Jare Fola-Bolumole is genuinely content with being a family man. As the CEO of ChocBoy Brand, a Nigeria-based chocolate manufacturing company, he’s making a name for himself as an innovator and leader. But when he’s not talking about using chocolate as a tool for global domination, he enjoys talking about his life as a family man. His voice lights up at the mention of his two daughters and the wife that inspired his unconventional entrepreneurial journey.
In this episode of Man Like, he talks about how love pushed him into becoming a hustler in university, the changes he’s experienced since he became a dad and why he’s scared to truly open up to the people around him.
Tell me about the first time it struck you that you were now “a man”?
In my second year of university, I decided to stop collecting pocket money from my parents. I had just started dating my wife and figured I needed to make my own money. I mean, how can I take money from my dad and spend it on my babe when he’s not the one dating her?
Ah. So how did you make money?
Making that decision to fend for myself was a defining moment for me and the origin of my entrepreneurial journey. I started a private tutorial business, and a couple of years later, I invested in plastic chairs and put them out for rent in collaboration with a friend of mine.
Starting a business was new to me, but I did what I could and learnt on the job.
An entrepreneur for love. God when? But I’m curious about your wife’s reaction at the time.
I was a student with a business on the side making money. Of course she liked it. Plus, it got to a point where I ended up employing her as a private tutor too. Everyone needed extra cash so she took it.
Didn’t all this work interfere with school?
Mehn, it was hard. In my fifth year, classes started clashing with my tutorials and I had to make tough choices to follow the money. In all of this, I couldn’t leave school because I had come so far, but I also couldn’t leave my business because we had grown. I was juggling a lot, but I still managed to see everything through.
What did your parents think about you running all these businesses in school?
Their first reaction was, “You’re on your own.” LOL. But even after saying this, they still supported me. My mum donated her BlackBerry so I could market my products. When I started importing chocolate in my fourth year, my dad looked for people travelling overseas to help me bring the chocolate back to Nigeria.
Aww. So what’s your relationship with your parents like?
My parents are the best! My dad is as entrepreneurial as I am, so I enjoyed a mentor-mentee kind of relationship with him. He is a brilliant entrepreneur with a life and struggle I could relate to and this made the mentorship process a lot more impactful for me.
My mum on the other hand is a prayer warrior who has always supported me with prayers. She’s very invested in my education and wishes I was practising what I studied. Even though I’m married now with kids, she’s still trying to convince me to go for my masters. I can bet she’d go to church for thanksgiving If I told her I was leaving this entrepreneur life to use my degree.
LOL. You mentioned that you’re a father now. How has fatherhood been treating you?
It’s blissful. I have two daughters — one is four years-old, the other four months old.
Fun fact: I always wanted a boy. But now that I have girls, I’m so happy because they are very cute. Growing up as a boy, I destroyed all my father’s gadgets. Thinking of having to reproduce myself as a little boy scares me. But with girls, I have peace of mind; their wahala doesn’t come close to that of boys.
Did anything prepare you for fatherhood?
I don’t think anybody fully prepares for parenting. Being a dad is sweet, but sometimes you’ll feel the urge to get rid of the kids, just dump them somewhere if you have the opportunity. People always say that fatherhood doesn’t really dawn on you until you hear your baby call you daddy for the first time. They were right, because that’s when you truly realise that this is a human being you’re responsible for.
What has been the most challenging part of fatherhood for you?
My four month-old daughter always wakes up in the middle of the night and insists that you carry her standing upright. Newborns are good at manipulating and strong-arming you into doing what they want. I’ve noticed my daughter smiles after crying and forcing you to stand up. It’s all a trap. LOL. Then there’s the staying awake to make sure they’re sleeping fine. That one is still standard procedure.
But how has being a father changed you as a person?
A lot has changed. Fatherhood has taught me that I can’t be selfish. I can’t make decisions without considering my family. It trickles down to the little things like buying shawarma. There’s a part of me that just wants to take it home so we can all share. My life is for them and this is something I never experienced when I didn’t have children.
I’m jotting things down. What lessons would you like your kids to learn from you?
Because I have daughters, my goal is to be the model of an ideal man. My girls should be able to look at me and the way I treat my wife and say, “This is the kind of man I want to marry.” I treat them like queens because I don’t want them to ever expect less from their friendships or relationships.
Does anything scare you more now that you’re a dad?
The way I look at it now, my children are currently under my protection. They’re still young, so I can guide them and make sure they’re okay. But what happens when I can’t do this anymore? As much as I want them to develop independence, as a parent, I’m still scared of what could happen if they ended up with the wrong crowd. I’d like to protect them forever, but I know it’s not realistic.
Mehn, it’s not easy being a dad o!
LMAO. It’s not.
Looking at the way you were brought up, what would you like to change when it comes to parenting your kids?
I grew up around a lot of criticism of other people and their choices. This wasn’t something from my parents, rather, it was a church thing. I remember my church literally used to criticise other churches during service. I think it’s wrong. While I’ll inculcate into my children as many values as they’ll need to navigate the world, I also want them to be able to make their own choices independent of me or my beliefs. I want them to be independent and think critically. I’m not all-knowing, so they’ll need to trust their instincts.
You’ve spoken a lot about running businesses and being a family man which makes you a rock for so many people. Knowing this, I’m curious to know who you lean on when things are hard?
Me. I tend to rely on myself and do whatever I can to fix my issues myself. Oftentimes, my wife notices and starts probing so I open up to her. But to be honest, I’m not great at opening up or going to other people for help or advice.
That must be tough. Why, though?
Information is power. The more information someone has about you, the more power they wield over you. I am very careful about sharing personal information. The less you know about me, the less you can hurt me. If I let you know things about me, I’m enabling you.
Damn. But has someone ever used something you told them in confidence as a weapon to attack you?
Funny enough, no. The only instance I can remember is childish and happened way back in secondary school. I told my friend I liked a girl, and then this guy went after her himself. It’s funny when I think of it. But other than this, nothing else.
It’s the drama for me. Nigeria is hard, so what gives you joy these days?
My family. My family is my source of joy. Having a four year-old run up to me with a very big smile, saying, “Daddy!” It just rewards all the hard work I do. Having to pick up my wife from work and see her smiling at me, even though it’s not all the time, also gives me joy. Everything else is a disappointment, from one level to another.
So now that you have given me baby fever, what advice would you give me?
Who gave you baby fever? Please, think about the cost of diapers, the cost of living and the cost of everything o! Me I’m already inside all of it, but you, omo, goodluck.