Money Flow #006: This Chef Fulfilled His Dream Of Running His Own Restaurant

Money Flow is a series intended to understand how entrepreneurs within Africa interact with money and how it affects the health of their businesses


Tell me about your business.

I work as a fulltime chef. It’s not the type of business that you will work today and you won’t work tomorrow. Even when you take a day off, you still have to be in the kitchen to be sure of what’s coming out of it. It’s food. It can easily be compromised. 

What’s your financial background like?

The family I was born into didn’t have everything at their disposal. As a child, I knew that I had to show my zeal before I could get support from anyone. I had the vision that, at a certain age, I wanted to own a restaurant. It’s crazy but I started it and at some point, they supported me. 

Do you remember the age you had that vision?

I was 21 at the time. 

Do you remember when you were doing around that time? 

I was helping someone set up his own food business. 

What was that like?

It was in Lagos. I didn’t think I could pull it off but we did it. The restaurant is still in business but I left to start mine.  

Did you start your business immediately after?

It took me a year. I was 22 at the time. 

What was the process of starting your business-like?

I have been a food entrepreneur for about 4 years now. Before starting my business, I worked as a kitchen staff somewhere and so far, it’s been crazy. Sometimes you win some, sometimes you lose some. Because I had experience working in the food industry, I was able to understand where a food business could go wrong and I decided that it was something I could do. I am the kind of person that is open to working with different sets of people. I did not feel judged. I worked in a restaurant as a kitchen assistant. I also worked with so many other chefs. I was able to piece everything together to start my business. I would go to different restaurants trying out their meals. I also went around Lagos looking for a good space. 

How long did that take?

I had someone that had space at a university but the person closed down for some unknown reasons. I spoke to the person and he believed in the vision, so he leased it to me. But in 4 months I had to leave. 

Why?

There was a political thing going on and they wanted me out of the school. The school is like a country on its own. No matter who I talked to nothing changed. 

I am sorry about that. How long did it take to find a new place? 

A month. But it took a year to build it up to the way I wanted.  

How much capital did you have at the start of your business? 

I had over 3 million. Once you start, you can’t go back. You have to pay rent and the electricity bill is counting. I had been saving money and at some point, I asked my family members for a loan. 

How much does your business make monthly?

Gross sales amount to 4 million. 

What are some of the lessons you have learned on your journey? 

Making mistakes in business is inevitable because if you don’t make mistakes you won’t learn. It’s not perfect. As I said, I have been in the food industry for a while before I built my own restaurant. I have been able to work with different companies and this helped me reduce the level of mistakes I was prone to making. When you are able to do that, it helps you on the journey to building something standard and consistent. When your business is doing great, you need to be extra conscious of the people around you. Because not everyone wants to see you win. Some people will try their best to bring you down. 

How do you deal with the competition? 

When you want to start a business, you need to do a market survey of similar businesses that are already existing. All you can do is to stand out with whatever you are doing. At this point, you might need a professional. In my case, I used a food consultant. I was never in competition with anyone because the kind of meals I make are quite different. It’s not easy to get my type of meals elsewhere and that’s why I made it available. 

Do you have a financial advisor? 

No, I don’t but I studied accounting in school. I have a very great knowledge on how to manage the financial aspect of a business. 

What’s your pricing model? 

My restaurant is a bistro. Bistro is an inexpensive restaurant that serves quality and affordable meals. Pricing isn’t hard for me because of my background in the food industry. There are some factors you need to consider before selling your meal at a particular price. First, the prices of the ingredients you use, your rent, your environment, VAT, etc. All these things need to be put into consideration before deciding on your product or service. 

What would you say about building a business in Nigeria?

Doing business in Nigeria is a great thing. You just need to get it right. The problem with young entrepreneurs is that they do not make enough sacrifices. They think if they have the money, they can just jump into establishing the business. You need to understand the nature of the business you want to run, you need to work with companies that are in line with what you want to establish. You need to understand all the nitty-gritty if not, you would end up doing trial and error. It’s not bad to try though. Opening a  business is risky but you can reduce the level of risks. Doing a market survey, working at a kitchen outlet to know their lapses and everything, those are prerequisites for opening a food business. Opening a business in Nigeria can be gangsta but trust me, if you get it right, the sky is your limit. 

What has been your biggest challenge so far?

No matter where you are, regardless of the country — the UK, United States, challenges always arrive. It can’t be perfect. If it were, there would be so many businesses still running. It’s a general thing. I think Nigeria is the best place to start a business. All you need to do is make sure you have your VAT, your LIRS, and the others. This way you won’t have problems with Government agencies, because that’s the biggest challenge you can have. 

What financial advice do you wish you knew at the start of your business? 

I think the journey was kind of smooth for me. Although I didn’t have all the funds I needed. Before you start your business, you should have 70% of the funds. I didn’t have that. Maybe like 40%, so it took longer than expected. 

What’s your favorite quote about money? 

I think with money and the right experience, you can get to wherever you need to get to.

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