Aisha Babangida, is a graduate of communication and multimedia design from the American University of Nigeria, who veered into the culinary business. She’s currently the CEO of Aysha Kitchen which specializes in selling spices.
Why did you choose to go into this business?
It’s all about passion. I genuinely love cooking and experimenting on how different ingredients come together to form a dish. Also, my mum specializes in mixing different spices and marinades sauces before grilling or cooking in general.
I started doing my research and reading books like ‘The Spicy Story of India’ by Vikas Khanna, ‘SPICE: The Variety of Life’ by Neil Bigmista Strawder and many more. I am an ardent believer that food constitutes a major part of healthy living. Unfortunately, in the cooking process a lot is lost. So our ability to preserve nutrients, while also fortifying with herbs and condiments will enable us to get the best out of every meal.
So, my love for spices and herbs materialised into my business. It’s amazing knowing, they not only make your food taste amazing but also keep you healthy. Some of them have curative abilities.
In addition to this, it’s not only important that I sell these spices to people, I also want them to know how to effectively make use of them to get healthy, delicious dishes, so that gave rise to my culinary arts training programme.
How did you get funds to start the business?
I was doing my National Youth Service in 2016 and I decided to put my allowance into the business as a start-up and as time went on, I kept re-investing my capital until it was able to grow into where it is today pulling through market factors.
Did you receive any formal training for it?
Yes, I went to a couple of culinary schools and most importantly I dedicated myself to research. Also, there are processes like finding and sourcing good spices. You also need to give enough time to cleaning them so you don’t want to feed your customers with stones or other unwanted items.
What are the challenges you face doing this business and how can government help out?
Electricity supply has been a challenge for me. Marinades need to be refrigerated always but with little or no power, I am forced to make them in batches. That tends to limit our production capacity.
Availability of raw materials (spices): some spices are seasonal therefore creating a setback for the business because I have to wait for the season to get them.
Storage of the raw materials without losing their essence is also challenging.
Importation: sometimes an order of internationally sourced spice takes a minimum of 60 days to arrive and we have to wait.
How is the patronage?
Yes, I get a lot of patronage, even beyond my imagination. I can only be grateful to Almighty Allah. I send spices abroad. It’s very amazing the love from my country and even beyond.
How many people have your trained on this job?
For the job, I have three staff. Then for my culinary classes that I do online, I have more than a hundred people because I reduced the price drastically so that more people can join the group. We have videos and recipes for better explanations.
I started alone until I couldn’t handle all the orders coming in. I have two employees, and also part-time workers to help on days we are producing large quantities.
How has technology enhanced your business?
Technology has offered plenty of opportunities for my business. It has made marketing and managing my team easier. It is faster and easier to communicate with my customers. It has also helped me to reduce the cost of labour in terms of marketing and bookkeeping because there are applications that do that.
What is the secret of a successful business?
The secret for me is dedication and confidence; trust your abilities even when things are not shaping up according to your plan. If you fall, you get back up and be stronger. I have a very supportive family; my husband is indeed very supportive of what I do. On days I have plenty to produce, he helps with the deliveries and accounting.
At what stage did you know you were going to become an entrepreneur?
It started as a joke. After making marinades with my mum for the house I was like, we can sell this for people. It helps a lot in the kitchen and it is healthy. That was it.
What advice do you have for others eyeing entrepreneurship?
Believe in yourself and trust your abilities; even when things are not going right do not give up. It’s all about patience and perseverance and the will of God. The hardest part is starting, once you cross that hurdle, every step becomes bearable.