just that.
Inspired to create a legacy of business by their grandfather who passed away, and their parents’ dream to give them a good education – a fried dough ball kitchen was born. Puff Puff Ministry in Wood Green, North London, is where Fola, Marianne, Yossie, and Lola, all under the age of 30 – whip up a popular Nigerian dessert known as Puff Puff, with a little twist.
Along with their father Paul who helps out by making deliveries, the women plan to make puff puff one of the UK’s next favourite desserts. The women were inspired by their mum who owned a bakery in Nigeria. Marianne said: “Our wider mission was to make puff puff one of the UK’s most loved desserts.“Everyone knows brownies, cookies, cupcakes, and we kind of thought, ‘why can’t puff puff be on par with that?’
“Everyone eats donuts. You see donuts everywhere you go but people don’t know puff puff.”The sisters who moved to the UK from Nigeria in 2007, decided to add their own spin on the traditional treat by adding familiar toppings such as Oreos and Nutella to the fried dough ball. Marianne said: “People know donuts and other cultural foods so why not West Africa as well, why not puff puff? It’s delicious.
“That’s why we chose the toppings that we chose. People know Oreo and Biscoff.“It’s things you already love and then you bring that with something you’re not familiar with. You’re more curious to want to try it.“It’s also definitely about putting the West African dessert on the map.”
The girls want the Nigerian dessert to be the next big thing in the UK. The success of their 15-month venture was marked by the sisters having to briefly close down their website, after becoming inundated with dozens of orders. Fola said: “Christmas hit and we were four months into it, and we had 100 boxes of puff puff which was insane to us.
“We saw the orders picking up and we were like, ‘should we wait for it to go to 100?’, and then we forgot about it.“Then we passed 100 and we were like we need to close the website now.”The excitement of seeing orders mount up wasn’t lost on the entrepreneurs who say they appreciate every purchase that’s made. Marianne said: “We are slight nutters though, we loved it.“We were like: ‘Oh my God, this is insane. How are we going to make this?’
“If someone is using their hard-earned money to buy your product that is just the greatest honour.”The women make the puff puff themselves in a shared kitchen in North London
The bakers have received requests for delivery from the United States as well as Nigeria where the treat hails from. Along with West Africans who are familiar with the dessert, people from places such as Turkey say it gives them “a taste of home”.
Marianne said: “It’s all about bringing that taste of home to so many people.“People who are maybe from like Turkey or so on saying, ‘when I visit home this reminds me of that.“It’s not just people who are from an African country, everyone has something like puff puff no matter where they are in the world. Fried dough balls are universal.“Because every country around the world has some variation of fried dough balls and we have a glossary of fried dough balls.
“Puff Puff Around the World, we call it and basically share the different names and tell the story of different countries like Kala in Liberia, Mikate in Congo and so on.“We share this on our Instagram as well.”The sisters run the business part-time and work nine-to-five jobs
The sister’s love for baking has been passed down from their mother Toyin Olaleye who owned a bakery in Nigeria. The women grew up helping their mum during the school holidays which they say instilled a love of business they felt destined to pursue.
Fola said: “We practically lived in that bakery. It was basically behind our house on the same compound as our house.“We were always in the bakery, I think I helped out the most.
“I was always making bread with the staff and making cookies and cakes with the staff, playing with flour, it was always a mess.“We had really fond memories from that, growing up in that sort of environment, so I think it was almost inevitable that we would one day start a food business”.
The sisters who run the business part-time and work nine-to-five jobs, also believe their grandfather played a role in motivating them, and that being sisters is key to their success. The sisters’ grandfather Simeon Babafemi Olaleye inspired them to aim for success.
Marianne said: “I think part of our family legacy is business. Our parents have always been incredibly entrepreneurial and we all are as well.
“Our grandad is so central to everything that we are today.
“When we were younger he used to give us spelling quizzes while we were walking down to buy some sweets. He’s just so key to our education. So it really starts with him.
“He passed away but now it’s about that legacy of being business-minded and entrepreneurial and wanting the best that you can for yourself.”
Fola added: “I think our parents appreciate the fact that we’re doing it as sisters so we’re still keeping that family business thing going.
“I think there’s pride in knowing that all your children are doing this business and creating this legacy.
“Our mum is always trying to make sure that we stick together.”
Parents Toyin and Paul Olaleye are proud of their daughters for what they’ve achieved
The London School of Economics and University College London graduates hope to carry on the family business and pour all the money they earn back into their business.
Marianne said: “The money that we get goes back into our business that’s why we’ve still got our nine-to-five jobs.
“It’s very much a legacy project. It’s about leaving something for the next generation.
“The reason we’re here today is because of our mum’s bakery business combined with our dad’s own income
“That’s what got us through all these years in the UK. What sent us to the best schools in London, why do we have the education that we have.
“Now we have nieces and nephews, it’s about making life that little bit easier for them.
“Every time our parents tell us how proud they are of us and everything we’re doing, it gets me very emotional.
“They are incredibly proud and we’re just very lucky we’ve been able to do this, just carrying on our mum’s legacy.
“It’s very much about carrying on that legacy and that we can carry on that baton to them.”
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