How did you go into entrepreneurship?
It’s actually my personality trait. I have always loved to break new grounds. So, I discovered that entrepreneurship is one environment were you can determine which ground you are breaking, where you are breaking and how. That got me into entrepreneurship.
Which business did you start with, the bakery or the school?
I actually started with the poultry. What I did was to have birds in my compound and I was nurturing them. From the profit, I was picking bread from the bakeries to distribute. I realised that my hours in the morning after the birds have eaten was free, so I wanted to engage myself maximally. So I will distribute bread to clients in Mararaba, Karu and Bwari and come back and feed the birds. That way I had multiple income and it came to a point that I could start a bakery on my own. That is how Bread and More bakery started.
And then you veered into owning a school?
After doing the bread business for a while, I asked myself, what next? Because for an entrepreneur, you are looking at your age, capability, the environment and the economy. When I started the bakery, I knew I did not have enough resources to start the school I would love to own at that time, so I waited until the resources from the bakery was able to give me the kind of school, I will like to own. So, that is how we got here. We now have a poultry, bakery and the school. I am actually aspiring to be in the Oil and Gas business. We are hoping that the school will grow to put us at that level. So, entrepreneurship is in stages. At each time, you want to see what you capacity, knowledge base can carry.
What have you learnt over the years transforming from one level to the other as an entrepreneur?
One thing that has been consistent in all of them, is that they require hard work. And it requires that you are smart in business. Being smart here means that you are on top of all your relevant cost and market. So, you are on top of all these facts putting all the factors together at the right time in the right shape. You don’t have to be stereotyped because things change all the time and you have to be dynamic to respond to the changes.
Also, you should have the quest for knowledge. Because each industry is evolving, so as it is evolving, you are not left out. The knowledge I use to have on poultry about 10-15 years ago, is not what I have now. Same for bread bakery business.
Have there been challenges, how did you overcome them?
May be I forget to say that another thing that will always be consistent is that, there will always be challenges. But that is something that will make you to know a born entrepreneur, it is the tenacity to get use to challenges because you pick your strength from there. Because problems disguise as challenges and drop a message for you. So, it is that message you need and that is the lesson. Until the lesson is applied in your business, there is no change. So, when challenges come, I smile because I see it as a lesson and when the lesson is learnt, you are moving forward. Challenges are indirect ways of leaping forward.
How many years have you been in business thus far? How do you juggle this with family?
Altogether, I am eighteen years in business. With family, what has worked for me is that when my children were much younger, I was building my CV, career and building the business. I have always done business with them, even when they were babies. I go to the office with them, we feed the birds with them, though it may not be so convenient but I have always created a space for them in my office. Then , at the poultry farm, there was a place created for them. It is good to know that the family/children are the number one priority and your business is number two. The core for the woman is the home. I and my husband have three children and they are actively involved in my business.
So, how many jobs have you created?
In all the line of businesses, we have created about 400 jobs.
How do you tackle employee and employer challenges?
The challenges come more when the leader himself does not have the capacity to handle the workforce. I see more of the challenges coming from leadership style. And leadership style comes from leadership knowledge. So, I would say the challenges we have had was caused by us-leader. Either the structure was not clear or the leadership style was not appropriate. The more knowledge you have as a leader, it helps to silence the noise of the workforce and the distractions. All my key staff have spent 15/16 years with me and they are still with me. It’s not that we don’t have issues but we look at it from the objective side. I ask them, what are we trying to resolve and achieve here? If I am the one that is not getting it, I fall in line and if it’s the employee, he /she falls in line. So, we try to connect. Some leaders work with emotions and that’s where they get it wrong.
What structures have you put in place to see that all your businesses succeed?
I think what has worked for me is my ability to let my key staff know much about the business. For instance, the bakery is 16 years, so there is nothing I keep away from my key staff. There was a time that for over a year I was not at our head office and I was getting reports from them. And then, sales consistently grew. They were at 53% growth and I was not there then. Everything I know up to 99%, I let them know. And they know my personality, that we don’t let the ball to drop, we run with the assignment.
The school is still new, it’s about four years and the same success we have achieved in other businesses, we are applying. So, that’s why you don’t see our teachers going back and forth. They understand the culture and the system. In this place, we do it like this to get this result, and the follow.
Ascend Royal Academy, Kubwa is growing fast. Recently,we had Mathematics Day to create awareness amongest our pupils that the subject is interesting and they should not be afraid of it. It was fun.
Where do you see your businesses in the next three years?
We want to be that brand that will represent Africa outside this continent.
What advice do you have for other female entrepreneurs?
Don’t feel that because a staff said this or did that, the staff is bad. Set structures and put square peg in a square hole. Leave all sentiments out of your business. What you should look at is, did this person deliver with the right attitude? If yes, every other thing becomes secondary.
Secondly, we need to be re-investing into our businesses so they can grow. But once we want to show the whole world our riches without re-investing into the business, this limits the height to which the business will grow. Let us learn to delay gratification and re-invest into our businesses.