‘Mixing school and business can be rewarding’

Zainab Suleiman is a graduate of Archaeology from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, and presently undergoing an MSc in the same course. In this interview, she speaks about how she started a culinary business, how she is using social media to advertise, her future ambition, and more. Excerpts:


Daily Trust: You studied archaeology in the university, how did you end up in a culinary business?

Zainab Suleiman: It has been my passion right from childhood. I had always liked the idea of cooking.

DT: How did you learn cooking?

Suleiman: I learned by watching other people do it and then experience, I guess. If you have been cooking for so long, you would know virtually everything about it, especially when you love doing it.

DT: For how long have you been in the business?

Suleiman: As a real business, I started right from university, around 2010. I started by making cakes for friends when they were celebrating their birthdays in school and then I realised I could actually do more because I was not just into baking, I could also make drinks and other snacks.

DT: What motivated you?

Suleiman:  If you are passionate about something, you derive joy doing it. I realized that I could actually make money while doing what I love, so I decided to kill two birds with one stone.

DT: What was the biggest amount you have made as profit so far and how?

Suleiman: I get orders all the time and I make a lot of money from there, especially during festive periods. But the biggest profit I have made so far was recently at the Divertido Fun Fair, where we had a food show and I made N25, 000 on a single day. I put in N15, 000 and ended up making twenty five thousand out of it. It was nice because some of the cooking utensils I used at the funfair I still have them and could use them again.

DT: What are the challenges you have faced so far?

Suleiman:  Your customers may change their mind after an order and you might have already started and gone far before you are notified of the change in plan. That is basically the challenge.

DT: Does that end up becoming a waste of resources?

Suleiman:  Not necessarily, because when you are creative you will still know how to finish the work and make it look unique and then someone else would buy it.

DT: What makes your food stand out?

Suleiman: What makes cloves.n.crunches different is the fusion of African and intercontinental cuisine. You could just call up and order for a local meal with an intercontinental touch. That presentation is the key.

DT: Do you currently have employees working under you?

Suleiman: Not really, but I receive messages frequently from people telling me they love what I do, and that I am a motivation to them and then ask if I could tutor them. I really don’t have a problem with that. 

DT: Do you plan to pursue cookery as a full-time career?

Suleiman:  Obviously, but even if I would go for a white-collar job at some point I would still continue with cloves.n.crunches. I want the business to be big; in fact I would like cloves.n.crunches to be a household brand.

DT: How do you meet your customers?

Suleiman: The social media platforms we have do all the marketing. We have an account on Instagram, Twitter, as well as Facebook. Sometimes I meet my customers through a mutual friend or when someone appreciates the work I have done for a customer, they contact me.

DT: Do you have a shop anywhere?

Suleiman:  Not really, but as I am doing my masters in Zaria I am planning on getting a shop, even if it is just a stall somewhere, because I have realized that within Ahmadu Bello University there are a lot of customers who patronize the business. It is not always easy to start.

DT: What was your dream career?

Suleiman:  I had always wanted to be a newscaster. Unfortunately, I was a science student in secondary school and the result could not get me an admission to study Mass Communication.

DT: What advice would you give a graduate waiting for a white-collar job?

Suleiman: Be an entrepreneur, start up a business or even join one that will be profitable while you wait for a job. I finished NYSC in 2016. I have applied for jobs virtually everywhere, but until date, no one has even contacted me for an interview or to say I have been short-listed for one. If you say you will wait, you may be waiting for the rest of your life, who knows? Furthermore, even if you get the job, it is going to be an added advantage because the business is going to augment the income you are getting.

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