Hajiya Fatima Dantata Jibril is the Chief Executive of Hillview Butchers in Kaduna. In this interview with Women in Business, she shared her success story, challenges and hope for the business.
What informed your decision to go into the meat trade that is regarded as a solely male business?
I lived in Cairo, Egypt, with my children for about six and a half years and when I was coming back to Nigeria; my husband asked me what I wanted to do when I got back and I told him I would like to take over the meat shop so that I will be able to bring it up to standard.
My husband started the business in 2003 with the name Hillview Farms; he had an abattoir in Kawo where he used to process and supply meat to clients in Lagos, Port Harcourt and Abuja. So, when I came back, I took over the business – in September, 2017 – and renamed it Hillview Butchers. I am a Biochemist, but I felt that we needed appropriate butchers in Kaduna.
What are the challenges you face doing this business?
Staff attitude was a major challenge for me. The staff were left to do what they liked. They left they shop dirty and unhygienic. They would come in the morning, fix the place up and at the end of the day, if they we’re too tired they will not bother cleaning the place up which is not hygienic at all. I put up a cleaning roster, and assigned everyone a role; I had a lot of resistance, you know, people don’t want change and you have to open your mind for change.
However, my main challenge running the business here is electricity and staff training. I have a boy living at the back of the shop so that whenever there is no electricity at night he turns on the generator. I don’t compromise the refrigeration of the chicken and meat because I know a lot of people want fresh meat even though I keep telling them that fresh meat is not the best.
Finance is also a major challenge in any business, if the government could provide grants, businesses would thrive; that will go a long way in helping entrepreneurs.
How do you juggle business and family?
I have five children, alhamdullilah. My oldest is 23 years old and she is doing her NYSC. My second child is in 4th year reading architecture. She is the brain behind my logo. My third child just started her university education and she is the one in charge of editing my pictures while my forth child is part of the tasting team. She tastes my stuff.
My son, who is the youngest, is also on the team. During holidays he comes to help me out. He is currently in the Air Force Comprehensive School and so with him being away, I have a lot of time. I can dedicate my time to the shop because really it is just me. I do not leave this place till about 9 to 10pm. I make sure they clean the place before closing for the day.
At what stage did you know you were going to become an entrepreneur?
Like I said, it took me by surprise. I just found myself in the situation. I am a very safe person; I am not a risk taker. I am now delving into things I had never imagined but alhamdulillah. I haven’t gotten there because most of time I am afraid of taking risks but I am learning to sometimes damn the consequences and just do it.
What advise do you have for others eyeing entrepreneurship?
The advice that I will give is to strategise: don’t go into business without having a proper plan, and pray for Allah’s guidance and research on what you want to do. Ask around to find out how the market of the product is; get yourself acquainted with the social media because that helps a lot, and also feel good about yourself.
I keep telling myself, ‘I can do this’ though there are days I feel like closing my shop and saying ‘that is it, I am not going to do it’ and I go to sleep and I wake up with ideas running through my head and I say ‘Fatimah you can do this’, keep on encouraging yourself. Our brain is very powerful, the more you train your brain and give yourself encouragement, the more encouraged you become and you will be a success.
Yes, Nigeria is very challenging, the economy is very unstable right now; electricity is a big challenge to businesses that is why you have to invest a lot in electricity before you can do anything. It is crippling, you spend so much on diesel and yet if you say you are going to increase your prices, your customers will be the first to complain, yet they know the problem you are going through.
What is the secret to a successful business?
For me, I try to keep an open mind and I also try to put myself in other people’s situation, especially my customers, looking at maybe the price increase is a burden on them and so on, so I try not to judge and I try to put reasonable prices on my products. There are people that will buy and people that won’t buy and actually people get offended if you tell them it is a choice.
Some time ago, someone from a sausage making company came into my shop and queried the prices of my sausages, and I told her mine were fresh and without preservatives. I believe that whoever can afford it will buy; you eat what you can afford. I don’t want to use preservatives and additives because they are dangerous to human health and because of the fact that people are conscious of what they eat and I want to respect that. Alhamdulillah we will get there, slowly but surely.