Esther John owns ‘Just Roasted Fish’, a fish joint in Lokoja, Kogi state, where she roasts fresh fish for sale. She tells our reporter how she started the business.
Esther John is one of the small scale business operators in Kogi state. She was an employee of the state government until 2008 when she was sacked.
She told Daily Trust that she thought her world has closed down when she was sacked, but little did she know that the sack will propel her for a better position where she would be able to impart on peoples’ lives.
Esther roasts fresh fish at the secretariat of the Kogi state Nigeria Union of Journalists.
“I was working with the Kogi state government and in 2008 during the Sally Tibot screening exercise embarked upon by former Governor Ibrahim Idris, I was sacked by the screening committee for a reason I do not know,” she said.
She said she became confused and didn’t know what to do. She kept waiting and hoping that the government would recall them but to no avail.
“After waiting endlessly and with much frustration, I decided to venture into any business but had no idea of any business to do especially due to lack of fund. After much thought, I decided to start fish business but later settled for roasted fresh fish because I discovered that people preferred roasted fresh fish,” Esther said.
She went to Abuja to learn the rudiments of the business for one month before coming back to Lokoja to set up her own business called “Just Roasted Fish” at the NUJ secretariat, saying that since she started the business she had never had a dull moment.
“When I came back to Lokoja, I searched for where to locate the business but when I discovered there was no such business at the NUJ secretariat, inspite of the fact that many people usually go there for relaxation, I approached the leadership of the council who agreed for me to set up the business there,” she said.
She told our reporter that she had no money when she started the business but today she is a proud owner of a business with people working for her.
“After getting a place to start the business, I was faced with the problem of finance because I had no money and I could not get anybody to borrow from. I approached some fishermen and fish farmers who agreed to be giving me fish on credit and to pay back after sales,” she said.
She said she started with a small quantity and kept increasing the number as the business started flourishing, adding that when she had consolidated on the business and with the increasing influx of customers, she decided to employ more hands in order to meet customers’ demand.
Today, Esther has two people on her payroll, saying she is happy putting smiles on people’s faces.
She said she sells about 40 fishes a day and on a good day, especially weekends and festive periods, she sells 50 fishes and above, adding that an average roasted fresh fish costs N1,200 while a big one costs N1,500.
She said there is no holiday in the business as people troop to her place all day, adding that weekend is special for the business as patronage and sales are high.
She said: “We don’t really have time to rest but the main work starts by 1pm as we have to go to the river side and meet the fish farmers to get the fish and afterwards come to the shop to start preparing the fish for sale.
“We have to wash the fish, add pepper before putting it on fire and also prepare the sauce which customers use to eat the fish.”
She said one of the challenges she has on the business was that there is no time to rest as they have to work from morning till late at night and on daily basis.
Also, customers overbearing attitude is also another challenge as some of them will “insult you in the process of waiting for the fish to get done.” However she says they bear with the customers since there is a cliche that says ‘the customer is king’, adding that it takes 30 minutes for a roasted fish to get done.
On the profit she makes, Esther smiled and said the business is flourishing, saying she does not have to wait for anyone to give her money.
She said she had not approached any financial institution for loan.
She advised women to look for any handwork or business to do so as to be useful to the society and impart on the lives of others, rather than depending on men for money.