+ Why I delve into Real Estate Business
Bankole Bolaji otherwise known as Beejay is our Next Nigerian Entrepreneur. She tells us why she decided to do real estate and catering at the same time, what has driven her to succeed and what sets her apart in the catering business.
She also talked about how anyone can start and manage a successful catering business. Do you know she is also into Real Estate business?
Let’s hear from her in this interview..
Why catering? What motivated you to go into the catering business?
I love cooking. I just love it. It is one passion I have. That was why it was easy for me to decide on becoming a caterer. Cooking is something I do for fun.. It’s a part of me. I cooked my own food while I was in school because it was cheaper, richer and more delicious. I would tell my mom sometimes to leave the kitchen and I would cook for the house. It’s a passion.
When I left school, like every Nigerian, I had so many things in my mind I wanted to do.. I talked to myself and said I cannot be helping somebody else make money. A lot of people would say it’s a plan B but that was not a plan B for me because over time, you get jaded – you get fed up when the money is not coming. When your down-liners don’t perform, what do you do?
Again, I love real estate business; my experience growing up inspires me to be involve in projects that put roof on people’s head. It is still in the pipe though but real estate is the other thing I do. My passion for cooking just made it easier and more fun. Catering funds itself. You want me to cook for you, you give me money and I cook. I didn’t need millions to start.
How difficult was it at first and what were some challenges you faced?
The first job I got was from a friend of mine. He was skeptical at first but I said, “Give me a try…try me.” So he gave me the job and I executed it perfectly. I cooked rice.. Funny enough, when people ate the rice and asked who cooked it, he said I was the one who did everything (laughs) because it was amazing. I started telling people gradually, child dedication, birthdays, and that was how my business kicked off.
I lost a lot of jobs because of experience and uncertain market factors. I experimented a lot. For instance, I did a job once and the bag of rice I bought didn’t turn out nice. So I lost that job. There were lots of challenges but I was never daunted. I kept moving.
There are lots of catering businesses around. What sets yours apart from the rest?
One of the things I work on, which we don’t do often in Nigeria is this: everybody cooks, some people cook better than I do, frankly. What a lot of caterers lack is timeliness and service. Those are the key areas I work on seriously.
Timeliness in the sense that my clients don’t get to the venue before me. It never happens. I don’t like it when people call me on the phone to know where I am. If you tell me 12, I want to be there 11. I never disappoint my clients because of time.
Service in the sense that we don’t rush. We don’t serve people food with dirty or oily plates and say people are rushing. We don’t rush. We must take our time and clean the plates. Even if heaven is falling on top of
earth, we serve people with dignity. We dignify service. You are not serving dogs. But in Nigeria, most people don’t care. They eat anything and say it doesn’t matter. It matters a lot to me. When I get to a venue, I dictate the pace of my service. I tell my clients these things. I take time to explain to them and they are happier after the events.
Looking back from where you started, how much have you grown?
My growth has been steady. I’m not rushing a lot of things. I went for a culinary course last year. I’m yet to decide which aspect of catering I want to settle on – the food part or the pastry part. I love pastry. In school, I had beautiful times in my pastry classes. I like the smell of baked food coming out of the oven. But one of the problems I have is that baking equipment are very expensive. My idea of a kitchen is way beyond what we are used to in Nigeria. It’s difficult introducing the concept I would like in Nigeria. But my growth so far has been steady and God has been faithful.
What are the habits you have that propel you to success?
I see myself as someone who does not know anything. I love to learn more. Nobody knows it all. You can only try but someone knows better than you do. I like to learn from people. I’m very teachable when it comes to things like that.
I’m very passionate about cooking. Without passion, you can’t succeed at anything. A lot of eateries have closed down because there was no passion. People think of catering as very lucrative so everyone runs into catering – mechanic, battery charger, everybody. In the end they close down. Catering is very lucrative, but you need passion to sustain your drive. It’s not about the money, it’s about the passion. It’s not that Nigerians don’t start businesses. It’s that most of them have no passion and want to make millions the next day. It doesn’t work like that. There’s a process.
What attitude or mentality should anyone who wishes to start a successful catering business have?
- The person must have a can-do spirit
- The person must have passion. Money will come but passion is first. Food markets itself. The primary, most important thing is passion.
- Fear God. You need to trust God that he can make you succeed. I have the God factor in everything I do.
- Don’t be too proud. Humility is very important
- Always be willing to learn new things. I’m always on the internet looking for new recipes that I can tweak to suit Nigeria taste and style of cooking.
- Don’t be afraid to try new things. The beginning might be scary but continue to give it your best shot.
Considering the economic climate of the country, is this a good time to start a business in Nigeria?
There is no better time to start a business in Nigeria than now. Nigeria will be better but everyone has to be at their best. Most countries that are doing well are based on skilled labor and SMEs (small and medium enterprises). White collar jobs alone don’t make a country rich. When majority of the populace is gainfully empowered to do their own business, the country prospers.