SAINT JOHN – Seun Richards Agunbiade believes “life is best experienced in changing phases.”
The entrepreneur’s journey has taken him from Lagos, Nigeria to Dubai in the UAE. But for the last few years, he’s been in Saint John, where he started a now-thriving business while earning a PhD.
Agunbiade came to Saint John after a recruiter at a Dubai career fair enticed him to New Brunswick.
Eventually, he found himself working as an insurance advisor in the city. But after realizing the office grind left him unsatisfied, he shirked the safety of the big bank and took a job delivering for Skip The Dishes.
“When I told my wife I was leaving the bank she asked me, ‘so what are you going to do?’ I said, Skip the Dishes. And she was like, ‘Okay,” he says with a chuckle.
As he crossed the city slinging take-out orders, an untapped market began to reveal itself.
“I said, wait a minute, people don’t only need food to be delivered to them, people need all kinds of things,” he says.
Pregnant women, busy executives, the elderly — these people would probably all love a delivery service that brought them groceries, supplies, or whatever else they needed.
He remembered what his own family went through as newcomers: paying expensive taxis or walking when they needed something, something he knew was a “real challenge” for a lot of newcomers.
When Agunbiade left his day job, the move was about more than escaping; hustling for Skip let him pay the bills but also gave him the freedom to pursue his PhD.
Agunbiade’s doctoral research focused on entrepreneurship, and he saw an opportunity to both fill a need in his community and enhance his doctoral research.
“I thought, okay, if I’m doing a PhD entrepreneurship, it’d be really cool to also have a startup because that would give me real-life experience,” he says.
That’s when he started Door2Door Delivery, a local pickup and delivery service.
Initially, he conceived of the business as more of a PhD project than a profit-making enterprise. When the pandemic hit, he used his network to give cheap groceries to newcomer families or help transport students stranded on campus.
“The community needed the service more than I needed the money,” he recalls.
But about a month in, Agunbiade says “God just blessed us” when Amazon moved into Atlantic Canada and he snagged a contract.
It allowed him to grow the businesses substantially, but Agunbiade says he’s always kept Door2Door’s community focus at the centre of the business.
“We want to be known as a company that is solving problems in the community. That’s community-based and friendly,” he says.
Part of that, he says, is because the community has helped him so much since he and his family arrived.
He says he got great mentorship and help from his professors. Early on, when Door2Door was just an idea, organizations like Envision Saint John also helped him research and focus his idea.
“The support I got from those guys, I mean, it’s priceless,” he says. “You might have a great idea but if it doesn’t speak to the community, it will just be dead on arrival.”
He even got mentorship and a few contracts from another delivery business that happened to be winding down.
Agunbiade calls Saint John “a family city.” He says he likes that people are connected and, unlike in bigger cities, will go out of their way to help you succeed.
He says he’s happy to keep the city as his anchor as he expands Door2Door Delivery throughout Atlantic Canada.
This story is sponsored by the City of Saint John.