Founder Spotlight: Iyabo Bello

Published in
6 min readMay 24, 2024

In a world where culinary experiences are cherished, iKooK emerges as a beacon of innovation, offering an affordable luxury private chef experience right at your doorstep. Founded by Iyabo Bello, iKooK seamlessly blends personalized chef services with top-tier cuisine, making gourmet dining accessible and easy to book.

iKooK offers an accessible and luxurious private chef experience, whether it’s in the comfort of your home or at a venue of your choice. By seamlessly integrating personalized chef services with exquisite cuisine, iKooK provides an unparalleled dining experience. Inspired by personal challenges, such as overcoming sciatica pain and navigating food allergies with a child, the concept for iKooK emerged in 2020. This vision was born out of a desire to provide an alternative to impersonal agency-hired chefs and expensive, inaccessible culinary services.

In this blog, we delve into Iyabo’s entrepreneurial journey, exploring the inspiration behind iKooK and the challenges she’s overcome to redefine the dining landscape.

Tell us about what motivated you to start?

Several years ago, I received a diagnosis of sciatica pain, which nearly confined me to bed for a period of two years. During this time, I found myself compelled to engage the services of a chef through an agency. However, I encountered significant challenges due to exorbitant agency fees and a lack of personalization in the service provided. Subsequently, after the birth of my daughter, who struggled with various allergies, dining out became a rarity for us. It was during this period that the concept of iKooK took shape in my mind, prompting me to officially register the business in 2020.

What’ve been the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome in your entrepreneurial journey?

Securing funding is our primary challenge. As we’ve grown iKooK, a marketplace for private chefs, establishing trust has been a significant hurdle. Integrating technology with personalised service was complex, requiring a balance between online convenience and intimate culinary experiences. Recruiting skilled chefs demanded more than just convincing them to join our platform; it required building strong, genuine relationships.

Educating the market about private chef services was another formidable task. We had to dispel common misconceptions and highlight the accessibility of our services. Balancing financial viability with expansion, all while maintaining high standards of quality, has been a constant endeavour.

Trust, I discovered, is the cornerstone of private chef services. Building it requires patience and an unwavering commitment to quality. It’s a delicate balance, but one that’s crucial for success. The challenge of balancing technology’s efficiency with a personal touch demanded my constant attention. I knew it was essential for creating memorable experiences for both chefs and clients.

Recruiting talented chefs was another hurdle. It wasn’t just about getting them on board; it was about fostering genuine relationships and showcasing what made iKooK unique. Educating the market about private chef services required focused effort to dispel myths and emphasise accessibility, which was necessary for our growth.

Scaling while maintaining high standards felt like walking a tightrope. Ensuring financial sustainability without compromising on quality demanded a delicate equilibrium. Yet, amidst the challenges, there were moments of triumph. Staying adaptable to culinary trends kept us ahead of the market, and our unwavering focus on delivering a seamless user experience for both chefs and clients drove our success.

Building a community around iKooK enriched our platform in ways I couldn’t have anticipated. Their engagement became the lifeblood of our venture, propelling us forward with each interaction. Navigating through regulatory mazes taught me the importance of understanding the landscape before moving forward.

Despite these challenges, each obstacle has only strengthened our goal to connect skilled chefs with discerning clients. Our journey is a testament to resilience and our unwavering belief in the transformative power of technology to redefine culinary experiences.

Is there anything you wish you’d known before starting up?

Embarking on the journey of creating a private chef marketplace was like stepping into a world of endless possibilities. Little did I know, there were invaluable lessons awaiting me at every turn.

As I reflect on the early days of iKooK, one regret stands out like a beacon: NETWORKING.

I regret not realizing the profound impact of networking before launching iKooK.Recognizing the power of meaningful connections could have significantly altered my entrepreneurial journey, providing invaluable opportunities and support that I wish I had known earlier.

What are some of the important milestones and recognitions in your journey so far?

The launch of iKooK Nigeria, following our successful start in the UK just a year ago, demonstrates our commitment to culinary excellence and innovation. This expansion firmly establishes us as leaders in the private chef services industry, and we’re eager to contribute to Nigeria’s dynamic culinary landscape.

Furthermore, this year, gaining entry into Innovate UK Edge for founders’ support marks a significant milestone for us. Additionally, participating in the Nef Centre for Entrepreneur’s Class of 2023, a rigorous 6-month program, shows our dedication to continuous learning and development. Being included in Microsoft’s startup founders hub is another notable recognition, highlighting our position at the intersection of technology and culinary innovation. We’re excited to use these opportunities to improve our platform even more and bring exceptional culinary experiences to a wider audience.

Any top tips for entrepreneurs struggling with structure?

Every journey towards success presents its own set of obstacles. Understanding your industry plays a crucial role in anticipating and overcoming these challenges. By familiarizing yourself with the ins and outs of your field, you gain valuable insights into potential roadblocks and develop effective strategies to navigate them.

This knowledge not only equips you to tackle issues head-on but also empowers you to proactively adapt to changes in the market. Ultimately, a deep understanding of your industry is key to overcoming hurdles and forging a path towards success.

Entrepreneurial communities can be such powerful support networks — do you have any asks or gives to the vine community?

In my startup journey, I’ve found that building new connections is like discovering hidden pathways in a vast landscape. When I meet collaborators or mentors who align with my vision, it’s like stumbling upon fellow travelers who offer guidance and companionship along the way.

Seeking feedback on my ideas is akin to stopping at a crossroads and consulting a map. Insights from others help me refine my business strategies and products, guiding me towards the right direction.

Discovering new resources is like stumbling upon a cache of supplies in the wilderness. Recommendations on tools or platforms from fellow entrepreneurs can be invaluable resources that fuel my startup’s growth.

In return, I offer my expertise to assist others facing challenges on their journey. Whether it’s sharing my experiences or extending mentorship to those navigating the early stages of entrepreneurship, I’m always ready to lend a helping hand.

Connecting people within our community feels like weaving a tapestry of relationships. Introducing members to contacts that might be relevant or offering a supportive ear and constructive feedback fosters a sense of camaraderie and support among fellow entrepreneurs.

Sharing my journey is like leaving breadcrumbs for others to follow. Narrating my success stories and lessons learned not only inspires others but also strengthens the bonds within our community.

Identifying potential collaborations within our network is like spotting fertile ground for growth. By actively participating in community events and promoting engagement, I contribute to the collective growth and success of our entrepreneurial ecosystem.




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