Confectionery business very lucrative – Caterer

Madam Chineye Ugwu is the owner of a catering and confectionery services in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). Even though the competition is always there, she said the business is very lucrative and has paid her off. ADEOLA TUKURU reports.

If you mention the top ten catering com­panies, Madam Chineye caterering Service situated in Lugbe, Abuja will be amongst its known for mouth- watering services with unique recipes . A business she inherited from her Mother.

While sharing her success story to Business Starter she said she started her business in 2010 when I graduated from the Lagos state University Abuja .

She said “ You know, the period most students stay at home, that transitioning from secondary school to the university. So, I had an aunt then who was working in the defunct Gulf Bank”.

On how she started the business

“It was a weekend and then I went to her and asked if I could sell, you know, little things in her office. I needed her to introduce me to a few of her colleagues; you know then, the mentality is that bankers had money.

“She was like the manager then. So, she took me around and introduced me as her sister. I sold cakes that year. From there, orders started coming in for personal cakes and birthdays.

“Then, I was admitted into the University and from there, after lectures we’d take the bus and put a driver there.

“We inherited recipes, things we did along the line. My mum was a full-time teacher but cooking was her passion; a hobby that fetched income for her as well. I grew up in Jos and she used to bake for neighbours and friends.

“Initially, I wasn’t interested. We used to watch mum cook you come in, you taste, you even criticize and walk away. It was much later that I just picked it up.

On how the business had faired since she started

According to her, it’s  been great, there’s no doubt about it, but it’s not for the faint-hearted. As much as people see food making and cake firms, they go as far as saying it is just food.

“You see, I just ended a class now. I said to myself, don’t scare them but let them understand what they’re going into.

“If you take a class of about maybe twenty people, yes, they might all be enthusiastic, the zeal and interest can be there.

“You need to separate the serious ones from the unserious ones because cooking requires a lot of dedication and attention to details both physically and mentally because you’re trying to come up with new designs, fresh ideas, combine those ideas and get inspiration here and there.

She said  besides being passionate and interested, it could be capital intensive. Catereering instruments and equipment and yes, the raw materials are very affordable.

“Your recipes are everywhere but you begin to talk of the equipment, because without the equipment,  So, investing in it takes a toll on your pocket.

“In catereering business, you ask yourself how far you want to take it. For several years, I coook in my mother’s kitchen. Later on, you know, they cleared out a section of the house for me.

“When I got married, I was doing it in the house, cleared the whole of the ground floor before I actually started to come out as a brand. So, if you start in the house, the capital you’ll need is different, if you launch out as a brand the capital will be different.

“I could decide to start my business with a local oven, you could decide otherwise because you have more money.

“I think it’s just based on the amount that’s available and trying to make use of the resources you have because you can start a business in your house with N1m, N2m or N5m.

“It’s all about being able to make use of the resources you have at hand. If you wait until you have N10m, you probably won’t start anything but if you’re determined, with just N500,000, you get someone that can make a local oven for you, that’ll also work and give you the same results.

Using food as an art

Like I said, you see, food cooking  and decoration is like an art. In fact, you’re as good as an artist. Your level of meticulousness, creativity and attention you put into details var­ies.

“So, if you’re the kind of person whose per­sonality reflects in your cooking , perfect finishing is just based on personality. It’s a reflection of who you are.

Availability of equipment for caterers

 You talked about caterers yes, abroad there’s availability of equipment for budding bakers. You know, I said it earlier that it depends on availability of equipment.

If you have the right tools, it’s just like a carpenter trying to put together a table, if he uses a manual saw and uses the electric saw, you will see the difference in the finishing. So, the same applies to baking cakes.

Challenges in the business

She said starting up, number one challenge was capital. It’s just a pity we’re not in an economy that encourages SMEs. The major challenge any entrepreneur faces is availability of capital.

She said if one is fortunate to get capital from family and friends, “you know, you could get it at little or no interest at all. But then, if you begin to tow the line of going to banks, microfinance banks and what have you, you will pay the price. So, num­ber one is capital.

“Number two is the availability of goods and reliable equipment. You know, the market is so infiltrated with low quality machines and equipment to mention a few.

“So, getting the right people to sell the right product is another challenge, either in terms of machinery or the raw materials.

 Owning one special recipe

“Yes, developed over the years, even recipes back from the days of my grandfather that we’ve not even adjusted. We just tried to bring in fresh, new ideas into it. So, we developed our recipes. No other food that tastes like mine”

How lucrative is the business

She said cooking business is very profitable. If one is not lazy, “you’ll reap the fruits. It is profitable. Get your books right, train competent people that you feel will promote the vision of your business far. It’s profitable.

“It’s a business you can succeed in . As a matter of fact, there are a lot of caterers, like I said, but are there a lot of professional bakers? That is the question we need to ask ourselves.

Tackling the catering business competition in the market

According to her, competition will always be there. “You know, there’s no aspect of business without competi­tion. It now depends on the niche you carve for yourself,” she said.

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